Review of FORT FREAK by George R. R. Martin (Editor)
A WILD CARDS NOVEL
Tor, June 2011
The cops at "Fort Freak," the police station set in the middle of Jokertown, have seen everything. It's no big surprise when a number of women are arrested for public nudity--but it is a bit strange that they all claim they are the victims, that someone stole their clothes while they were walking down the street. It's a crime that most of the cops are happy to "investigate." There's another crime, though, that nobody wants investigated. Thirty years earlier, a horrific mass murder took place in a local bar. A suspect was arrested, but he was killed before going to trial and the case was closed. Still, as he's nearing retirement, Leo (Ramshead) Storgman wonders if something was missed in the investigation... perhaps intentionally.
Long-ago police malfeasance is a problem. The blue line is also challenged by a very current crime. A pair of detectives are involved in a shooting and a newcomer to Jokertown, a snake-man claims that the shooting was an assassination rather than a valid bust. Internal affairs investigates, but the blue line remains firm--police unite behind their own, even when they suspect that some of their own may be in the wrong. Meanwhile, the people of Jokertown try to get on with their lives... many living only by their wits or through the strength of whatever mutation made them into the jokers they've become.
FORT FREAK is less a short story collection than a multi-author novel with George R. R. Martin (see more speculative fiction by Martin) and Melinda M. Snodgrass editing to keep the story on track. Overall, it works. The hustle and bustle of a police station allows multiple storylines to be interwoven, and the two major story lines (the 30-year-old mass murder and the prsent-day police shooting) are connected by theme as well as by motive. One thing that's almost impossible to handle in this format is development of character. In FORT FREAK, only Father Octopus seemed to have a real emotional depth, the other characters serving to play their roles without a whole lot of dimension.
Martin's Wild Card series is nothing like his Game of Thrones universe. It lacks the political, economic and character depth of that massive fantasy. Still, if you're looking for an enjoyable light read, FORT FREAK might just be the thing.
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