Finally got around to it. I haven’t been able to find the whole series on audiobook, but at least I have the first few, so let’s give it a go!
Overall, it’s a surprisingly fun and rather different sort of book. Rather than a single overarching plot and series of books, you have a world with a few key events and then a number of short stories with only a few characters crossing over. An anthology as it were. :)
Basically, just after World War II, an alien virus (the Wild Card Virus) was dropped on New York City. 90% of those infected are killed. 90% of those that survive are mutated into Jokers. The remaining 1% gain super powers. (this book and the series) follows that world in a rough parallel to our own, using the jokers and aces as rather on the head stand ins for problems in our own world.
It ends up being a lot of fun. Super hero tropes, a wide variety of characters and settings running through the 50s up until the original present day of the story (in 1986). The extended edition from 2010 also adds a few more stories to better fill in the timeline, which is handy. I’m looking forward to listening to as many of these as I can find the audiobooks.
Thirty Minutes Over Broadway! : A solid action piece. Introduces Jetboy. I only wish that he’d gotten a chance to be an Ace; I bet he’d have been a good one. (If he does later, I haven’t gotten that far!)
The Sleeper : Introduces “The Sleeper”, an Ace that hibernates for weeks or months at a time and has new powers each time he awakes. And then has to use those powers for crime to support himself and his family. Cool concept, cool characters.
Witness : McCarthyism and the Red Scare, only with aces standing in for communists. Sure. As frustrating to read about as the original events.
Degradation Rites : Our first real look from the alien Dr. Tachyon’s larger than life point of view. And both how human and how alien he can be.
Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace : One of the three stories added in the 2010 ’extended addition’, this is a fun story. A joker/ace who has to hide what he is so he can work in the movie business… making movies about aces. Amusing.
Powers : Another story about hiding ace abilities, Frank Majewski is a Polish immigrant working for the CIA as an analyst and hiding his powers–lest he get kidnapped by the government (or so he believes)–until things go sideways. He’s pretty cool, I’d like to see more of him, although I don’t know how long he’d survive it.
Shell Games : The Great and Powerful Turtle is just hilarious. A lot of fun to read.
The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato : Fortunato (not how I would have spelled that, having only heard it before now) is weird. His powers and story line are weird and rather more explicit than most of the rest of the stories. I’m not sure what to think about this.
Transfigurations : The idea of someone studying hippies from an academic point of view and trying to get immersed in the culture is pretty amusing, especially when he accidentally activates his ace powers.
Down Deep : Bagabond and the cats were a lot of fun. The rest of the story was take it or leave it.
Strings : Weird story and a bit hard to follow. Stories like this always seem to have a ‘Puppetmaster’. I expect we’ll see more of him.
Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan : An attractive woman with the the power to phase through solid matter–but not to take her clothes with her? Of course. It ends up having a pretty intense chase scene though.
Comes a Hunter : Chrysalis is bizarre. Transparent skin. With how central she is to Jokertown, I’m sure we’ll see more of her.