Wild Cards VI: Ace In The Hole edited by George RR Martin (book review).

March 23, 2018 | By | 2 Replies More

This volume of ‘Wild Cards’, ‘Ace In The Hole’, dispenses with section titles and the work of five authors is now interspersed into the chapters with George RR Martin co-edited with Melinda Snodgrass to ensure everything was ran smoothly. Structurally, you see the time-line and slot in events accordingly.

When you realise that back in 1989 when this was first done, there was no template to follow and probably not even now, this makes this book series unique. It is practically a gestalt of writers that you can’t really see the join which is really why at this stage, you’re hard-pressed to tell the apart because they work so well together.

It is the time of the preliminaries for the next American President and even when Tachyon is told that Gregg Hartmann is a secret Ace, he refuses to scan his mind to confirm this. Mind you, one of the other contenders, the Reverend Leo Barnett appears to be an apparent racist against those infected with the Wild Cards virus. Rock and a hard place springs to mind as to who to who to support.

I should point out that Hartmann’s ace is extremely malevolent, a Puppetman who enjoys pain and death and almost like a split personality, except both sides like inflicting pain. You think things couldn’t get any worse? Hartmann is also on the cover of this book. Don’t let hit Puppetman get hold of you and pull your strings.

I have to confess that I don’t fully understand the point and allegiance system of the American nomination system for selecting a president but if it’s anything like in this book, it looks exhausting with alliances being made on promises to the future. Most of it goes on behind the scenes away from public view.

One of the joys of this book is seeing different characters draw different conclusions as to who the secret Ace is and one getting it seriously wrong. Spot the weenie. Finally, they are catching up with the readers as to what is really going on. It’s a nice touch that the charisma of a politician can be seen as a hidden power. Into this mix are two assassins, Mack the Knife with his deadly vibrating power that can literally take your hand off, if not your body. Demise, whose stare will outright kill you, with one exception, so don’t look him in the eyes neither. He also has a nasty habit of surviving most injuries even if he’s dead against it.

Picking out the good guys is always tough in this reality because even they do things that they’d rather not but finally pushed into doing. If anything, it adds dimension to the characters and there’s a lot of greys than whiter than white characters. For up-and-coming writers, this is a learning ground to creating complex characters.

The sub-plots that are covered would make this review enormous but if you’ve been reading these books since I’ve gone back to the earliest ones, you’ll be glad to see some resolutions that build into others. The strength of these stories is the characters remaining true to their motivations. Their complexity makes for the greater depth that they provide,

There is so much that is really spoiler in this novel. The plot is intricate and a lot going on, some of which will seep over into the next novel as well as finding out what was happening in New York at the same time.

I would recommend ensuring that you have an hour to spare to read the last couple chapters in one sitting. You’ll come away emotionally drained but, wow, few books will have this kind of effect on you. If you love karma, you won’t be disappointed. The more you read, the more you see the history or the characters and even reading them again here has lost none of its magic.

You know darn well they affect you when any of the people get injured. This is writing to die for and if you’ve been picking up these early ‘Wild Cards’ novels since their re-release, you are definitely going to lap this one up. An incredible and scary read. It has it all, including a touch of mental exhaustion for the torment these writers will put you through.

GF Willmetts

(pub: TOR/Forge. 476 page enlarged paperback. Price: $18.99 (US), $26.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3560-9)

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

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About UncleGeoff

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.

Comments (2)

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  1. Julian White says:

    Alightly confused by the cover reference – until I realised it was the wrong cover!

    I have been enjoing your revisting the seriees – I really must pick it up again!

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