Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Book Review: Wild Cards - Pairing Up

An alien virus ravages the world, its results as random as a hand of cards. Those infected either draw the black queen and die, draw an ace and receive superpowers, or draw the joker and are bizarrely mutated. Nevertheless, human nature reigns supreme. And one of the most enduring human drives is the search for love. Aces and jokers alike both want to find it, or have lost it . . . or perhaps just want to use it for personal gain. Crazy, unconventional, touching, strange, and oh-so-familiar, this is love, Wild Cards-style.

Featuring stories from: Kevin Andrew Murphy • Christopher Rowe • Marko Kloos • Melinda M. Snodgrass • Bradley Denton • Walton Simons • Peter Newman • Gwenda Bond • David Anthony Durham

Wild Cards: Pairing Up, edited by George R.R. Martin, will be published on July 11, 2023. Bantam Books provided an early galley for review.

I have been on-board with the Wild Cards anthology since its debut in 1987 (when I was in my final year of college). Stories set in an ever-growing super-hero world always interested me. It is so nice to see this series continue into its thirty-sixth year and its thirty-first volume. But for those who this might be their first encounter with the franchise, no worries. There is a two-page introduction at the start to get you up to speed.

The eight short stories in the collection do share a unique theme - one involving pairings. But they each stand on their own as the move through the timeline of the Wild Cards history. I have a thing for actors and Hollywood, so "Trudy of the Apes" by Murphy and "The Long Goodbye" by Simons both posed an interesting alure with characters I had read about previously. "What's Your Sign" by Bond and Newman is also a sweet tale about a couple of aces coming together in a most unexpected way. And there was something so universal with Rowe's "Cyrano d'Escargot" which takes a unique twist to a familiar scenario.

All in all, a strong collection of tales about finding love among those with powers.

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