Busted Flush is the second book in a new Wild Cards trilogy edited by George R.R. Martin, following Inside Straight (review). Suicide Kings, the third book in this set and the twentieth Wild Cards book, was released in hardcover last month. Even though I haven’t read any of the books other than this one and its predecessor, I found Inside Straight a decent starting point (I think it did help that I knew the general premise of the universe; otherwise I may have been confused). It felt like the beginning of a series, although with both that book and this one I did get the impression that there were some characters and events referenced that were from earlier books. Since Inside Straight introduces all the characters and their current situation, I would definitely recommend reading that one before Busted Flush.
The Wild Cards books are set in a different version of our world in which an alien virus killed most people, disfigured others and gave a small percentage superpowers. They are mosaic novels written by several different authors. Busted Flush was written by Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector, Carrie Vaughn, Walton Simons, Ian Tregillis, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Victor Milan, Stephen Leigh, and John Jos. Miller.
Busted Flush picks up after the first season of American Hero and the formation of the Committee, largely made up of contestants from the reality television show. The Committee was created so those with power could use their abilities to make a difference, and they are called to aid with three occurrences throughout the world – a hurricane in New Orleans, rumors of genocide in Africa and an oil shortage caused by Prince Siraj in the Middle East. Meanwhile, many of them must contend with their own personal problems and some dissension among the ranks due to the work of a double agent.
This review has been a bit tough for me to do, mostly just because I had the hardest time writing a plot description. Since there were so many different characters and storylines, I found it really hard to write a spoiler-free synopsis, especially since the main plot didn’t really take off for a little bit (which isn’t to say the first part was dull because it was not). The plot description still doesn’t really say as much as I want it to, but considering I’ve been working on this review off and on for over a month and a half, I guess it will have to do.
This book was more about the characters than Inside Straight, which I rather liked, particularly since the main character whose story was intertwined throughout the rest in this one was very interesting to read about. Melinda Snodgrass wrote the story of Noel, a hermaphrodite who could teleport. (His mother chose to raise him as a boy so Noel is referred to as a male.) During the day, Noel could turn into a man who supposedly worked for Prince Siraj and by night he could turn into Lilith, a woman who supposedly worked for the Committee. Noel’s true loyalty is to the Silver Helix, though. His life is pretty complicated, as he also is a magician and a son dealing with his father’s impending death from an illness. In Inside Straight, I didn’t feel like I got a good idea of who Noel really was, but this book made him my very favorite character in the series so far and the sections about him were the ones I most looked forward to. He was complex and his character’s development throughout this book was very well done. By the end, he had definitely changed from the person he was at the very beginning.
Although Noel was my favorite, there were others I enjoyed reading about as well. I love Ana and Kate and the close friendship they developed in the first book and Michelle with her compassion. Two of the new characters, a woman named Niobe and a ten-year-old boy named Drake, were also enjoyable to read about. Niobe’s ability was both a blessing and a curse to her, and Drake’s was powerful but more of a curse than anything.
The other highlight is the superpowers, especially those which require some sort of sacrifice from the person with the ability. One woman, a healer, had to undergo some horrific circumstances in order to actually exercise her power. I don’t want to give away the specifics, but it’s a definitely a lot more extreme than feeling tired after healing someone else. Michelle, a former supermodel, has to allow herself to carry a massive amount of weight in order to use her superpower. Some of the powers are straightforward, such as Ana’s ability to manipulate earth, but the most interesting ones are the ones that have some sort of check in place to keep them from being too powerful or require some sort of choice by the person with the power.
Like most books of this nature, there were some stories I enjoyed less than others. There were some slow parts and some characters I don’t find as compelling as many of the others, such as Drummer Boy. Like its predecessor, I felt this book wasn’t as good toward the end as the rest of it was, although overall I thought this one was just slightly better mainly due to Noel.
Busted Flush is another fun addition to the Wild Cards series with some very intriguing characters, situations and superpowers. I am looking forward to finding out how the series ends, although I will be waiting for the paperback edition to do so.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: I received a review copy from the publisher.
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