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The sequel to 2008's Inside Straight, a revamp of the shared Wild Cards universe, features crises ripped directly from today's newspaper headlines and summer blockbusters. A burgeoning gas shortage has sparked an invasion into the Middle East; New Orleans is hurricane-beset and zombie-ravaged; someone has set off a nuclear explosion in Texas; and genocide rages in Nigeria. The conflicts between the compellingly human superheroes on the U.N.'s Committee shape this fast-paced alternate history. Veteran contributor and now assistant editor Melinda M. Snodgrass pens standout chapters featuring British triple-agent Double Helix, who drives the plot while posing as both seductive Committee member Lilith and Middle Eastern assassin Bahir. While those unfamiliar with the Wild Cards mosaic novels will flounder, the clever twists on today's political landscape and the unique powers of several new "aces" will lure back past readers. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.