Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wild at Heart - A Wild Card's Retrospective -the Beginning

So, back in August, award winning writer George R.R. Martin, known mostly for Game of Thrones, publicly announced that there would be an upcoming TV series based on his long running Wild Cards series of super heroes novels. Admittedly, calling this series Martin's brainchild was a bit of an over simplification. Each novel in the series is a actually a group of interconnected short stories with multiple writers  that serve to tell a complete story.  The series began in 1986 and continues to this day, enjoying a resurgence within the last decade, due to the popularity of Game of Thrones.

Martin based these books on Superworld roleplaying game he was enjoying with several friends (many of whom were established science fiction writers). Superworld was one of many superhero table-top role playing game that proliferated during the 1980s. Playing the game, Martin was inspired to write a book about his character, an superhero called the Turtle who fought crime while piloting what was essentially a flying armored tank.

However, Martin found himself reluctant to abandon the characters created by other writers in the game and, instead, convinced them to contribute stories about their characters to a shared world anthology "novel." Although not as well known today, shared world anthologies were common in the late 1980's. These would be science fiction anthologies/novels set in the same fantasy world but worked on by multiple writers. Characters and settings from one stories would show up in stories by different author, crating a sense of continuity between each story.

The shared world of Wild Cards was Earth, albeit an Earth where first contact with an psychic humanoid alien race called the Takisians occurred in the late 1940s.  Due to Martin's insistence that the superhero characters should all get the power (with a few exceptions) from the same source, the Takisians bring with them the  a virus which they have invented to boost their own considerable psychic abilities.

Naturally, the aliens decide to test the virus on the genetically similar humans. Despite efforts to stop this, the virus is released above New York City and soon gets sucked into the jet stream where it spreads all over the word.

The results are catastrophic. Unfortunately, the virus kills most of the people who contract it and leaves the majority of the survivors freakishly disfigured.  The disfigured survivors are dubbed "Jokers" and reviled and scorned by society. Most of them are segregated into a Ghetto area in New York called Jokertown. However, a small number of survivors are not physically affected but instead endowed with abilities far beyond those of mortal men. These people dubbed "Aces" are often perceived as heroes by the public and enjoy a measure of celebrity as well as infamy. The virus is dubbed the Wild Card Virus due to the random disfigurement and powers it grants to to those unfortunate or luck enough to contract it.

News of the upcoming TV show reminded me of how much I loved these books when I was kid. I read the books out of order when I was a kid before losing interest. However, out of nostalgia,  I was finally moved to read the first book in the series and it was fun to reconnect with the characters. Because of this, I have decided to write up a retrospective on each book of the series. This retrospective will have no fixed schedule. Given that there are twenty-six book in the series (with more to come), I am going to have to take break just so that I don't burn out especially to locate the harder to find books. Hopefully, the few people reading my blog will enjoy this.

Next up, an introduction to the series important characters while I review the first book in the series called appropriately enough Wild Cards.

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