Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Berlin Is Never Berlin, by Marko Kloos

★★★★★ Well-Paced Tension and Action with a Heart of Gold.

(Superhero; Wild Cards) Babysitting/bodyguarding a group of rich kids should be easy money, especially for a tough joker-ace like Khan—provided he doesn’t end up killing them himself. (17,389 words; Time: 57m)

You need to at least understand the premise of the Wildcards series to make any sense out of this story.

"," by (edited by George R.R. Martin), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.294 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Kahn is there to protect Natalie, so when she gets kidnapped, he has to do everything he can to get her back. He’s got substantial powers, but he’s got weaknesses too, not least of which is that his human side is vulnerable.

The best part of the story is the tension, but the pacing is worth a mention too. When a story is tense all the time it gets exhausting, but the author does a great job of giving us breaks, which serves to make the tense moments even more powerful.

Khan himself is a great character, and the more we get to know him, the better we like him. He grumbles about the kids and their music, but they do a few things to earn his respect (like Eli telling him about the watch), and by the end, it’s clear he’s built some affection for them.

I also liked the way the German police (including the aces) weren’t portrayed as evil or incompetent. Their behavior was more-or-less realistic, given the circumstances. Even the mobsters’ behavior makes sense according to their lights; there are no cardboard villains in this story.

On a minor note, in our reality, the Flakturm in the Berlin Zoo was demolished in 1947, but it was a real place.

The choice of names is amusing. “Scuderi” means “shield bearer” whereas “Kahn” essentially means “king,” which is an ironic choice, if deliberate, since their roles are the reverse of that. Fledermaus means “bat” in German and Überschall means “supersonic,” which are both spot-on.

Con: As a practical matter, I think a guy who was half-tiger would be hopelessly unbalanced.

And a very small nit: Chicago is seven hours behind Berlin, not ahead.

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with the rating and the review. Worth reading for award purposes. I've enjoyed the Wild Card stories I've read on Tor.com and this is a very worthy addition.