Inside Straight: A Wild Cards Novel
George R. R. Martin
Tor, 2008 (2008)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
can be enjoyed standalone, there are references to the earlier books in the series, making it preferable to read at least some of them first. I'm not sure how I missed the
phenomenon up till now, but I did. Many excellent writers have created story in this shared universe, originated and edited by one of the greats of fantasy/SF, George R. R. Martin. Its premise is that an alien virus changed the world in 1946, killing ninety percent and morphing the majority of survivors into deformed
- with the usual mix of heroes and villains amongst them.
his linked collection of tales by different authors is connected by ace Jonathan Hive's blog (actually written by one of my fantasy favorites, Daniel Abraham, author of the excellent
Long Price Quartet
.) Jonathan Hive, a journalist whose power allows him to transform to and from a swarm of wasps, auditions for
, planning to write a story about it. After Jonathan Hive's introductory blog, Melinda M. Snodgrass's short story presents another
, Lilith, who acts as a hitwoman and takes out the Caliph (who's been uniting Arab states for a new jihad) in his Baghdad harem. Lilith's abilities come in handy for assassination - she can alter her appearance and teleport.
fter this thrilling start, there's a slow build-up of stories introducing us to the various
and the interactions between them on
. I enjoyed learning about their different abilities and seeing them in action on the set. Essentially,
are divided into teams. If a team loses a challenge, they have to vote one member off the team - not a congenial process. While all this simmers, the killing of the Caliph results in a backlash against the region's
- innocent men, women and children. The best part of
occurs when reality takes over from reality television and a bunch of rather spoilt
discover what it takes to turn themselves into real life heroes.
onathan Hive muses in his final blog about what he's learned: '
Do the right thing. Cherish your friends; you don't know how long you get to have them. You're flawed and weak, but that's okay; just do the best you can.
' Oh, and he has a new job too, on a U.N. Committee - tune in for future episodes to find out what that's all about.
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