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Wild Cards, by George R.R. Martin

Wild Cards

When I first started reading this compilation, and hit upon a character named "Jetboy", I mentally rolled my eyes and decided that if I didn't like the book, I'd just put it down without ever reading the whole thing. But soon enough, I got caught up in the story, and began enjoying it.

Wild Cards is a compilation of short stories, edited by George R. R. Martin, who wrote the fantastic Song of Ice and Fire series. The stories take place in 1950s America, just after World War 2. A very stange man dressed like one of the three musketeers arrives in Washington via a very odd spacecraft, trying to alert the government to a biological weapon that his home planet is about to test on the earth. The weapon was originally designed to enhance the superhuman abiilities of its creators, but they found that in most cases, it mutated or killed rather than empowering. When the weapon eventually detonates over Manhattan, nine out of ten people are killed horrifically, and one out of ten is transformed. Out of those transformed, nine out of ten change into strange and sometimes hideous creatures. The lucky remaining 1% gain superhuman powers. But as the stories progress, you learn that the distinction between superpowered "aces" and mutated "jokers" is sometimes blurred. How would you classify The Incredible Hulk? Superhero or mutant? He is both. Characters like that are not uncommon in Wild Cards. My favorite characters, "The Sleeper" and "The Turtle" are certainly unorthodox.

The stories in the book are as follows:

Prologue, by George R.R. MartinThe Tale of the alien Dr. Tachyon's Arrival
Thirty Minutes Over Broadway, by Howard WaldropJetboy's attempt to save humanity from the Wild Card virus
The Sleeper, by Roger ZelaznyOne of the first (and oddest) aces
Witness, by Walter Jon WilliamsAces during the McCarthy hearings
Degradation Rites, by Melinda M SnodgrassA tale of Dr. Tachyon and his Ace lover
Shell Games, by George R.R. MartinIntroducing the Great and Powerful Turtle!
The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato, by Lewis ShrinerThe tale of an ace pimp
Transfigurations, by Victor MilanIn the 70's, even Aces took LSD - Imagine a superhero Jim Morrison
Down Deep, by Edward Bryant & Leanne C HarperHobos can be Aces too
Strings, by Stephen LeighMind control powers can be quite insidious
Comes a Hunter, by John J MillerA skilled tracker and bowman hunts an old foe

While the first volume in this series was good, the sequel was merely okay - it featured an alien menace known as the swarm, which I thought was a great enemy. The third volume however, is one of the few books I had to stop reading midway. Although it was still a collaboration, it scrapped the concept of multiple short stories.

11/22/63, by Stephen King
A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Academ's Fury, by Jim Butcher
All You Need Is Kill, by Ryosuke Takeuchi
Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan
Amber Spyglass, The, by Philip Pullman
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Amped, by Daniel H Wilson
Anguished Dawn, The, by James P. Hogan
Armada, by Ernest Cline
Axis, by Robert Charles Wilson
Batman: No Man's Land, by Greg Rucka
Battle Circle, by Piers Anthony
Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard
Beasts of Barakai, The, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Best of Lester Del Rey, by Lester Del Rey
Black Monday, by Scott Reiss
Blackout, by Mira Grant
Blood Rites, by Jim Butcher
Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini
Broken Angels, by Richard K. Morgan
Catch Me If You Can, by Frank Abagnale
Caught in Crystal, by Patricia C. Wrede
Cell, by Stephen King
Changes, by Jim Butcher
Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin
Cold Days, by Jim Butcher
Contact, by Carl Sagan
Cordelia's Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Cradle of Saturn, by James P. Hogan
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, The, by Mark Haddon
Cursors Fury, by Jim Butcher
Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin
Daughter of the Sun, by Lonnie Ezell
Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher
Deadline, by Mira Grant
Death Masks, by Jim Butcher
Deception Point, by Dan Brown
Decipher, by Stel Pavlou
Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown
Dragon and the George, The, by Gordon Dickson
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Eldest, by Christopher Paolini
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
Existence, by David Brin
Eye of the World, The, by Robert Jordan
Feast For Crows, by George R.R. Martin
Feed, by Mira Grant
Feedback, by Mira Grant
Fight Club, by Chunk Palahntuk.
Flashforward, by Robert J. Sawyer
Flightless Falcon, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher
Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
For The Win, by Cory Doctorow
Forensic Files of Batman, by Doug Moench
Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
Frankenstein, Book One: Prodigal Son, by Dean Koontz
Frankenstein, Book Two: City of Night, by Dean Koontz
Frankenstein: Book Three: Dead and Alive, by Dean Koontz
Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher
Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
Gathering Storm, The, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Genesis of Shannara: Armageddon's Children, by Terry Brooks
Genesis of Shannara: Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks
Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher
Godslayer, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Golden Compass, The, by Philip Pullman
Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher
Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton
Gypsy Morph, The, by Terry Brooks
High Druid of Shannara Series, by Terry Brooks
His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik
Homeland, by Cory Doctorow
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
In God We Trust, by Jean Shepherd
In Thunder Forged, by Ari Marmell
Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini
Into The Storm, by Larry Correia
Invaders Plan, The, by L. Ron Hubbard
Jumper, by Steven Gould
Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
Kingdom Come, by Elliot S. Maggin, Mark Waid, Alex Ross
Last of the Renshai, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Legend of Nightfall, The, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Legend That Was Earth, The, by James P. Hogan
Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
Live Free or Die, by John Ringo
Magician King, The, by Lev Grossman
Magicians Land, by Lev Grossman
Magicians, The, by Lev Grossman
Makers, by Cory Doctorow
Map of Bones, by James Rollins
Master of the Five Magics, by Lyndon Hardy
Name of the Wind, The, by Patrick Rothfuss
Next, by Michael Crichton
Nor Crystal Tears, by Alan Dean Foster
Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
Paranormals, by Christopher Andrews
Parasite, by Mira Grant
Phylogenesis, by Alan Dean Foster
Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow
Postman, The, by David Brin
Prey, by Michael Crichton
Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
Red Shirts, by John Scalzi
Return of Nightfall, by Mickey Zucker Reichert
RoboGenesis, by Daniel H. Wilson
Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson
Robot Uprisings, by Daniel H Wilson
Runelords, by David Farland
Secret of the 6th Magic, by Lyndon Hardy
Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card
Shift, by Hugh Howey
Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher
Skin Game, by Jim Butcher
Sleeping Dragon, The, by Joel Rosenberg
Small Favor, by Jim Butcher
Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
Soon, I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman
Sovereign Era: Year One, by Matthew Wayne Selznick
Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
Stand, The, by Stephen King
Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
Starswarm, by Jerry Pournelle
State of Fear, by Michael Crichton
Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin
Subtle Knife, The, by Philip Pullman
Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher
Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
Swords Against Deviltry, by Fritz Leiber
The 4400: Promises Broken, by David Mack
The 4400: The Vesuvius Prophecy, by Greg Cox
The 4400: Welcome to Promise City, by Greg Cox
The Flash: Stop Motion, by Mark Schultz
The Fold, by Peter Clines
The Hive, by Chris Berman
The Martian, by Andy Weir
Time Travelers Wife, The, by Audrey Niffenegger
Timescape, by Gregory Benford
Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher
Twilight Eyes, by Dean Koontz
Two Faces of Tomorrow, The, by James Hogan
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
Way of Kings, The, by Brandon Sanderson
White Night, by Jim Butcher
Wild Cards, by George R.R. Martin
Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Wizard's First Rule, by Terry Goodkind
Woken Furies, by Richard K. Morgan
Wool, by Hugh Howey
Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
World War Z, by Max Brooks