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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Wild Cards: Aces High
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 September 2016
The world has been divided by the wild card virus: the unaffected, the deformed "jokers" and the super-powered "aces". All have their own agendas, some darker than others, but all are threatened by the arrival of the alien Swarm. As Earth comes under concerted attack by the creatures, several of Earth's own alien allies (such as Dr. Tachyon) help lead a defence. But destroying the Swarm Mother may be impossible as a cult of sympathisers leap to her defence...

After the original Wild Cards focused on forty years of alternate history with the jokers and aces facing discrimination, political manipulation and questions over their loyalties, it's a bit of a tonal shift to follow that up with a full-scale alien invasion of Earth. Yet this kind of variety is what has kept the Wild Cards series fun and why it's still going thirty years after its creation. We know aliens exist in the setting - the wild card virus itself came from Takis - so it's fairly logical to see the aces and jokers joining forces to take on the menace.

There are of course complications. Unlike most superhero settings, Wild Cards doesn't hold much truck with big superteams. Aces tend to do their own thing, only joining forces when absolutely necessary. For most of its length, Aces High deals with several prominent aces and jokers (Tachyon, the Turtle, Jube the Walrus, Kid Dinosaur, Modular Man and Fortunato, with a few appearances by Croyd the Sleeper) tackling apparently unrelated issues relating to the Swarm and a Masonic cult before they realise how their individual threads link up, and there is the inevitable big showdown.

The stories that make up the book come from some of the bigger names in 1980s science fiction and fantasy: George R.R. Martin, Pat Cadigan, Walter Jon Williams, Melinda Snodgrass and Roger Zelazny are the big-hitters, but the rest are no slouches either. The stories vary from big, epic war stories as the Swarm invades in force to smaller-scaled tales of back-alley hustlings in Jokertown to things inbetween. They are all excellent, although it sometimes feels like you're only getting snapshots of the action. The Turtle gets a big, interesting storyline and then disappears off-page for a hundred-off page, during which time clearly some other stuff goes down, and suddenly he shows up for the big finale.

This is a recurring issue with these kind of shared worlds, the nagging sense that you are not getting the full story and having to infer that some big story-critical moments have taken place off-page. But it's not too distracting and is made up for the fact that each writer is clearly having immense fun creating and crafting their characters and taking their storylines forwards. The framing stories, "Jube" and "Unto the Sixth Generation", do a good job of keeping the larger over-arcing story on track.

The book builds to a big climax which is satisfying from an action and character perspective. But it's clear that although the aces have won a major victory over the Swarm Mother, they have neglected to account for her human minions. That's going to come back to bite them, quite hard, in the third book in the series.

Aces High (****) is a fine addition to the Wild Cards universe and a compelling follow-up to the original book. It is available now in the UK and USA.
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on 28 May 2014
George Martin is better known for his 'a Song of Ice and Fire' series, and even though he mostly edited the Wild Cards series, he did contribute to the series. And I gotta say what a series it is. We have heroes and villains, super-powered people and unlucky mutants, but as typical of Martin the world they exist in is painted in shades of grey. Definitely worthy buy.
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on 15 August 2013
Here there is a single storyline taking place over just 24 hours. It is fast-paced and enthralling and quite difficult to believe it is written by several authors. Brilliant!! I will definitely be buying the rest of the series.
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on 12 August 2013
The stories are by different authors following a shared concept, so I suppose its inevitable that some are a better read than others.
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on 22 September 2013
One of the best books i've ever read! I've really enjoyed it. It's a cracking good book. Favourite so far.
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on 22 April 2015
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on 24 April 2013
Who doesn't love a good alien invasion? (well apart from those being invaded and slaughtered)the answer Aces as we come to the second part of the first trilogy of wild cards (each set of stories are released in trilogies apart from the odd four parter or full length novel) the Swarm an alien race intent on nothing short of complete destruction has set it's sights on earth, earths only chance Aces (who thought I was going to say superman?), people given abilities by the wild card virus released over New York city in 1946, but not all Aces are working together in the background an evil Ace lurks waiting to use the alien invasion to his advantage.

Aces high sees the overall story ark brought into the mid-eighties (modern day when it was being written) after a brief stop in 1979, and sees the return of most of the original cast of Wild Cards (Wild Cards 1) brought back to fight the dual threat, it also sees some new faces emerge, Modular Man the android with some very human character traits and a yearning for freedom from it's maker, Demise who can share his death around, Water Lily who can control water (the clue was in the name I suppose)and also Jube the Walrus who I won't tell you to much about (spoilers).

The story is told like Wild Cards in several short stories with Modular man and Jube stories split up to bridge the other parts, this does make the whole story fell a bit fractured but not by enough o stop any enjoyment of the story which take the concept forward and adds new elements all building up to the finale and then leaving strands open to lead to Wild Cards: Jokers Wild all without being boring or obvious, the standout story in my opinion is winter chill written by George R.R. Martin and starring his character the Turtle (or the Great and Powerful Turtle to give him his full title) a story about how being a hero is sometimes not all it's cracked up to be.

So if you have read Wild Cards and liked it I can highly recommend the follow up also if you havn't read the first book and fancy given this a try you can, it has a much more self contained story then the first that is capable of being standalone, but you probably need to background to fully understand everything.
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on 7 June 2013
Not as good as the first book in the series. The writing, as you might expect from something with several contributors, is uneven; a few parts unreadable. Cliches abound, and one particular tale is rife with schoolboy smilies of the facepalming variety. The book has its good moments, for sure, but ultimately disappointing.
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on 26 January 2013
Excellent science fiction book. Characters have well versed back stories and provide interesting interactions within their alternative reality. Well worth a look
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on 29 August 2015
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