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March 2006
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Wild Card, by Raymond Hawkey and Roger Bingham (1974)

WILD CARD begins with a terrorist nuclear bomb exploding under the Lincoln Memorial. Good thing: it wakes the President from his nightmare in which the meat on his mother's dinner plate begins to bleed. After he reads the overnight digest of terrorist attacks, he drives to Dulles Airport, discussing a solution to the country's troubles with his Science Adviser. He rejects it as drastic and ridiculous. Then the newest terrorist group tries to assassinate him.

Welcome to the United States just after the Age of Aquarius. Terrorists of all stripes have the nation panicked. The President decides his Science Adviser's plan to a) build a fake spaceship carrying b) faked aliens then c) crashing it into a residential area of Los Angeles then d) bawling on television that the monsters are coming, man your battle stations, followed by e) an instantly unified country ready for war—is not ridiculous.

The rest of the novel works out this notion. Frustratingly, it ends with only a hint of what might happen if humanity thought a space invasion was imminent. It's as if the media coverage on September 11th stopped after the second tower collapsed.

Today Wild Card interests readers for its description of a frightened nation adopting harsh measures to defend against enemies, many real, some not, none in plain view, but popping up through the media and then vanishing. This won't happen here. But what has happened to us is what makes Wild Card appealing.

—Gregory J. Koster

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