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Suicide Kings edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass

01/12/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Suicide Kings (Wild Cards book 20) edited in the USA - or Buy Suicide Kings (Wild Cards book 20) edited in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 445 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $32.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1783-4.

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After the slight muddle of keeping track of who was who in the previous 'Wild Cards' mosiaic novel, I'm glad to say the latest, 'Suicide Kings', has none of these problems. It is back to being an intense read with a mixture of action and tragedy.

As with all 'Wild Cards' books, there are several story threads going on, this time moving towards the same goal from different directions. In this case, its to stop Tom Weathers aka the Radical, the aviatior of Mark Meadows aka Cap'n Trips, the most powerful ace in the world. A lot of Weathers' plans, together with the Nshombo leader, are coming to fruition, including deliberately infecting Africann kids with the Wild Card virus to yield some aces with super-powers to create their own elite army. Those who don't survive the process die and for some, they become deformed jokers.

So, let's put the cards on the table. Never trust a deck which has as many jokers as aces.

Wally Gunderson aka Rustbelt and Jerusha Carter aka Gardner are in Africa seeking out Lucien, the former's sponsored child, without the help of the Ace Committee because of UN restrictions. When they discover what is going on, they are forced to split up with Rusty heading deeper into the Congo, facing rust in the damp and even more dangers. Gardner taking a crowd of children to rescue is herself bitten by one of Weather's kid aces and given a wasting disease.

Noel Matthews aka Double Helix, amongst other codenames, is actually the anthesis of the Radical in that he can change into different bodies and sexes but have the same personality. After a deliberate revelation to a disguised Radical by Jonathan Hive aka Bugsy, Matthews is on Weathers' death-list. Mathews, himself, is also in the process of turning away from being a freelance assassin to please his new wife, Niobe.

Bugsy and Ellen Allworth aka Cameo, whose ability is to channel the dead through their possessions are also going through their own problems as with a bit of detective work, he's later discovers who Tom Weathers really is but doesn't know the inner conflict the Radical is going through within himself.

Michele Pond aka Bubbles has returned to normal size after absorbing a nuclear bomb in the last book and is also in Africa with Josephine Hebert aka Hoodoo Mama on a similar but separate mission to Rusty and Gardner as they already know about the kid Aces.

I should point out that these are only the main threads. Other characters pop up as their story threads cross over each other. The mosaic is written by Daniel Abraham, S.L. Farrell, Victor Millán, Melinda Snodgrass, Caroline Spector and Ian Tregillis, each taking charge of the events in their characters' lives. If you're confused by the alter-egos each character has, don't be. It really is a lot easier to follow this time and there's a lot more room for them all to really get under your skin. If there is a major flaw, then its not allowing time to grieve over the deaths of some characters but that's a minor criticism.

If you've been following the 'Wild Cards' books since their resurrection at TOR, then you'll appreciate that this one is getting near to the old form of the early books. An Aces book.

GF Willmetts
October 2009

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This book has 35 votes in the sci-fi charts

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