Thursday, June 8, 2023

Book Review: Wild Cards - Knaves Over Queens

Developed by aliens and field-tested on Earth, the virus known as Xenovirus Takis-A was released in New York in 1946, changing the course of human history forever. Most of those infected die — and a tiny percentage become deformed beings known as jokers. A lucky few survivors become aces: superhumans gifted with amazing powers. Now the virus has reached Britain.

There, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, gifted with extraordinary longevity, together with the Enigma ace Alan Turing, set up a special organization named the Order of the Silver Helix. They will need all of the wild cards they can find if they are to deal with the terrifying mutations spawned by the virus.

This is the twenty-seventh book in the Wild Cards series, released in August of 2019 from Tor Books. Edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass, Knaves Over Queens features the writing of Paul Cornell, Marko Kloos, Mark Lawrence, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Emma Newman, Peter Newman, Peadar O Guilin, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector, and Charles Stross.

I am often drawn to all things British - music, television programs, accents. Combine that with super-hero stories, and that gives me an irresistible combination.

Unlike the last few entries of the series, this one sticks mostly to complete tales told with no interweaving of parts of other stories. I liked that. It really allowed me to focus on specific characters and get a good feel for them with minimal interruption.

This collection starts out very solidly. The pair of stories starring Captain Flint and the creation of Order of the Silver Helix created a strong foundation upon which to build. "Needles and Pins", set in the mod-60's era, was also highly enjoyable with the introduction of a character with a rather unique ace-ability. There are also stories that would fall into the espionage/spy and military genres; not being a big fan of either those stories did not hit as well for me. The multi-part "Twisted Logic" (a story thread through the back half of the collection) gives a tragic take with the Green Man ending up becoming something he never wanted to be.

All in all, I enjoyed this outing of the series.

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