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Busted Flush: A Wild Cards Mosaic Novel    edited by George R. R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass & et al order for
Busted Flush
by George R. R. Martin
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Like previous entries in the Wild Card series, Busted Flush is a collection of related, loosely connected short stories, edited by George R. R. Martin with the assistance of Melinda Snodgrass. The series premise is that an alien virus changed the world in 1946, killing ninety percent and morphing the majority of survivors into deformed jokers and superpowered aces - with the usual mix of heroes and villains amongst them.

If there is one main character this time, it would be Noel/Lilith/Bahir (a creation of Melinda Snodgrass) who also starred in the previous episode, Inside Straight. Noel, a sterile hermaphrodite, is an assassin for MI-5 who can alter his/her appearance and teleport. She works for the Committee, intervening in disasters around the world with fellow aces (including the Amazing Bubbles, my all-time favorite Bugsy, Drummer Boy, Curveball, and John Fortune) as Lilith. And he's Bahir to Prince Siraj of the United Arab Emirates. Noel works hard to keep up all these roles. Now Noel's father is dying.

Aces' abilities this time are getting more and more extreme - from Niobe, who gives birth to active, but very shortlived and very talented, children immediately after sexual activity, to the pudgy boy, Drake, whose fear and anger sets off nuclear explosions, and Hoodoo Mama who can animate and control the dead. There are many and varied story threads in Busted Flush, some standing out more than others. In particular, Noel earns some redemption from all his killings through helping Niobe, and the Committee's interventions in Nigeria (intended to keep oil flowing to the West) go bad.

Though I didn't enjoy Busted Flush quite as much as Inside Straight (Jonathan Hive's blog gave it a cohesion that was lacking this time), the Wild Cards series is still great - and highly creative - fantasy entertainment.

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