Latest in a long series of books called the wild cards series. for the uninitiated: in the 40's an alien virus was unleashed on earth. 90% of those infected are killed. 9% are horribly mutated. and the remaining one person gets an amazing superpower. this is the wild card virus. the mutated are called jokers and the one percent aces as a result. Thus the world as we know it is rather different here.
This is what they call a 'fix up' or a 'mosaic' novel, meaning that it consists of quite a few short stories each written by a different writer that all draw together to form one big story. each writer usually works on a different character.
This series has been running since the 80's, and it's the first new wild cards I've read in a while, so it was good to get back into it. Reality tv didnt exist back when these books started, but now it's all the rage, and it's present in the wild cards world as well.
This is, as mentioned in other reviews, a good jumping on point for new readers. there's a fair amount of background detail but you should be able to get through all that without being too confused.
It also tries hard to be realistic, with action scenes that don't skimp on the realities of violence - but are never gratuitious - and bits of strong language and a fair few adult situations.
People with powers are brought together from across america to appear on reality tv show american hero. The son of it's producer is a former ace who has lost his power. and meantime, there's potential genocide about to happen in the middle east.
a long book at over 400 pages, and it starts with a slightly uninvolving chapter detailing a superpowered spy on an assassination mission in the middle east. after that though it becomes much more readable as we get to know the american hero contestants and follow their progress on the show, complete with all the personal interaction and backstabbing you'd expect from such a programme.
come the middle of the book the focus shifts back to the middle east situation, and it loses its way a little after that by focusing so much on that to the exclusion of whats happening on americna hero. however it picks up superbly in the final quarter when characters get involved in whats going on there. lots of moral lessons and painful choices ensue for the characters in regards to what makes you more heroic. being in a tv show or going to another country and trying to do the right thing?
Everything is set up for further exploits for some of the characters at the end of the novel.
A decent read, and a good return to the series for a lapsed reader like me. also a good place to start if you want to know more