Where Wild Cards introduced the setting and spanned decades dealing with the introduction of the wild card virus and how the world diverged from our own, Aces High feels a lot more focused, dealing primarily with two plot lines: the arrival of an alien ‘swarm mother’ (a hive mind/bio ship intent on eating planets, as one does) and the Masonic conspiracy we first got a glimpse of in Fortunato’s introduction.
The story starts out a bit rough. I don’t really care for the Mason/Fortunato’s plotline. But the swarm stuff is pretty cool and there are a number of fun new characters along with expanded worldbuilding. I like the additional focus. It makes me wonder/expect if each book will have a single topic or two to focus around.
Pennies From Hell : As mentioned, I don’t care as much for this storyline. It’s rather sexually explicit, which is certainly a way to introduce the book, but given that it’s Fortunato, that’s not unexpected. Turns out he has quite a bit of firepower…
Jube : Jube is actually spread over a number of interludes between the other stories and follows the story of Jube the Walrus–thought by most to be a joker that happens to look like a walrus, but actually a fair bit more. It’s structurally neat to see him interact with the others throughout the book and the audiobook narrator really has fun with his voice, bringing him to life.
Unto the Sixth Generation : Wouldn’t be much of a super hero story without an android learning to be human. Introducing Modular Man! It has the feel of a well known story, but done well.
Ashes to Ashes : Jude and the Sleeper! The Sleeper is hired to retrieve a body from a morgue and things go from bad to bathtub. Gross. So gross. But a good story.
If Looks Could Kill : Spector has a weird power (killing by locking gaze and showing his victim how he died) and more about the Masons. It’s interesting having someone with powerful regenerative abilities but not making that the focus of their character.
Winter’s Chill : The Great and Powerful Turtle remains one of my favorite characters. This time around, we look rather more into his past and how he keeps his Turtle life and ’normal’ life separate.
Relative Difficulties : Given how much trouble the Takisians have caused, it’s interesting to get a bit more of them. Especially when Dr. Tachyon’s birth family comes causing trouble for his adopted family (Earth).
With a Little Help From His Friends : Captain Trips is a fascinating character and has grown a lot since his first introduction, even if he doesn’t recognize it. Looking into multiple personalities through the lens of superpowers (with each personality having its own) has been done before, but it’s almost always an interesting story.
By Lost Ways : More Masons. Water Lily has a bizarre but probably more powerful than anyone realizes ability, which will be neat.
Mr. Koyama’s Comet : All he wanted to do was put his name on a comet. Instead, he discovered a swarm coming to destroy the Earth… and may have saved us all in the process? Sure.
Half Past Dead : End of the book, have to get rid of at least one of the plot lines. Wish it was the Masons instead. :) It’s interesting how often cancer seems to be turned into a super power in various forms (a la Lilith's Brood recently for me).