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Katie Rask

Killer Space Yeast Attacks: Wild Cards II Is A Superpowered Love Letter to Science Fiction

In 1985, Earth is attacked by an alien horde, sent by a giant biomass floating through space that spawns tens of thousands of vicious children. In the Northeastern United States, wild carders help contain the horde’s first attack, although human casualties are high. Meanwhile, the arrival of the Swarm Mother is connected to a cult of Egyptian Freemasons controlled by wild card villains, headed by the reprehensible Astronomer; the members of this cult hope to bring the Swarm Mother to earth. You’d think things couldn’t get much worse, but suddenly the Takisians (the alien creators of the wild card virus) show up in the form of the Tisianne family. The good-guy wild cards must unite to fight off the Takisians, to overthrow the Masons, and ultimately to defeat the Swarm Mother by merging her with a more benign ace personality.

Aces High, the second Wild Cards novel, was published in 1987. The first book in the series related the origin and history of the wild card virus and provided worldbuilding via somewhat discreet stories covering a 40-year period. Aces High, in contrast, focuses on a unified storyline to which each author contributes, with many of the characters’ paths interwoven throughout. Nine authors wrote for the volume, which includes full chapters and interstitial segments to link them together.

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Series: George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Reread

Wild Cards Reveals a Dark Reflection of Our Post-War Reality

Although it’s a superhero story in prose, the Wild Cards saga begins with nothing less than alien first-contact. In 1946, Tachyon lands on earth alone, desperate to stop the release of a gene-altering virus engineered by his family on the planet Takis. His failure allows the virus to fall into the hands of a pulp-worthy villain who carries it high above New York City. There, in a desperate and heart-stopping sky battle worthy of the best WWII flick, Jetboy attempts to stop the release of the alien biological toxin. The young fighter pilot gives his life in the attempt, but the virus is released in a fiery explosion six miles up, floating down to the city below and carried across the globe in the upper atmosphere’s winds. On that day in NYC, 10,000 people die.

The effects of the virus are immediate and devastating, exactly as its alien creators envisioned. Each person transformed by the virus responds in a completely unpredictable manner. What can be predicted, though, are the numbers: 90% of those affected will die horrifically, 9% are hideously transformed, and 1% gain spectacular powers. The arbitrary nature of the individual outcomes lead first-responders to nickname the virus the Wild Card, a metaphor applied to the victims as well. The majority who die draw the Black Queen; those who manifest the gruesome side effects are cruelly labeled Jokers; and the few graced with enviable powers are elevated to the designation Ace. Even the “natural” and unaffected themselves will bear the label “nats.”

The history of humankind changes on September 15, 1946, ever after known as Wild Card Day. This first installment in the Wild Card series covers the event and its aftermath, exploring the historical, social, and personal impact of that day. Although some of the action occurs on the West Coast, in D.C., and abroad, most of the events center on NYC. Each story recounts the experience of a nat, a joker, an ace, or the lone resident alien, beginning in 1946 and ending in 1986.

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Series: George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards: The Reread