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Having loved the latest Wild Cards triad (Inside Straight, Busted Flush, and Suicide Kings, I was curious to read about how it all began. And with Tor Books reissuing the original Wild Cards installments, I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity.

Here's the blurb:

Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin's Wild cards shared-world series.

There is a secret history of the world'a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces'those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers'cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo'winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

I remember being concerned about the mosaic novel format when I first read Inside Straight, fearing possible glitches in terms of continuity, consistency, chronology, style and tone. I was worried about how the individual stories would fit and further the plot of the overall story arc. But as was the case with the last triad, the various plotlines are woven together almost seamlessly, and the entire cast of writers involved in the production of this book maintain an even style and tone throughout.

This expanded edition also features new material that could potentially clash with the stories which were more than two decades old. And yet, had I not known that this was the case, I would never have been able to tell you which is which. In retrospect, the addition of new voices and stories provide even more depth to this collective work.

My favorite aspect of Wild Cards I is that it is also somewhat of a social commentary of about four decades of American history. It begins with post-WWII America, and we then follow the evolution of the Wild Cards virus and its repercussions on Aces and Jokers and the American and international psyches through the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the hippie movement, the Kennedy assassination, etc, all the way to the 80s.

It starts off with a bang as Jetboy tries to prevent a tragedy in the skies above New York City. And then we are taken for a ride throughout about forty years' worth of Americana experienced through the eyes of a disparate group of individuals touched by the virus.

As fun as it is intelligent, Wild Cards I will satisfy readers in myriad ways. Beyond being a political and social commentary, the opening chapter of the Wild Cards sequence is a rousing tale of unlikely heroes.

Newbies wanting to sample George R. R. Martin's labor of love for more than twenty years should look no further. Though the latest trilogy could be read as a stand-alone meant to attract new fans into the fold, new readers like me couldn't possibly get all the nuances. But with Wild Cards I, you find out how it all began with no ambiguity.

Give it a shot if you are looking for something different. You won't be disappointed.
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on February 6, 2002
I read this series when it was originally released. I wasnt happy with where the series eventually ended up late in the series, but the earlier works are fond favorites.
People buying this book (or others in the series) because they are fans of GRRMartins Song of Ice and Fire series are likely to be disapointed due to misaligned expectations.
The only thing this series has in common with the Song of Ice and Fire is a gritty certainty that favorite characters will get killed....or worse, and the use of widely scattered often disconnected characters and plotlines that sometimes may cross but also might never. Further, as this is a 'mosaic' novel, GRRMartin isnt the sole proprietor of the stories.
Treated as a seperate entity from GRRMartin's more recent series, the Wild Cards series is a fairly unique and often brilliant body of work. Due to its nature, not all of the short stories will appeal to everyone; to be sure there are stories and story arcs that dont appeal to me either.
Regardless, taken as a whole the series is really something special. Its similar to a massive wall mural which cant be appreciated from up close; you have to pull back abit and look at it in its entirety to fully appreciate the overall effect.
The strength of the series lays in its deft characterizations. Some of my favorite fictional characters are from this series; the Turtle, Croyd Crenson (the Sleeper), Golden Boy, Mackie Messer, Carnifex, Mr Nobody, Jumpin Jack Flash (et al), Kid Dinosaur.....the list goes on and on.
The series really picks up in the second book, but the 1st is where all of the necessary background resides.
Unfortunately, the books are being released in a grossly overpriced large softbound edition; my advice it to find the original paperbacks in a used book store.
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on December 4, 2001
I am a fan of George R. R. Martin, I think he is one of the most talented writers around today. Furthermore, Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" Series is a masterpiece of writing. Additionally, I have enjoyed some of his short stories. However, I would caution anyone about the "Wild Cards". This is not at all like Martin's other works. "Wild Cards" is a single plot carried over many different short stories written by many authors.
The plot is interesting and initially it sounded great. A deadly virus infects earth after World War II and humans that are infected undergo various physiological and mental changes. Each author brings his own style to the story and some are outstanding. I especially enjoyed Roger Zelazny's story "Ashes to Ashes".
However, overall I could not get into the story. Trying to follow a single story line over many short stories is difficult enough but having to contend with different author's styles, makes it tedious. Some of the stories are down right boring, others are hard to follow. This is very unfortunate because I had great hopes for this book.
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on November 7, 2002
This is a reprint of the first book in the Wild Cards series. When I first read the original many, many years ago, I became absolutely enthralled with the characters and the unique style of storytelling. The Wild Cards series is made up of predominantly "Mosaic Novels", meaning that each novel is comprised of short stories written by different writers, each from the point of view of their own characters in the Wild Cards universe, but all the short stories taken together comprise one whole META-story, if you will. When I finished this first book, I began a frantic search to find the rest of the series (they were out of print before I had even read the first book) that took me several years. And, to my surprise, I found that this book, as amazing as it was, wasn't even one of the best in the series! But, it's very important, as it portrays the events that seperate the Wild Cards universe from our own reality, and therefore is ALMOST essential to fully experience the Wild Cards. Most of the series I had ended up borrowing and have never been able to find for sale, so I was overjoyed when I found out they were reprinting it. The reprints contain some really nice art to illustrate the tale as you go along (the best art I have seen of the Wild Cards so far), and they make this book worth the purchase, even if you already own the original printing.
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on July 14, 2002
There are those who have complained that the stories in this book aren't complete, but seem like they're just beginning. This complaint is valid, but the reasoning is inaccurate. Look at the Wild Cards series as comics books told in narrative rather than picture form. A regular comic book series doesn't usually have a complete tale, without clues to the future, and neither does this book. Some of these stories are setups to larger stories, and believe me, that ain't bad. I have read all sixteen books, and in my opinion, while some of the stories ARE weaker than others, the whole is much bigger than the sum of its parts.
The fact is that I grew to care about these characters. I wanted to know more about them, and that need to know drew me deeper and deeper as the series progressed. Now that the series is being re-released, I can honestly say that if you are comic book fan in search of more serious fare, where even the so-called "good guys" can have some unpalatable personality traits, than the wild cards series is for you. If you don't want to blow the bucks for a brand spanking new one, than get one used. I will say that if you dismiss this series without at least trying ONE book, you are missing out on the next level of superheroics.
Try Vol.1 out. If you don't end up loving Croyd (the Sleeper), I'll eat my hat!
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on January 2, 2002
Wild Cards has an interesting premise, but in this, the first volume, it fails to realise it's full potential. The main problem with this mosaic novel is the lack of continuity of characters throughout the book. As each chapter/story is written by a different author, they all seem to want to introduce several of their own characters into the story, and whilst these characters provide interesting plot lines, they never seem to interlace with other characters that were introduced earlier in the book, leaving you to ask; what's the point of having all these characters at all? There's only one character that appears consistently throughout the novel, and therefore he is the only one that provides any sort of interest.
As each chapter/story is written by a different author, you have to constantly adjust to the authors style. This added to the fact that in each chapter the story jumps to a whole new set of characters, you can become confused and lose yourself very easily.
The book, as a whole, is a hit and miss affair. For example, the story "The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato" by Lewis Shiner really is quite awful and to be frank, rather stupid. "Shell Games" by George R. R. Martin is very good indeed (though it lacks the sharp dialogue of his brilliant "A Song of Ice and Fire" series). "Strings" by Stephen Leigh is a taut web of a story with a few suprises and is easily the best in the book.
Overall, the first volume of 'Wild Cards' is slightly disappointing with some major teething problems. However, the book is, in most parts, still immensely enjoyable due to the mostly accomplished storytelling of its authors, and the premise certainly has a lot of potential.
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on January 27, 2002
I wrote this when I only read the First book of the series, almost two and a half years ago. I was somewhat overly optimistic, but generally this still stands. Snodgras never wrote anything worthwhile for the Wild Cards again.
The only Wild Card book I've read so far, this is very promising.
I think I'll start with the bad things first. Too many of the stories don't work. Some, like Witness, are bad, while many (maybe most) seem to be a beginning, setting the stage without solving anything. ( that is especially true of stories like ' The long night of Fortunato')
Also, there are to many characters, and the story isn't focused enough. It covers thirty years, but most of the time its not very vivid. The early stories, at least, all feature Tchyon as a main character, but then he disappears, and that's a shame.
Now for the good part.
First, the intervals are great. Especially the one summing up the red scare, and the one with the quotes.
Also the one with about the science behind the wild Card virus.
Then we have the premise, which is great. The world, and many of the characters, seem fascinating. I love the wild card virus.
Also, three of the stories are simply exellent. Those are, Sleeper, by Roger Zealany, Strings, by Stephan Leigh, and especially, Degredation Rites, by Mellinda sondgrass, which is a touching, tragic love story, as well, as a powerful political tale.
The best thing about the book, though, is the great promise it contains. It thrills me, and I'm sure I'm gonna love the next books.
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on March 27, 2003
A month ago (as of this writing) I'd never ever heard of this series, but now I'm eagerly awaiting the next volume. George R.R. Martin has assembled some fantastic writers to concoct an entire universe of "Wild Card" superheroes that parallels our own world even moreso than the worlds of Marvel and DC Comics which serve as much of the inspiration.
Here's the concept -- in the days after World War II a bomb went off in the skies above New York City, blanketing the people in a virus. Most of them died. Some, the "jokers" underwent a terrible transformation. A select few drew "aces" -- superpowers without a deformity.
Each writer in this collection (an intriguing device martin calls a "Mosaic Novel") tells the story of an ace or joker of his or her creation. All of the stories stand on their own, although many feel very much like a chapter in a longer tale (John J. Miller's "Comes the Hunter" especially) and I hope these threads are picked up in the later books.
As with any collection of diverse writers, some stories are better than others. Martin's own "Shell Games" is my favorite in this volume -- I could have done without the sewer tale, "Down Deep." Even with that lesser story, the concept and execution is wonderful -- I for one am hoping Martin deals out a few more Wild Cards in the future.
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on August 27, 2002
Wild Cards is a great series. This, of course, is not by far the best book in the series; as it mainly serves as a 400 page introduction; but for such an involved and sprawling saga, perhaps such a thing was necessary. The huge back story had to be chronicled, and there was little other way to introduce such a large gallery of significant characters other than to devote chapters to each without getting into a consecutive story. Even so, this book sets certain events in motion that DO eventually put it into the bigger picture and link this with the two following books as somewhat of a trilogy. Overall, very well written, great characters, and Martin edits it exquisitely; making this shared, multi-author book seem like it was all done by one person.
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on January 21, 1998
For those of you out there that grew up on comic books as I did, this book is a must. From the get-go the collaborative authors strip down super-heroes to their roots and show how truly heroic people are. There aren't any fancy teams or 2 dimensional characters. These are all people that you might meet and love, hate, want... etc. Except some of them have weird powers and some of them as bizarrely misshapen. Oh, and make sure to watch a little boy name Tom become a true hero, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TURTLE, through the books.
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