Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad edited by George RR Martin (book review).

February 16, 2018 | By | Reply More

After the events of the third ‘Wild Cards’ book, ‘Jokers Wild’, a delegation of Aces and Jokers, led by Senator Gregg Hartmann and Dr. Tachyon are on a United Nations goodwill tour of the world in the fourth book, ‘Aces Abroad’. An undercurrent of this is to purposely quieten New York for a few months as well after recent events. There are some interesting choices amongst the group including the transparent Chrysalis and the unofficial major of Jokertown, Xavier Desmond.

For the technically minded of you, this mosaic has 13 authors, two of which bring two new stories to this edition. The man on the cover, by the way, is Howard Mueller aka Troll. I’m still capping ‘Ace’ and ‘Joker’, something not done in the books, because they are being used as proper nouns and makes them stand out in the text on-line.

In many respects, reading this book is a reminder that the Wild Cards virus hit more than America and shows how the various Aces and Jokers were treated elsewhere. Like all viruses, infection depended on wind conditions and so forth so some corners of the world less infected than others. Back in the day, I thought the Guatemala uprising led by two Aces who saw themselves as reincarnations of the old gods worked away from the pace of the rest of the book. Now, I see it as more telling as to the ineffectualness of the tour on some issues. Author Leanne C. Harper captures the mood in a compelling way simply because you always suspect the outcome.

Going back to Troll. ‘Warts And All’ by Kevin Andrew Murphy is a slow-burner that reaches an interesting battle in the Andes with an unsuspecting twist in the finale. You do have to wonder if Shrek was based on Mueller, though, who predates him by several decades. Even more remarkable is that this is one of the new stories that blended in so well with the earlier tales.

The trip to the Middle East and the reactions to the starving and dying there will still have some resonance today. It is also a reminder of why so many people have taken this series to their hearts as the writers don’t pull any emotional punches.

There are a lot of surprises in this mosaic. Don’t expect them to stay with the tour all the time. Being careful not to give away too many spoilers. I like the homage to King Kong and, oh, Fortunato gets his mojo back and, later, Tachyon loses some of his. Quite a lot really.

The other new story is Carrie Vaughn’s ‘Always Spring In Prague’ where Ace Joann Jefferson aka Lady Black is asked by Congresswoman Carol Crammer to find the daughter of one of her financers while in Poland. Things aren’t quite what they seem as Katrina Duboss is a Joker and political activist. The story neatly fits into the tour and gives insight into Joann’s power being a living capacitor who can’t touch anyone without probably killing them.

Make sure you have a free hour to read ‘Puppets’ by Victor Milán as its real edge of your pants reading. Senator Gregg Hartmann is kidnapped by a German terrorist group that contains Aces, Jokers and Nats (those are humans). Everyone is pulling in different directions and agendas. What no one knows is that Hartmann is also a secret Ace himself but that would be telling and he can’t control all the people about him.

There is espionage intrigue towards the end of the book but there are definitely too many spoilers to give here. For those keeping count of characters, this book is also the introduction of Tachyon’s grandson, Blaise Jeannot Andrieux. The fact that so many characters get to shine and move on from earlier events shows this is not a static reality.

As usual, the ‘Wild Cards’ books get better and better as you get to know the characters and their lives and there are grey areas in all their lives. The reality framework also opens up a lot more story varieties. If you’re not sure about some of them, persevere because they are all worth the effort.

GF Willmetts

February 2018

(pub: TOR/Forge. 525 page enlarged paperback. Price: $16.99 (US), $23.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3558-6)

check out websites: www.tor-forge.com, www.georgerrmartin.com and www.wildcardsworld.com

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Category: Books, Superheroes

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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