Wild Cards Vol. 2: Aces High edited by George R. R. Martin
Read by Luke Daniels
Length: 14 Hrs 49 Min
Gene: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: Wild Cards Vol.2:Aces High is an excellent science fiction tale that should please fans of Super Hero fiction. Despite the lackluster ending, the road there is full of adventure, engaging characters, and a whole lot of fun,
The concept of shared world anthologies has always intrigued me. That writers of all shapes would come together, and work in the same world, with overlapping characters and storylines was something I found quite cool. Yet, I have only really read a few of these types of stories. Eric Flint’s 1963 world, where a small West Virginian town is transported back in time to a Europe during the 100 Years War, offers some collaborative novels, and some short story anthologies, many of the writers discovered on Flint’s Fan Fiction website. Robert Aspirin’s Thieves World was a shared world fantasy series that put out 7 official novels and included the work of authors such as John Brunner, Poul Anderson and CJ Cherryh. Yet, my favorite shared world anthology has always been George RR Martin’s Wild Card series. Wild Cards is about a virus that was unleashed onto earth by a humanoid alien species as a test to see if it would create psionic powers. This virus wreaked havoc on Earths population, killing many, causing grotesque deformities among other, while a small percentage of those infected become Aces, people with true super powers. I read a few of the Wild Card books back in my high school days, and recently listened to the newly released version of the initial anthology. The first novel was mainly a series of short stories, most of which are origin tales of Aces, and the early days of the initial outbreak of the Wild Card Virus.
Wild Cards Vol. 2: Aces High, is a more coherent novel than the original. It is not just a shared universe, but sets up a common plot which each author then adds to. Aces High follows three interwoven threads, a dark off shoot of the Masons are attempting to collect alien artifacts to call an ancient evil to earth, an alien swarm, controlled by a hive mother has attacked earth and while all this is happening, the original alien species who released the Wild Card virus has returned to earth, with the intention of collecting the Aces, who they see as the successes of their experiments. Each of these tales is interwoven into the narrative, with different Aces taking differing roles in the drama. This story is well told, and many of our favorite characters return, including The Great and Powerful Turtle, Dr. Tachyon, and Furtunato. Interspersed between the main stories is the tale of Jube, a Walrus like alien hiding out in Joker town whose odd features fits right in with the deformities of the Wild Card victims. Jube is in many ways the heart of the story, and the thread that pulls it all together. My favorite story of the group is Unto the Sixth Generation by Walter Jon Williams. This story introduces my favorite character of the novel, Modular Man, a sentient Android who is conflicted by his desire to help humanity, and his loyalty to his increasingly sociopathic creator. I felt that the first half of Aces High was excellent, yet, as the novel progressed, it didn’t hold my attention as well, and I found the concluding moments a bit on the lackluster side. While I appreciated the more coherent story, I felt the novel itself lacked some of the things I loved about the original anthology especially the blending of the historical with the fantastic, and the dystopian feel to much of the novel. Yet, all together Aces High is an excellent science fiction tale that should please fans of Super Hero fiction. Despite the lackluster ending, the road there is full of adventure, engaging characters, and a whole lot of fun.
Luke Daniels again narrates this tale, and does his usual excellent job. His full range of voices is again put to the test. He creates many memorable characters with his voice, from the almost goofy Jube, to the conflicted, not quite human Modular Man, and a plethora of others. At times, there were so many characters coming at you, with minor players appearing at surprising moments, that it could be hard to keep track, but Daniel’s does a good job creating memorable voices that helped the reader stay focused. Although, at times I wish I had a character roster available just to remember who each character was, especially during the finale of the tale. Any problem I had with the novel definitely was not due to the performance of Luke Daniels, in fact, he made the experience of listening to this often confusing tale pleasurable.
Note: A special thanks to the good people of Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.