Monday, January 18, 2010

Wild Cards: Busted Flush

Busted Flush
George R. R. Martin (editor)
Tor: 2008

The end of Inside Straight featured many of the new characters introduced in that volume joining together to form an organization of superheroes. The organization is called The Committee and is an arm of the United Nations. The UN sends the Committee to troubled areas across the globe to help out as they can.

Busted Flush continues in the Wild Cards tradition of telling a story as a “mosaic novel”. Busted Flush is told with a series of short stories written by different authors and each builds to a large and complete story.

As always, there are a few things going on in this novel: New Orleans is on the cusp of being ravaged by another tornado and a small group of Committee members are there to help, a civil war in Africa, an oil embargo in the Middle East, and an unexplained nuclear explosion in Texas.

These events seem unrelated, and they are, except that as the various members of the Committee get involved they all tie together before the novel ends in a stunning confrontation.

One of the great strengths of the Wild Cards series is the excellent characterization. Yes, the action and the plotting is equally note-worthy (certain television writers would do well to pay attention and see how it is done), but where Wild Cards lives or dies is in how well written the characters are. Melinda Snodgrass delves into the character of Double Helix, a teleporter who can change between male and female and is used as an assassin by competing agencies. The character was introduced in Inside Straight and while Noel (Double Helix) was used, it isn’t until Busted Flush that the character is really fleshed out. The other major character introduction here is Niobe, occasionally known as the Genetrix. Niobe looks like a joker, has a tail, but is actually an ace. For Niobe sex always leads to giving birth to a clutch of little potential aces and jokers, and the newly hatched aces are in command of their powers right from birth. Niobe’s story is consistently heartbreaking, as is her meeting of a young boy named Drake. Drake is the only survivor of the nuclear blast in Texas. There is more to that story.

The point here is that the characters are so well written they consistently come across as regular people who just happen to have incredible powers. The other aspects of Busted Flush are just as strong.

Busted Flush is a wonderful entry to the Wild Cards series and is the second volume of the Committee Triad (which concludes with Suicide Kings). This is a series which very much deserves to be read. Just go back and read Inside Straight and you’ll be good to go.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Tor Books.

Previous Wild Cards Reviews:
Wild Cards (bk 1)
Aces High (bk 2)
Jokers Wild (bk 3)
Aces Abroad (bk 4)
Down and Dirty (bk 5)
Ace in the Hole (bk 6)
Inside Straight (bk 18)

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