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Bookends: Superpowers lurk between the cover October 24, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Superpowers lurk between the covers

By Dan Davidson

August 8, 2012,    Star, Aug. 10/12

– 945 words –

Mind Storm: A Stryker’s Syndicate Novel

By K.M Ruiz

Thomas Dunne Books

304 pages

$24.24

eBook edition

958 screens

$14.91

I’ll warn you right away that the book ends with the major plot points unresolved and a little girl saying the words “It’s going to be –“ So if you can’t stand cliffhangers, be warned.

About 250 years from now the world has been ravaged by ecological disaster and war. Something in this combination has left a growing number of people with a variety of psychic (or psionic) abilities. This is not entirely a blessing, since using the powers shortens their lifespan.

Earth is in such sad shape that the baseline human powers that be intend to leave it on a sort of space ark, and they don’t plan to take any of the mutated ones with them.

Much of this book is taken up with the conflict between licensed psions, who work for a government organization called the Stryker’s Syndicate and two groups of rogue psions. Of the latter, many are secretly under the control of the Serca Syndicate, whose godfather, Nathan, is a psion who masqueradesas a normal human. His plans are opposed by his son, Lucas, who works with nearly normal humans in the underclass (gene trash) of the ruined cities of the world, as well as with psions he has recruited.

Much of the book is taken up with Lucas’ recruitment of a group of former Stryker agents, who face death by the rules of the World Court after having done poorly on a number of strategic missions. They live in a bleak world where their existence is tolerated only so long as they can be of service.

Ruiz doesn’t explain much of the background of her world, leaving the reader to piece it together from what is happening and what people say and do. I was probably 60 pages or so into the book before I began to feel comfortable with it. While a couple of reviewers said it was like a mashup of Bladerunner and the X-men, I was reminded more of the Dante Valentine books by Lilith Saintcrow. While her books are about a world controlled by magic rather than psychic powers, the vibe of the two series is similar.

Terminal Point is just out in hardcover and will, I hope, resolve some of those dangling plot threads. I do intend to check it out.

Wild Cards: Death Draws Five

Series Editor, George R.R. MartinBy John J. Miller

306 pages

Ipicturebooks

$20.31

One of the first attempts to put original super beings into book form was the Wild Cards series of interconnected short stories and novels. The basic scenario was created by George R.R. Martin, best known now for the success of his Game of Thrones fantasy series, as adapted for television for HBO. Martin had already been involved in television (the original Beauty and the Beast series, 1987-90) and was used to devising sandboxes for other people to play in. Comic books have been doing this for decades and Wild Cards simply took the concept from the comic book page to the printed page.

The series has run through several publishing houses since the first volumes of short stories came out in 1987. There was a run of 12 books from Bantam, three more from Baen, and two spottily distributed books from iBooks (no relation to the current Apple trademark). The current publisher is TOR Books, with four new volumes in hand and reissues of the original series underway. They are capitalizing on Martin’s newfound popularity, displaying his name prominently on the cover in way larger type than either the book’s title or the actual author.

To recap, 1946 was the year that an alien gene bomb was exploded on Earth, causing a series of random mutations in most human beings. It rewrote the DNA of anyone who came in contact with it, 90% of whom died very quickly and painfully.

The remaining 10% were changed. Aces acquired a variety of super powers while remaining human in appearance. These were a small percentage of the changed humans. Deuces gained very minor, almost useless, abilities. Jokers, the majority of altered humanity, were physically transformed, or perhaps deformed, would be a better term, in a myriad of ways. Nats (or Naturals) were people who were immune to the virus.

Children of those altered faced the same odds as a first time victim, so Peregrine, the winged woman, is terribly afraid for the fate of her son, John Fortune, who is her child by way of Fortunato, the most powerful ace on the planet, who hasn’t been seen in public in years.

When John turns his card, he develops massive healing powers, and something else that eventually becomes a serious risk to the entire planet. Before that, however, he is pursued by two separate groups of religious fanatics: conservative Catholics who think he is the Anti-Christ, and rabid Evangelicals who believe him to be the Second Coming of Jesus.

The running battles to keep him safe involve a number of old friends from the original books and some new ones. One of the most interesting is the Midnight Angel, a stunning but terribly repressed beauty who is more or less the female counterpart of Billy Ray. Ray is a nearly indestructible fighting machine who likes to be a fashion plate, but whose clothes rarely survive his adventures.

This is a fun romp with lots of action. Presently it’s only available as an eBook, but TOR seems determined to bring the whole series back into print.

-30-

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