The 24th book in a shared world anthology in which many humans have been transformed by an alien virus either into jokers (deformed) or aces (super-powered). A varied collection of people on a riverboat aim to help Kazakh refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
I’m a long-time fan of George R. R. Martin, but I’ve never taken to his Wild Card series. I read the first one a very long time ago but despite the big-name authors involved, the stories and world just didn’t interest me. I’ve never been very excited about superheroes, and this darker take didn’t entice me either
Howver, it’s been a long time, and Wild Cards has kept going much longer than most shared world projects. When I saw Mississippi Roll available on NetGalley, I took a gamble that either the series or my tastes had changed. They hadn’t.
I liked this book even less than the original, way back in the distant past. While some of the stories are adequate, and some of the writing is good, the overall story is dull. For one thing, it makes a point of setting up Kazakh refugees as a key plot point – and then mostly ignores them. They’re a plot device and very little more. That’s a big missed opportunity, and an own goal.
Some of the writing is also definitely not good. At least one of the stories is so unfocused that I never did decide what it was about, other than following a not very interesting lead character through his days. The overall plot arc of the book is almost entirely predictable. It ends where it should, but you know where that will be from the first few pages.
There’s not even much imagination in the shape the jokers (people who fared poorly in the change) take. In the earlier books, there was quite a lot of variety. Here, a disappointing number of jokers are simply normal-looking humans with horns. I don’t know if the horns were meant to be a subtle nod to Memphis soul, but I really don’t think so. With a whole world of mutation options to play with, these writers mostly chose the same thing.
I wish I could point to a standout story or two, but there simply wasn’t one. Some of the writing is good, and some of the authors do their best, but not one of these stories caught my attention. Overall, this book is an argument in favor of ending shared world anthologies early.
03 July 2018 Science fiction | Carrie Vaughn | Cherie Priest | David D. Levine | George R. R. Martin | John Jos. Miller | Kevin Andrew Murphy | Stephen Leigh | Wild Cards |