Friday, September 13, 2013

Wild Cards (Series) by George R.R. Martin

It's been a while, but I have lot's of books to review!

I am going to address the Wild Cards series in one chunk, because there isn't a lot to say about individual books.  I got up through Volume 9 (Jokertown Shuffle) before stopping because the books became difficult to find and for other reasons discussed below. 

This review will contain spoilers.
 The coolest thing about Wild Cards is the setting itself.  It's unusual, and lends itself to really compelling stories.  The premise is that in 1946 an alien virus is released over New York City, which causes horrible deaths, disgusting mutations ("Jokers"), and occasionally super powers ("Aces").  This changes the world and creates both celebrity aces and joker slums.  The interactions between ace, joker, and non-mutated people is really interesting.  

Wild Cards is technically an anthology.  It has different chapters and storylines written by different authors including George R.R. Martin, Roger Zelazny, Lewis Shiner, Walter Jon Williams, Pat Cadigan, Howard Waldrop, Leanne C. Harper, Chris Claremont, Victor Mil├ín, and John J. Miller.  I don't know who most of those people are either.  This can make the books incredibly disjointed and inconsistent.  Different people write characters differently, and there is no consistency in the tone or pace of stories.  Some characters are many stories and books, others show up only occasionally.  It's frustrating to read about characters I don't care about and have nothing on the fun characters in an entire book, to me.  If inconsistency bothers you, Wild Cards might not be for you.

Wild Cards is DARK.  There is plenty of violence, lots of disgusting stuff, and a great deal of disturbing (if not terribly graphic) rape.  It is about the level of darkness of Martin's other books.  More than most fantasy, less than some.  If you don't like reading about horrible murders and people being awful all the time, this is not for you.

One thing Wild Cards is very consistent with is how women are portrayed.  As victims.  There are female aces with epic superpowers, female joker outcasts, and natural women.  All are ok people trying to get by with varying degrees of success and being swept up in the currents of the more important (male) characters.  When men become women (yes, it's a thing in the books) they suddenly become victims too.  It's pretty notable in a series with so little consistency that the women throughout are all uniformly pawn-like.  Even villainous women are really just pawns of worse male villains, being manipulated and used.  Not ideal. 

I stopped reading the series because I couldn't find the next book for under about $20.  Which is too much.  I will might continue eventually if I ever find reasonably prices eBooks.  The other reason I quit reading it is because Jokertown Shuffle is really, really, tacky.  The main plot involves a familiar character having his body switched with that of a teenage girl, and then getting repeatedly raped and impregnated by his evil grandson.  Those scenes were horrible and plenty graphic, and made me decide I'd had about enough.  That's just way too far. 

I would recommend these books only to someone who really liked superpower type science fiction and didn't mind dark, violent, nasty, rape-filled books.

3/5 stars.

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