‘Deuces Are Wild is the 6th book in the ‘Aces High, Joker Wild’ series written by O. E. Tearmann. This is my first taste of the dystopian world and therefore a test to see if the book can be read on its own with no prior knowledge of what went on in books 1-5.
Before the story begins there is a ‘Reader Advisement’ notice that warns the reader that the themes of police brutality and injustice are explored. There’s also another warning that romantic and sexual scenes between characters whose genders may not fit your expectations can also be expected. I’m presuming this is for the American audience who seem to be easily offended.
Feeling brave I ventured into the story which is partitioned as a series of computer files. Instead of Chapter 1, we have ‘Event File 01 Environmental Maintenance’. There are 28 event files spread over 270 pages after which there are quite a few bit of extras including a sneak peek at the next book in the series.
Before we get to the characters of the story let me set the scene. In the future USA’ Government has been replaced by seven Corporations. Citizens work for the Corporations who control almost every aspect of their citizens life including housing, education, medical care and food. There is, of course, the people who don’t subscribe to this and live outside of the system. Some of them are organised as the Democratic State Force which is a paramilitary organisation often referred to as Dusters.
There is an ensemble of characters in this although Tweak would probably be judged as the main character. She is an incredibly gifted hacker both in the traditional computer sense but also in the physical sense. Taking things apart and fixing or re-purposing them comes naturally to her. Tweak has a few attributes that would normally be considered a disadvantage in the stark world in which they live.
Firstly, she has a stammer and secondly she’s a Gamma. Normal humans are Alphas but one of the Corporations decided to experiment with human genes and the Gammas are the results of their experiments. Gammas would normally be confined or just killed because of their physical deviations from the Alphas. Some are able to conceal what they are but have to live on the edges of society in constant fear of being discovered.
In this the sixth book in the series, the Democratic State Force decide on a new approach: peaceful demonstration. Their researchers have discovered that peaceful demonstrations and non-cooperation have a much higher probability of achieving their aims than the armed guerrilla war they had been waging up to now. However, they lack the numbers to do it themselves so enlist the help of the Unions.
‘Deuces Are Wild’ is the story of how the base’s Personnel Officer Liza Carlan accompanied by Tweak for technology support and Naomi for personal protection tour the USA visiting Union locations to train them in non-violent demonstrations. After the initial training sessions, they pick up another objective to recruit more Gammas.
The Democratic State Force needs more Gammas to help protect them from the Corporations biological attacks. By analysing the blood samples from Tweak, the Democratic State Force was able to synthesise the antigens necessary to protect them. The Corporations are bringing out different biological weapons so more Gamma blood samples are needed from a wider population.
The scene is set for what should be an intriguing dystopian tale, but it doesn’t really live up to its full potential. The Corporations remain faceless non-entities with the only interactions being with their ‘Peace Keepers’ and a brief TV broadcast from some of the CEO’s decrying the citizens peaceful protests. Yes, there are moments of excitement when members of the team seem certain to be captured. Tweak’s development as a human character as she learns to accept who she is is very nicely done.
I think the problem I have with the book is that it boils down to the Corporations are bad and exploit their workers. While the Democratic State Force wants improve things for the exploited its only vision seems to be to make the Corporations behave and be fairer. That’s hardly radical or revolutionary.
There is an ending of sorts, but it is really setting the scene for volume 7. You could probably characterise ‘Deuces Are Wild’ as a very long chapter 6 in the ‘Aces High, Jokers Wild’ series.
I do need to mention the extras at the back of the book. There’s lots of links to organisations to help improve your activist and workers’ rights knowledge over a wide range of demographics. There’s also an excerpt from the next book which seems to be introducing some more characters.
(pub: Amphibian Press, 2022. 270 page paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-949693-52-2)
check out website: https://amphibianpress.online/index.html