Book review: ‘High Stakes’ gives voice to George R. R. Martin’s proteges
May 4, 2017
‘High Stakes: A Wild Card Novel’ by Wild Card Trust/edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Let me say this first: George R.R. Martin's stylistic voice is noticeable in "High Stakes," in the way the narrative switches between characters and storylines and leaves you hanging for chapters, hoping desperately that your beloved character is still alive.
However, he didn't actually write the book (sorry if you were misled by the large printing of his name on the spine). It is written by his protégés, who all deserve time in the limelight, as well.
And don't worry if you have not read any of the other books in the Wild Card series, it won't matter. From the first page, you are immediately dropped into a warzone, and the action doesn't let up for a moment. You won't have time to realize you haven't read the first books, and you won't care. All the characters are deeply laid out, and you get to know all of them without having to read all their backstories.
"High Stakes: A Wild Card Novel" is, essentially, what it would feel like to be sucked into a video game. The characters are in constant confrontation. I mean real confrontation, with crazy special abilities.
Some are aces, who are just plain extraordinary, others are jokers, who range from giant snakes to morphine dosing blobs. They even have to power up with food (though not potions) to use their powers. All of this was caused by the release of a virus, the wild card virus, that left some people untouched and turned others into the best cards of the deck: aces and jokers.
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The plot is replete with world-ending villains, vicious crime bosses and heroes gone insane. And by insane, I mean tormented by a literal apocalypse-bringing-monster until they have gone murderously mad. If you have a weak stomach, you may want to keep a paper bag near you at all times. Fortunately, the book switches between normalcy and world-ending madness at a steady enough pace to keep you from falling completely into the nightmare.
"High Stakes" is a great combination of the fantasy and the horror genres. It is a theme park ride, much like the tower of terror — you go up immediately, and the ups and downs that follow come at you so quickly your innards are flying around the whole time. The moments that should be a break are really just an intense layer of suspense. When you read this book, be prepared to have it stuck in your hand or carried with you at all times. And, get ready, because you'll want to read the rest of the books in the series, as well — I do.
This book is available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path.
Avery Cavender is a member of the circulation staff at Bud Werner Memorial Library.