Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review: Wild Cards

Wild Cards was one of the first shared-universe story-lines set in a science fiction universe (as opposed to the fantasy Thieves' World. Launched in the 1980s, at that time it was a fresh take on super-heroes, and took a great approach of telling a story that spanned decades starting from 1945 (right after the second world war) to the 1980s.

Furthermore, unlike Thieves' World, where the stories by different authors were largely unrelated (in fact, Marion Zimmer Bradley even took her character out of the shared universe eventually), Wild Cards took the much more ambitious approach of weaving a single story through multiple authors, so that the shared setting felt a lot more real, almost as though a single author plotted them all. There was also no jarring transition between authors, as George R. R. Martin in his role as editor wrote interludes between the segments to bring tie it all together.

A second reading (now more than 20 years after this book was published) demonstrates that it holds up well --- the characters still aren't cliche (Croyd, who changes powers every time he sleeps, Fortunato, a pimp who gets his powers through tantric sex), and the stories themselves are great, except for the one about Puppetman, which feels a bit dated only because the evil politician feels overdone due to the X-men series. (Not too surprising, considering the folks like Roger Zelazny were contributors) It definitely makes me feel like reading the entire series all over again (it's a pity the books themselves have gotten in and out of print sporadically over the years).

Recommended.
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