Double Down on Wild Cards: Aces Abroad

imageWild Cards IV: Aces Abroad
Edited by George R. R. Martin
Various Authors
Publisher: TOR Books
Originally Published: 1988
528 Pages

We are often addicted to things that are not entirely good for us. Not that it can’t be pleasurable, but usually there is a side effect that becomes more prominent than the actual pleasure. The addiction becomes stronger and the compulsion to keep doing what you’re doing takes over any rational thoughts of stopping.

That’s pretty much how I feel about the Wild Cards series edited by George R. R. Martin.

Wild Cards is a science fiction and superhero anthology series set in a shared universe. While most of the volumes are made up of individual short stories, written by different authors, they generally focus on a central theme or event. There are also several longer story lines which run through several of the books. Every third book uses the format of the mosaic novel. This involves several writers writing individual story lines, which are then edited by blending them together into one seamless novel-length story. Wild Cards is inspired by traditional superhero comics, and many of the authors play with the conventions of the medium, while some characters are based on existing heroes.

The series began way back in 1987. It’s still ongoing today with new novels periodically published. I remember first being exposed to the Wild Cards books back in the late 80’s but never got around to reading them. About four years ago, TOR began republishing the earlier volumes that had fallen off the publishing wagon.

Having grown up reading (and still continuing to read) comic books, I was drawn to these novels that explore an alternate universe with super heroes in more adult, realistic settings.

Which brings me to Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad originally published in 1988. I really do enjoy this series. I’m addicted to the characters and the stories, often holding my breath for the next volume to be re-released. The side-effect is the problem I have with different literary styles for each individual story contained in a single volume. One story can be face paced while the next is written by an author whose’ writing style is not enjoyable. You have to take the good with the bad.

But its not really bad per se, more like slow. The change in authors can throw you out of the overall story. One author will keep you captivated while the next completely changes the tone and pace.

I haven’t told you anything about Aces Abroad yet have I?

That’s because I struggled how to review a book of short stories all centered around a common narrative thread written by various authors. So this review is simply setting up future ones. I feel the novel should be graded as a whole, but each story individually as well. As I progress through future installments in this series, I will take better notes on the individual “chapters”.

Overall, this was one of the better Wild Cards novels. It starts a new arc that will take place over the next couple of novels. We say goodbye to a couple of characters and are introduced to new ones. Very important to note: you should really start with the first novel if you haven’t read any Wild Cards novels.

I gave this 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Some of the short stories are real standouts including Mirrors of the Soul, Blood Rights, the Teardrop of India and Down In the Dreamtime?

I really recommend this series. It’s fun, often thought provoking and sometimes just simply weird. At the end of every novel I’m left thinking that I’ve had just enough of this universe, but eventually I get the tug to read on only if to find out what happens next. At last count there are more than 23 novels in this series, more than enough to keep feeding my addiction.

Head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy today.

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