Wild Cards VII: Dead Man’s Hand by George RR Martin and John Jos. Miller (book review).

April 12, 2018 | By | Reply More

It was revealed in the previous ‘Wild Cards’ book, ‘Ace In The Hole’, that Chrysalis had been murdered. Literally smashed to death by someone with super-strength and a black ace hole card that is the calling sign of the Nat archer Yeoman left at the scene. This brings Yeoman back onto the scene to find out what has gone on, more so as it isn’t quite his card.

Private investigator Jay Ackroyd, aka Popinjay, just hired by Chrysalis as her bodyguard had found the body does his own investigations. Into the mix, are the police investigating for a time and the first reference to their police station as ‘Fort Freak’, which becomes a future ‘Wild Cards’ book title. I should point out that Ackroyd doesn’t believe Yeoman killed Chrysalis, simply because the murder could only have been done by someone super-strong and has a long list to work through. However, as they are investigating independently of each other, their paths don’t cross…well for a while at least. Both of them are on the cover by the way in case you wondered who they are.

In many respects, a story of this sort needs two authors. A single writer would want to have both characters follow a single set of clues to the murderer. Two authors, here it is George RR Martin and John Jos. Miller, with the same clues would feel obliged to take different paths of investigation. It also shows that the ‘Wild Cards’ framework was becoming flexible enough to go in any direction it wanted and still keep its readership, especially when it centred on two leads. A little research reveals that ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ was originally going to be incorporated into the sixth book, ‘Ace In The Hole’, but it made the book a thousand page volume, which was frowned on at the time. Hence, this story was extracted and became book seven. Looking at it here in this format, makes a lot more sense because it allows a better focus on the key element of who murdered Chrysalis. It would also be worth considering doing more breakaway events in the current ‘Wild Cards’ books if it could increase their frequency.

It will hardly be surprising that this book dovetails into what is happening in Atlanta with Gregg Hartmann, more so having read book six, you will know that. Back in the day when I read these books originally, there was a much bigger gap between them than the couple weeks here. Saying that, because the focus is on the other characters more, it doesn’t become a problem seeing the events from a different perspective. As the credits at the back of the book point at the other writers, obviously there has to be little snippets from them here as well.

Oh, Jay Ackroyd can’t dance and who the devil is Doug Morkle? One thing he isn’t, he isn’t the killer, just someone you forgot about.

There is a lot happening from 18-25 July 1988 and, no, I’m not going to tell you who the murderer is but it’s still a logical surprise even reading it again now. The discussion on morality and murder should make you stop and think. All the characters are nicely developed. Jokertown becomes more developed as you read these books, although I wish someone had thought to put a map in the book just in case I had to get around the place fast.

Become addicted to the ‘Wild Cards’ books and be grateful that Ti Malice never gets the bite on you. Pleasure with a bad twist is not the way to live.

GF Willmetts

April 2018

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2017. 350 page enlarged paperback. Price: $17.99 (US), $24.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3561-6)

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 15 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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