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A good read, but not classic Wild Cards,
This review is from: Inside Straight (Wild Cards Novel) (Mass Market Paperback)
and a hint of a little bit of repetition for readers already familiar with the series.
With the Wild Cards novels into the teens for the number of books this one makes not only a departure from the established cast but also fully embraces one of the most unfortunate aspects of the last decade in the form of an aces reality TV show. But in the true spirit of the books the story changes to a much darker one of joker genocide in Egypt, which is jarring and not that well handled in the transition.
The first half of the book is concerned with a new cast of aces being put through the trial of American Hero to see who will win $1 million. Old characters make an appearance in the form of Peregrine, Digger Downs, Topper and the Harlem Hammer along with a cameo by Golden Boy, but they are principally bit part and take no real role in the novel.
Fortunato's son John is put centre stage along with other aces that older readers will not know and newer ones will find more accessible as a starting point than other books in the series.
Despite personally despising reality TV the story is handled well and in the Wild Cards ironic style, although it does jump between the four teams and therefore lacks some character development for some of the myriad of new aces introduced.
By the middle of the book some of the failed contestants get involved in a storyline where John Fortune is the saviour of Egyptian jokers threatened by genocide. For me there was a resonance of the Bloat joker homeland storyline, albeit darkened by the genocide.
The transition between the two storylines is not handled that well, both being polar in the spectrum of their gravity and the American Hero story peters out as the show collapses from most of the contestants leaving to join the crusade. Its conclusion is mentioned in passing.
The Egyptian storyline is a good aces versus bad aces scrap, with inevitable losses reminding the reader that in the Wild Cards universe the heroes aren't invulnerable. And whilst the good aces triumph as expected there are the ramifications of their actions addressed, again the real world encroaching on the super hero storyline. The ending sets up the story for the next book, Busted Flush, and it made me look forward to reading it.
Overall a good book if not compared too closely to earlier ones and one I would certainly recommend for both those familiar and unfamiliar with the series as it is accessible due to its whole new cast but also continues story threads and trends seen throughout other books.