Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Super-Powered Prose: Busted Flush A Wild Cards Novel

I have just wrapped up reading Busted Flush the latest book in the quintessential series of super-powered fiction, Wild Cards. The nineteenth book in the franchise follows directly after the events of last year’s Inside Straight, and continues to look at the stories of the new young heroes that have formed the UN’s official super-team, The Committee.

For the most part, this book maintains the short story format of previous formats, but each story interacts with the other stories to produce an ongoing narrative that advances the shared unvierse forward once again.

Though the series is nominally edited by George R. R. Martin (whose name makes up the largest text on the cover), Martin’s hand in this process seems negligible. He didn’t contribute a single tale to this volume, and (I assume just like earlier volumes) Melinda M. Snodgrass’s assistant editing consisted of most of the busy work on the project. But if GRRM’s name helps sell books, more power to them. I would like to see the revamped franchise continue for some time to come.

The aformentioned Ms. Snodgrass produces the book’s framing sequence and main story featuring her new character Double Helix. Able to teleport and change shape, she plays a part in just about every major story of the book, from strife in Africa, a battle over oil in the Middle East, or flood damaged New Orleans, Double Helix is a player in it all as she plays multiple sides of the world’s government.

Caroline Spector brings back the Amazing Bubbles from the last volume as does Carrie Vaughn with Curveball. Neither really produces much character development over the course of the story, but Spector does give us an interesting new(?) character in the form of Hoodoo Mama, an ace that can summon corpses in great number to form her own zombie army.

Ian Tregillis and Walter Simons team up to introduce the sad characters of Niobe and Drake, but both actually play greater roles in other stories than their own.

Some of the older characters like Kevin Andrew Murphy’s Cameo and Victor Milan’s The Radical (who debuted in the first Wild Cards book) come back in new and different ways. One plays an important role in the Committee while the other becomes a major player in the WC universe.

S.L. Farrell gives us another lackluster tale of Drummer Boy, and just like the previous volume he remains a more compelling character in other writers’ hands.

Another old-school Wild Cards writer John Jos. Miller returns with a tale of Carnifex. Billy Ray is now in charge of SCARE, the organization responsible for arresting rogue American aces. The tale is all right, but bland by his usual standards.

Though the book is riddled with some long winded and unnecessary sections, overall the product maintains quality. The new and improved Wild Cards universe still seems weak compared to the first six or so volumes of the franchise, but the characters finally start coming in to their own in Busted Flush. The book never excels, but it does give a solid piece of super-powered fiction we can all enjoy. Hopefully the third (and I pray not final) book, due next year, should give us some more insight in to the new generation of heroes. Until then, make sure to check out Busted Flush; it definitely ranks a solid Recommendation.

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