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Busted Flush
George R.R. Martin
Tor, 400 pages

Busted Flush
George R.R. Martin
George R.R. Martin was born in 1948 in Bayonne, New Jersey. He attended Northwestern University, graduating with degrees in journalism. Martin refused active service: instead he served with VISTA, in Cook County, Illinois. In addition to his writing credits, Martin has served as Story Editor for Twilight Zone, and as Executive Story Consultant, Producer and Co-Supervising Producer for Beauty and the Beast, both on CBS. He also was Executive Producer for Doorways on CBS. At 21, he made his first pro sale to the magazine, Galaxy. Martin now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

George R.R. Martin Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dreamsongs
SF Site Review: The Armageddon Rag
SF Site Review: A Game of Thrones
SF Site Review: The Hedge Knight
SF Site Review: Windhaven
SF Site Review: A Storm of Swords
SF Site Interview: George R.R. Martin
SF Site Review: A Clash of Kings
SF Site Review: A Game of Thrones

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

"Against the sky, the derricks were ink lines drawn on a blue canvas, and he'd killed children for their sake. He imagined the blood flowing dark like oil. "This shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have been able to happen."
First published in the late 80s, the Wild Cards series is resurgent, and this title marks a welcome return to form, after the dip of the previous volume, Inside Straight. This time around, instead of veering madly away from what made this series such a huge success, the editor has coaxed his writers into playing to the strengths of the world. This includes a few long established characters, used in ways that are fresh enough not to alienate any new readers, yet enticing enough to captivate original fans of the series. The interplay of the two feels natural, and as a result the presentation of the next generation no longer seems forced, which is as it should be. The Committee, (a name that ranks among the lousiest ever coined for a super team), are under UN command and led by John Fortune. They become involved in three simultaneous disasters; a genocidal war in the Niger Delta, hurricanes and zombies troubling New Orleans, and an unexplained nuclear explosion in the middle of a small Texas town.

Weaving the various threads together in a fashion that is both expert and crafty in every sense of the word, is "Double Helix" from Melinda M. Snodgrass. The story here centres on British Secret Service ace Noel Matthews. An hermaphrodite with multiple identities, Matthews plays several interconnected roles including Bahir, the teleporting killer at the command of an Arab potentate, and Lilith, the teleporting seductress who is part of the Committee. As if that wasn't enough, Matthews is also seen caring for his dying father. Scenes which I found particularly touching and realistic, having done the job myself a few years back. "Double Helix" allows this book to soar and swoop, sometimes flying high, at other times diving so low it nearly scrapes the ground. The quality and imagination of the central theme makes it easier to forgive when some of the lesser ideas don't work quite as well as their writers intended. I was delighted to see the Radical, a form belonging to one of the oldest Wild Carders, playing a pivotal role. As long-time fans will know, the Radical is probably the nearest thing Wild Cards has to Superman, and is one form of Dr. Mark Meadows, a hippie ace originally known as Captain Trips. In this book, however, he is trapped in his alter ego and about as far away from hippie ideals as it is possible to get. The Radical has become the power behind an African leader, brutally taking control over large sections of the Dark Continent. Concurrent with this story is the least interesting of the main threads, which sees Committee members deployed in New Orleans and the Middle East. These segments rarely caught light for me, with two exceptions; the development of the most interesting of the newbies from the last book, Drummer Boy, and an entirely new character, Hoodoo Mama. The third element of the mosaic is the tale of a plump teenager named Drake, code named Little Fat Boy, which will make sense to students versed in the history of nuclear weapons. Drake, has a devastating Wild Card power, the ability to create fallout free nuclear explosions centred around wherever he stands. Unfortunately, it is an ability which he cannot control. Various individuals and groups recognise his potential, and seek to use him as a deadly pawn. Only Niobe, an American ace abused and imprisoned by her own government, takes Drake's side. Until, that is, an unlikely romance brings her a lethal ally. This relationship is in sharp contrast to the wishy-washy love triangle between John Fortune, Curveball and Drummer Boy. Both dalliances with romance, however, include an interesting twist.

Busted Flush is a meaty, absorbing, highly entertaining read, which successfully meshes the old with the new. Stock has obviously been taken, and the editor has realised that some of the newbies are simply not as interesting as other characters available within this world. The lesson learned between books, it would seem, is that great characters cannot be manufactured by a process as crass as the American Hero TV show used in Inside Straight. Great characters, such as Noel Matthews, Carnifex, and Drummer Boy, leap from the minds of their creators, and develop along their own paths. What Busted Flush does is renew my belief in this process, the writers new and old, and the possibility that Wild Cards can still be an evolving, vibrant creation for another twenty years.

Copyright © 2008 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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