This is the 24th book in the Wild Cards anthology series, which is pretty darned impressive and suggests it has a pretty loyal following (publishers aren’t going to continue to publish a series if people aren’t buying it). This also happens to be the first book I’ve read in this series. I do have a few others on my Kindle, but since this was an ARC and the others were books that I purchased I thought I should read this first. And I’ll say right up front that the reason I was attracted to this was the theme of the Mississippi River. Having grown up along the mighty Mississippi I’m almost always attracted to stories set along the river.
The story takes place on the Riverboat Natchez which is captained by Wilbur Leathers … who happens to be a ghost (though he was the captain before he died).
An alien virus has devastated the planet and many people have been transformed …either into “jokers” (people with deformities) or into “aces” (people with super powers).
Wilbur and the crew of the Natchez are transporting some wild cards (people with the virus) to the United States where they are seeking asylum.
While the book is billed as a novel, it is a composite novel … that is, a novel made of short stories that are linked together. The concept is that different authors would follow different members on the boat (crew or passengers) and Wilbur ties the stories together. It is an interesting variation of the themed anthology and because I had not read a book of this sort before it took me just a little bit to grasp the novel concept – I was reading it as short stories at first.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the stories here. Nothing stands out as a clear favorite, though if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Carrie Vaughn’s story because of the connection with the entertainment business (something near and dear to me). We have quite an assortment here: the main story of Wilbur and the Natchez (a character herself); a government agent and his wife – the agent is on a mission but is also hoping that his wife will use the voyage to recover from a previous mission; a lounge singer who plays good Samaritan; a married pair of private investigators using the trip as a late honeymoon; a gay bartender on the boat who thought he’d never find love.
This has definitely gotten me interested in reading some of the other Wild Cards volumes – but not so much that I’m dropping everything else to rush out and read them.
The stories included here are:
“In the Shadow of Tall Stacks” by Stephen Leigh
“Wingless Angel” by John Jos. Miller
“A Big Break in the Small Time” by Carrie Vaughn
“Death of the Water” by Cherie Priest
“Find the Lady” by Kevin Andrew Murphy
“Under the Arch” by David D. Levine
Looking for a good book? George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series has been a favorite for many and this 24th volume, Mississippi Roll, will please current fans and capture a few new ones.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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editors: George R. R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass
series: Wild Cards #24
hardcover, 336 pages