Book Review: Deuces Down

DeucesDownby Michael D. Pederson

 

Wild Cards XVI: Deuces Down
edited by George R.R. Martin
ibooks, 325 pp.

In all fairness, I thoroughly enjoyed Wild Cards XVI: Deuces Down. This is the latest in a series of shared-world novels that enjoyed a great run in the mid-eighties and on into the early nineties. For those that missed it the first time around, the series is being reprinted in a quality trade paperback format with new illustrations. In its prime Wild Cards attracted some amazing talent (such as Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, and Stephen Leigh) to work in what was conceived as a believable, gritty world where superpowers are commonplace. Earth has been ravaged by an alien-created plague known as the Wild Card Virus. Those infected with the virus are either killed by it (drawing the Black Queen) or else transformed into Aces (humans possessing amazing powers) or Jokers (grotesquely disfigured creatures). This new collection focuses on an underrated group of characters: deuces—Wild Carders that have been gifted with very minor abilities. Although this book lacks (and some would say this is a good thing) the darkness of the original series, it still captures the underlying angst of a world where puberty can bring a horribly painful death. These new stories are at their most interesting though when elevating minor characters from the original series to star status in their own stories (John J. Miller’s “Four Days in October” and Melinda M. Snodgrass’ “A Face for the Cutting Room Floor”). My personal favorite, Michael Cassut’s “Storming Space,” chronicles mankind’s first flight to the moon—Wild Card style. It’s been over fifteen years since the Wild Card series debuted and Martin proves that the series still has some life left in it. The stories in Deuces Down are alternately quirky, amusing, poignant, and exciting. Despite all this praise, I do miss the continuity of the old series. These new stories, good as they are individually, have no underlying plot linking them together. They plug some holes, fill in some gaps, and tie up some loose ends but in the end leave you missing the Wild Cards of old.

 

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