Inside Straight (Wild Cards Series #18)

Inside Straight (Wild Cards Series #18)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765357120
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 11/04/2008
Series: Wild Cards Series , #18
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

George R.R. Martin is the author of the acclaimed, internationally bestselling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted into the hit HBO series Game of Thrones. He is also the editor and contributor to the Wild Cards series, including the novels Suicide Kings and Fort Freak, among other bestsellers. He has won multiple science fiction and fantasy awards, including four Hugos, two Nebulas, six Locus Awards, the Bram Stoker, the World Fantasy Award, the Daedelus, the Balrog, and the Daikon (the Japanese Hugo). Martin has been writing ever since he was a child, when he sold monster stories to neighborhood children for pennies, and then in high school he wrote fiction for comic fanzines. His first professional sale was to Galaxy magazine, when he was 21. He has been a full-time writer since 1979. Martin has bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This volume was edited by George R. R. Martin, with the assistance of Melinda M. Snodgrass, and written by:

Daniel Abraham
Melinda M. Snodgrass
Carrie Vaughn
Michael Cassutt
Caroline Spector
John Jos. Miller
George R. R. Martin
Ian Tregillis
S. L. Farrell


Santa Fe, NM

Date of Birth:

September 20, 1948

Place of Birth:

Bayonne, NJ


B.S., Northwestern University, 1970; M.S., Northwestern University, 1971

Read an Excerpt

Inside Straight

By George R. R. Martin

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 George R. R. Martin and The Wild Cards Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-5712-0


Dark of the Moon

Melinda M. Snodgrass

SOMEWHERE OFF TO HER right gunfire erupted.

Anywhere else in the world people would flee that sound, but here in Baghdad it was just one theme in the symphony of celebration. The sharp chattering of a machine gun set a high-pitched counterpoint to the deep bass booms of rockets. A shower of golden sparks hung in the night sky, and edged the needle-like spires of minarets like a benediction. The sparks seemed to fall in slow motion. The light from the fireworks briefly lit the faces of the crowd. Men whirled and danced. Tears glinted on their cheeks, and their mouths stretched wide as they chanted for their Caliph.

Kamal Farag Aziz, the new president of Egypt, had come to Baghdad to submit himself to the Caliph and make his nation one with Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, under the restored caliphate. In Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, East Jerusalem, and Mecca, the masses celebrated. In Lebanon, Qatar, and Kuwait, the leaders of the few remaining sovereign Arab states were shivering.

Lilith pulled the edge of her shimagh across her nose and mouth. Partly it was to disguise the fact she was a woman, but it also kept the dust, raised by thousands of shuffling, stamping feet, from choking her. Only in Iraq could you smell the rich, moist tang of water and reeds, chew on grit, and endure nighttime temperatures in the high nineties. Her robe clung to her body, and she felt a trickle of sweat inching its maddening way down her spine. When Saddam had lived in the palace the acres surrounding the building had been given over to lush gardens. The Caliph had chosen not to take water from Iraqi farmers, and allowed the gardens to die.

From her vantage point near the palace wall Lilith could see the looming bulk of the palace. The white marble walls were washed in a kaleidoscope of colors as the fireworks display continued. A man dressed in snowy white robes and keffiyeh stepped out onto a third-floor balcony. He paced, rested his hands on the carved balustrade, peered down into the crowd, paced again, and vanished back into the room.

Idiot, Lilith thought. Get yourself killed by a stray bullet.

She waited until one particularly spectacular fireworks display lit the sky and every head craned back in that particular kind of amazement unique to yokels. Then she swept the folds of her dishdasha and jalabiya around her body and felt that strange, internal snap, as the surface beneath her sandals changed from dirt over concrete to less dirt over polished marble.

Prince Siraj gaped at her. He was handsome, but his smooth round face and the bulge of a belly against his robes showed the dangers of sufficient food for a Bedouin. No matter that the royal house of Jordan had been out of the desert for four generations. Two thousand years of subsistence living was bred deep in the bone, and it whispered constantly that this meal might be the last for a long, long time.

"Are —" He coughed and tried again. "— Are you the one Noel sent?"

"You better hope so." Lilith stepped into the room. A breeze off the Tigris stirred the white fabric of the mosquito netting that swaddled the bed. An elaborate mosaic of multicolored stone covered the floor. It depicted King Nebuchadnezzar hunting waterfowl in the rushes. But of course, Saddam had been a secularist. Lilith wondered how long until the Islamic purity patrols of the Caliph would destroy this art.

"I have your clothes." Siraj lifted the folds of black material from the bed and thrust the abaya and burqa into her hands.

She pulled off the shimagh, and her waist-length black hair tumbled free. Siraj stared at her. At five-ten, Lilith was a couple of inches taller than the prince. Her only worry was the silver eyes, legacy of the wild card, but fortunately the Muslim requirement of modest downcast eyes for women worked to her advantage.

"Noel said you were in school together?" she asked as she dropped the tentlike garment over her body. With one of her blades she cut discreet openings in the material that she could reach through.

"Yes. At Cambridge. We were great, good friends. He loves our culture." The sentences emerged in agitated little bursts of sound.

"Would a friend put you in this position?" Lilith asked. The mesh was disconcerting to look through, and the veils reduced her peripheral vision. She felt naked beneath the layers of cloth.

"I can be a bridge," the prince said as he paced around the room. His hands kept clasping and unclasping. "Between our two worlds."

"It's just one world," Lilith said, then added, "Do you have the map?"

"Yes." He handed her a piece of paper, and hurriedly pulled back his hand when their fingers brushed.

Lilith wondered at the avoidance. He had been educated in England, and lived for long periods in the West. Perhaps it was just the proximity of the Caliph that had him jumpy. She looked down at the paper. It looked like a cross section of a honeycomb. "A little hint would help. You know, insane religious nutters sleep here," Lilith said.

Siraj flushed at her drawling British delivery. "He changes rooms ... frequently."

"Well, that's ... irritating."

"He's become increasingly paranoid."

"Understandable. He was nearly assassinated by his sister." She gave Siraj a bright smile, then realized he couldn't see her features. Ridiculous culture.

Siraj plunged on as if she hadn't spoken. "Even though I'm on his council, I think ... well, I think he doesn't trust me any longer. It started when the Righteous Djinn arrived. The Djinn disapproves of Western education. He thinks it taints us." The hand washing had become even more fervent. "You mustn't fail."

"Relax. Tonight you have a pro."

The prince looked around as if expecting the walls of the room to collapse in upon them. "It may not be as easy as you think. The Djinn accompanies the Caliph everywhere. He is enormously strong, and he can become a giant."

"Good thing we're indoors."

Her light response didn't please Siraj. "Since you find the Djinn unworthy of concern, you might remember that there is also Bahir."

"I'm very aware of Bahir."

But it didn't stop the nervous flow. "Bahir can teleport. Many an enemy has been surprised to find his scimitar suddenly behind them. It's the last surprise they have before they're beheaded."

"Little flamboyant, don't you think? A gun would be easier and far more certain." She was very aware of the pistol strapped to the inside of her thigh.

"Well, yes, it's a stereotype, but it's also symbolic. The street loves it."

"All that symbolism is why the Arab has found himself despised and dismissed." Lilith looked at the map again. "I can't just go teleporting into rooms hoping to find the Caliph. Do you have any idea where he'll be?"

"He's at the banquet now," the prince said, "with the Egyptians. Aziz."

Kamal Farag Aziz. Egypt's new strongman had come to power when the meddling Americans had forced a free election that swept out the secularists in power and swept in the fundamentalists of Ikhlas al-Din. "Is your absence going to be problematic?"

Siraj shook his head. "I took ipecac. No one doubted I was sick."

"Ah, ipecac. Every British schoolboy's delight." Lilith paced. "Well, I can't crash the party." The folds of the burqa twisted around her legs. "Is the Caliph a typical male? Is he going to stay with the boys 'til dawn?"

"He is a serious man, not given to frivolity." Siraj paused.

Lilith seized on the thoughtful look. "What?"

"He is close to Nashwa, his first wife. He often shares his triumphs with her."

"Good thing I'm a girl."

"What are you thinking?"

"That I've always wanted to see the inside of a harem."

* * *

There were a pair of soldiers on guard outside the door to the women's quarters. Their dull dun uniforms were brightened by the presence of the green kerchief tied at their throats. Their eyes swept across her and dismissed her in a blink.

In a thick country accent, Lilith said, "The Caliph has sent this for his beloved wives, but the Caliph, great is his glory, will not mind if his brave and loyal soldiers sample a few of the delicacies."

They echoed her words of praise, and Lilith held the tray while the young men helped themselves to sugar. She noticed they both had dirty fingernails. Lilith then slipped under their arms and tapped lightly on the door. The heavy panel fell shut behind her, cutting off the bass rumble of male voices.

The large room she had entered was lovely, but not grandiose. Through a whitewash of paint she could make out the faint colors of a mural that had once graced the left wall. The air was redolent with the smell of rosewater and orange oil.

Two women stood at the window, peeking through the curtains at the continuing fireworks display. Red, blue, gold, and green light washed across the fabric and their faces. One was enormously pregnant — her face was swollen and her fingers puffy. From the way her belly hung, she looked to be within days of delivery. The other woman was at that midpoint in a pregnancy when a woman seems to glow.

Curled up on a couch was a much younger woman — late teens, maybe early twenties. She was far prettier than the other two, and not just because she didn't look like a gravid cow. She flipped the pages of a French fashion magazine with such rapidity that she couldn't actually be absorbing anything. Her lower lip thrust out, and a frown furrowed the golden skin between her brows.

Lilith offered the food tray first to the pregnant women. They grabbed at the sweets with greedy fingers. She moved to the young wife. The girl took a small slice of melon.

Lilith took the chance. The worst it would earn her would be a slap. "I went to school in Paris," she said softly. "Before my father sent the family home."

"Your accent," the girl said. "You sound Saudi."

"I'm from Kuwait." There was a wealth of emotion in the final word. "Have you been here long?"

"Three months."

"You must be homesick."

The girl started to cry.

"I'm sorry, mistress. Would you like me to leave?"

The girl's hand clutched at Lilith's sleeve. "No, tell me about Paris."

Lilith mingled her actual visits to the city with evocative scenes from movies. She talked of the restaurant boats draped with lights sliding beneath medieval bridges, and setting the reflection of Notre Dame in the water to dancing; of strolling through the outdoor stalls on the left bank of the Seine where old men with hunched shoulders and shabby jackets peddled even older books. To Montmartre, where children fed the pigeons, and aspiring artists painted the famous church. Lilith took her rapt listener past the open doors of bakeries where the smell of bread and pastries hung so rich and heavy in the air that you could practically chew it.

The young wife's eyes held excitement, but also resentment. Lilith wove a tale of her own frustration with an autocratic father who had been inspired by news of the rise of the new caliphate, and had sent his family home so her brothers could be part of this renaissance of Islam. "While he stayed in Paris," the young wife said, and a touch of acid laced the words.

Lilith shrugged. "Yes, but he's a man. So are they all, except for our glorious Caliph, long may he live and reign."

"Yes, he is a good man," the girl admitted.

"What is he like? Have you spent much time with him? Is there a chance he will come by? I would love to see him. I've only seen him at a distance." Lilith rushed the questions and statements, giving the girl no opportunity to answer.

The wife laughed. "No, sorry. He won't come. He always sends for one of us." The lush lower lip protruded again. "And it won't be me. Not tonight. He'll want to talk to Nashwa."

Nashwa, late forties, first wife of the Caliph, and mother of his son and heir, Abdul-Alim. Daughter of a prominent Yemeni businessman. "I will go and offer her refreshments," Lilith said. She stood and gathered up her tray.

"She's in her room," the youngest wife said, and pointed vaguely down the hall. Lilith started away. "By the way, I'm Ameera. What's your name?"

"Sura," Lilith answered, and enjoyed the private joke. It meant to travel at night.

* * *

"How dare you? You knock and receive permission before entering."

Jeweled beads on the edge of the headdress emphasized the black frown that twisted the older woman's face. Nashwa was far from a beauty. In fact she was plain, and her voice clanged rather than lilted. She had to be the wife of the Caliph's heart, otherwise he would have divorced this hatchet-faced woman.

Lilith didn't respond to the rebuke. She crossed the room in four long, fast steps, grabbed the woman's arm, and forced it up behind Nashwa's back, immobilizing her. Lilith then pictured the room in the Uffizi Gallery that held the collection of Roman busts, and took them there.

There was that dislocating moment of dizziness and extreme cold. The stone floor beneath her slippers gave way to the softer sag of wood. Nashwa screamed in her ear. Lilith released the woman, wrapped her hand in the folds of her burqa, and gave the frame of a large painting a tug. Alarms began their shrill-throated cry.

Lilith teleported back to Nashwa's room in the Baghdad palace. The Italian police would hold the woman for hours. By the time they accepted her story and affirmed her identity she would be a widow.

Back in the room Lilith threw off her drab black burqa and donned one of Nashwa's. It was still black, but the material was of top quality and it was shot through with metallic silver thread. She settled the headdress over her hair and felt the sapphires and pearls jiggling cold and sharp against the skin of her forehead. Over it all she tossed the outer robe that shrouded even her eyes. Lilith sat down to wait.

* * *

Three hours passed before she was summoned.

The Caliph had sent four guards to escort his chief wife. She might be a mere woman, but the guards were obsequious because she was the Caliph's woman. Chief wife. The mother of his eldest son. Nashwa wielded bedroom and pillow power. Lilith touched the knives that rested in sheaths on her thighs and the small of her back, and the gun she had for insurance. They turned down another hallway. This one was narrower still. Three floors below, Lilith could faintly hear the rumble of male voices and the wail of musical instruments. She caught a whiff of roasted lamb and cinnamon. Her stomach grumbled. Lilith promised herself dinner and a glass of cabernet as soon as she was back home.

They went up a narrow staircase. Two soldiers led the way. Two walked behind her. They were now on the top floor, and the roof and ceiling radiated the heat accumulated from the day's sun. Sweat trickled slick and sticky between her breasts and down her back. She longed to scratch at the itch beneath her bra strap.

How dreadful to be the ruler of much of the Middle East and have to live in such discomfort because you're so afraid.

One of the soldiers tapped on a closed door. There was a muffled response. The door opened, and the soldiers bowed Lilith into the room. The door fell shut. Someone behind her had closed it, but she was in blinders from the layers of clothing and veils. She concentrated on what she could see through the mesh that covered her eyes.

The room was small, whitewashed, its walls adorned with flowing script. Verses from the Koran. Yes, it looks like the bedroom of a religious wingnut, Lilith thought. A narrow bed and a side table with a glass water pitcher were the only furniture. Oddly, the bed didn't rest against the wall. It was pulled out a few feet, and there was the cut of a door in the plaster. Bolt hole.

She heard the footfalls of the man who had closed the door behind her and turned to greet him. But it wasn't the Caliph. It was the Righteous Djinn. He was taller and younger and broader. The lips exposed between the black beard and mustache were thick and moist, and he sucked at the lower lip like a child contemplating a knotty problem. Oddly, his eyes were gray.

He was still normal size, but quite large enough for Lilith's taste. He wore boots beneath the traditional white robes, and she wondered if the clothes enlarged with him, or if he ended up a thirty-foot naked giant.

"Honored One?" the Djinn said, but it wasn't a greeting. A query hung in the words.

I'm supposed to do something, Lilith thought, but I don't know what. Oh, bloody hell.


Excerpted from Inside Straight by George R. R. Martin. Copyright © 2008 George R. R. Martin and The Wild Cards Trust. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Jonathan Hive / Daniel Abraham
Chosen Ones / Carrie Vaughn
Looking for Jetboy / Michael Cassutt
Metagames / Caroline Spector
Star Power / Melinda M. Snodgrass
Wakes the Lion / John Jos. Miller
Crusader / George R.R. Martin
Tin Man's Lament / Ian Tregillis
Incidental Music for Heroes / S.L. Farrell
Blood on the Sun / Melinda M. Snodgrass

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Inside Straight 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Cauterize on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I received a copy of Inside Straight as part of the Early Reviewer program. This was my first Wild Cards novel and foray into the world of George R. R. Martin. Apparently, the world was previously struck by the "Wild Card Virus" and it is latent in the body until triggered. When triggered, the virus gives a small percentage superhero powers ("Aces") and another small percentage are given physical mutations ("Jokers"). I felt this book did not give the reader good summary of the world-building; I had to look up the mythology on Wikipedia. I got the impression that it assumes you have read a previous novel from the series. This novel started off with unknown Aces participating on a new reality TV show, American Hero. There are four teams of Aces who live together in a big house à la Big Brother. At the end of each week, they must complete a heroic challenge and the teams who lose must vote one of their teammates off. This reality TV satire was the half of the novel I really enjoyed. The reader follows a few key Aces as they audition, compete in the show and eventually the fallout from being voted off. The authors capture perfectly how people - whether normals or Aces - can lust after infamy on these shows. I do think it was a pitch-perfect spoof that was both witty and insightful.However, the second half of the novel shifts to the Aces fighting an intense battle in Egypt. The Egyptian governmental and religious authorities have decided to launch a full offensive against their Jokers who they accuse of assassinating a religious leader. For various reasons, some of the American Heroes decide to fly over there and protect the Jokers. I felt this part of the novel led to blatant Americana, Ameri-centrism and Imperialism. In it, the story narrates the world sitting powerless on its hands when faced with rampant genocide and only the 'Good Guys' (Americans) will be brave enough to try to stop it.I did not realize until I was 3/4 of the way through the book that the each section was written by different authors and this was an anthology. When I finally comprehended that fact, it made way more sense why the novel was so uneven in tone and viewpoint! There weren't any glaring contradictions between the stories, but I do feel it was obvious that each writer had their own agenda they were pushing in their own stories. In the end, I felt all the writing was pretty solid and each Ace's character was well delineated. If the story had stuck to the reality TV satire, I would have given this book 4 or 4.5 stars. But I do feel that the "Only Americans Can Save the World" subtext in the second half left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Shijuro on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Enjoyable update of a fun series.The [Wild Cards] series came out in the 1980's, featuring various authors contributing individual short stories that formed an overall composite tale. This book brings the series into the present day, with a fun take on reality TV and a superhero version of middle-eastern conflicts.The basic premise is that an alien ship was destroyed in the mid-1900's releasing a virus that mutates individuals based upon their personality and the thoughts they have while infected. Humans aren't entirely compatible so the virus is fatal in the majority of cases but some come through with fantastic mutations ("jokers"). The ones who gain useful powers are called "aces".This particular book concerns a group of young "aces" coming to grips with a wide variety of abilities while participating in a reality TV project. Each author tells a story from the viewpoint of one of the aces as they deal with artificial crises and personality conflicts. Meanwhile, the Middle East has become increasingly unstable due to the presence of jokers resembling the old gods of Egypt and the activities of some aces.The overall story was interesting, the individual sections were usually fun and the characters were memorable. I was going to say I hope they continue with the series, but apparently another book is already out with more planned for 2010.I received this book in the early-reviewers program but had misplaced it for the better part of a year. I hope that my take is still timely enough to be helpful.
rivkat on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Ah, so this is the volume I missed before the last one I read¿it actually gives the story of how the American Idol-esque American Ace competition produced some actual international heroes/colonial imperialists (depending on your perspective). It¿s a good enough Wild Cards adventure, but it does make clear that the authors know that sending a bunch of Americans and a German (whose Ace is ghost armor and is known, I kid you not, as Crusader) to the Middle East raises a whole lot of problematic issues; they just don¿t care/are on the side of the Americans anyway. I¿m sure the earlier Wild Cards books would give me the same kind of conniptions now if I reread them.
eviltammy on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Sixty years ago, an alien virus spread a wave of mutations around the globe. Jokers got more visible mutations, aces became more like superheroes. But now the whole thing is a bit more mundane and Hollywood is cashing in reality TV style - a Survivor-type show to choose the newest American Hero. But reality TV gets overtaken by reality, when a couple of the cast-offs and one of the production staff, who has gained new powers, head to Egypt where the assassination of the country's ruler has lead to genocide against the changed.I read a couple of the Wild Card books back when they first came out, but don't really remember them. And it's not really necessary for understanding or enjoying this one - the background is woven into the story, though some of the references to past Wild Cards would be easier to catch if you had read others.This is a shared universe novel, with different parts written by different authors, and woven together into one story. Daniel Abraham's pieces - blog posts written by Jonathan Hive - do an excellent job of anchoring the story, wrapping up chapters and setting up the next parts. I really enjoyed the book - though the switch from Hollywood to Egypt seemed very abrupt, but that may also be because the type of action changes so dramatically - from reality TV challenges to real battles. Not sure I'll go back and read the older books, but I definitely think I'll pick up the new ones.Oh, and as one other reviewer noted, the blurb on the back of the book is for the sequel, not this book.
cshigh on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I was surprised at how good this book was. All the authors do a fantastic job of bringing together all their parts for a very enjoyable, cohesive story. I've never read any superhero fiction outside of comics, but now I'm left wanting to continue the series!
ursa_diana on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Engaging and entertaining. This was my first Wild Card novel, so I came into it knowing nothing about the world. I didn't need that prior knowledge, in fact I was totally sucked in to the world through this story and finished it wanting to go and find more of the series.It's a s/f, fantasy world,and sure, on the surface it's about mutant "superheroes", but it's also very character driven and smart.
WorldMaker on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I have a huge interest in shared worlds and Wild Cards is a shared world that I¿ve spent a reasonable amount of time in. Wild Cards is a shared world series that is only a few years younger than I am and at this point encompasses 18 volumes, the shared effort of over a dozen writers and the steady editorship of George R. R. Martin, now perhaps better known for his high fantasy series. The basic premise is a world with super-powers (due to an alien virus referred to as the ¿wild card virus¿). It¿s a (sometimes quite dark) funhouse mirror of our own history, but filled with heroes (¿aces¿), villains, a deformed under-class (¿jokers¿), plague deaths (¿black queens¿), assassinations and alien invasions.The series has some of the seriousness in tone and literacy of the post-Watchmen era of comics, as if perhaps reading novelized excerpts from some post-modern comic canon. As much as it speaks of our own history, it possibly has more to say as what might pass for a broad comics continuity such as Marvel or DC¿s had one been established in the same time period with a copy of Watchmen in hand, smuggled back in time¿This volume serves as a reboot of sorts, hoping to be a conduit to both new and old readers alike. This corresponds with both a new publishing arrangement and an interregnum of several years between it and its predecessors. With my forgetful knowledge of the preceding series I never had a moment where I felt like I needed to reread a previous book or read a book that I may have missed. Certainly there were also a few "mythos" moments where a mention of some previous event sparked a quick "Yeah, I remember that now." I didn't feel like any of those were crucial to the plot.The structural theme of the first half of the book is very smartly the idea of a "American Hero" reality show based upon open auditions for a new generation of aces. The rules of the reality show run parallel to those that contemporary television has beaten into our heads into a relatively standard form. This provides explicit pathos to the goal of seeking a "new generation of aces" with respect to the earlier parts of the series. The familiar reality show rules provide useful space to reiterate and reinterpret the shared world's own rules.
Corbeau on LibraryThing 23 days ago
This book was strange. I haven't tried a book written chapter by chapter by different authors. I found myself absorbed in some chapters and wishing others would be over faster so I could move on to something better. The story was ok, but not great. I thought this was ok, but I don't think I'll be hunting down the rest of the series.
kbuxton on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I think I would have figured out what was going on earlier if I'd read previous Wild Cards books, but at least I now have them to look forward to. This is an odd form of novel in that the chapters are written by many different artists. It ties together remarkably well for that.As for the plot, I'll let you discover most of it yourself, but will just mention that it's as if superheroes were on a reality TV show called American Heroes.
sdobie on LibraryThing 23 days ago
The first in a new series of books set in the Wild Cards universe where in the 1940's an alien virus transformed a portion of the population into aces with superpowers or into jokers with bizarre physical transformations. In this volume a set of aces are competing on American Hero, a reality show that is trying to create a new celebrity superhero. Some of the aces eliminated early on in the show overcome their depression at being losers by taking up the cause of an attempted genocide of the joker population of Egypt.I had not read any of the previous Wild Card books, but this book was totally understandable without having done so, although there are plenty of references that I am sure would mean more if I had. The book is a little different from most shared-world anthologies in that is structured more as a novel so that each contributer's piece is more of a chapter than a standalone story, with short bits by Daniel Abraham from the viewpoint of Jonathan Hive, an ace who can transform into a swarm of wasps, acting as connectors between a lot of the sections. The structure works well with the characters seeming to act consistently across different authors sections, which is often not true in shared worlds. The story kept me interested with plenty of action, and creative use of the various aces superpowers. I will be interested in reading the follow-up volumes as well as the original Wild Cards series.
wendyrey on LibraryThing 23 days ago
This was the first straight SF book I have read in a while , several years I think, as I have been reading mainly fantasy and literary fiction and it was interesting to see where the genre had got while I wasn't watching. in this alternative reality there was contact with an alien spacecraft that resulted in a major virus epidemic that changed some people , developing new skills and bodies - crocodile heads and flying and so on.However this book is much more a mixture of a satire on 'reality ' shows of the 'Big Brother' type and war in the middle east where the 'normals' are out to eliminate the 'Jokers'. Heroism ,self sacrifice and a bit of apparent baddie makes good .It is also written by committee with a number of different authors writing chapters , usually from a different character voice.Does the story work? More or less though it seems an odd mixture. Does the format work? I found the constant change of voice a bit wearing after a few chapters. Stories with 2-4 voices work for me when well written but I think that this is too many voices and perhaps too many hands.Decent enough post-modern SF.
Sean191 on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Inside Straight is like a long comic book without the illustrations. To clarify, for me, it was like a long, enjoyable comic book. This was my first Wild Cards novel and I enjoyed it. There are enough pop culture references to help pull you in as a reader and although it was a light read, it still gave some things to think about.There were enough superheroes (or, in Wild Card language, "Aces") around to keep things fun. It barely delved into any past histories, but it didn't really need to do that. There were a handful of characters that would have been better to know a bit more, like King Cobalt and Hardhat for reasons I won't reveal here. Anyway, it's a fun read and recommended for those who liked reading comics when they were younger or for those who like the show Heroes and/or some of the reality elimination shows like Survivor for example.
CUViper on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Very cool! This was my first entry into the Wild Cards series, and I will definitely check out more. I was worried about having so many different authors involved, but it works very well because they are divided on character viewpoints. This give an enhanced individuality to the players that I really enjoyed.
Karlstar on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The premise of the Wild Cards novels is that in the recent past, an alien brought a virus to Earth that created mutations in humans. Jokers are mutations with just bodily changes (sometimes drastic) while Aces are mutations with superhero powers. I would have enjoyed this book more except for the major plot element, which is the American Hero tv show. A American Idol for superheroes? I realize the whole point of the book is to rise above the triviality of the made for TV contest and do something real, which some of the characters do, but it felt too contrived. Considering how many superhero TV shows and movies are out at the moment, too, I think I'm saturated on super powers. Typical of a shared world book, there isn't a lot of character development either.
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Don't be fooled by the cover! Its not a new Star Wars book!Onto the actual book - I used to love the Wild Card series, and then ithe plot line started getting weird, the characters nonsensical, and way too many threads in one story. This book is more the original style, and it holds its own, but doesn't compare to the first books in this series. The book starts well, a reality TV show is being produced that is pitting teams of Aces (superhero's) against each other, team members are voted off, and the world watches. In typical Reality TV, the Aces live together, and are followed by cameras 24-7. In the background, we see the effects of an assassination of the Muslim Caliph, riots, and a massacre in Egypt.Different authors write each segment, from a different characters perspective. This works some of the time, but if you are really into a character, the narrative might not come back. The plot quickly jumps from a reality show, to the war in Egypt, where some of the discarded aces from the show decide to take on the Egyptian Army and the Caliphs army, and become real heroes. I think the Aces fights Religious Group plot has been done in this series, although maybe not quite like this. I guess my biggest complaint is that the Reality TV show plot just kind of fizzled - And that is the whole reason I wanted to read the book!
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