BOOK REVIEW: WILD CARDS: LOWBALL / AUTHOR: GEORGE R.R. MARTIN, MELINDA M. SNODGRASS / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There have been some sinister goings-on in Jokertown. Many resident Jokers have gone missing with the authorities initially paying only scant attention. It falls on Father Squid to begin the investigation with the help of local celebrity Marcus: African-American man from the waist up; banded snake from the waist down. It soon becomes clear that the conspiracy goes much deeper than first feared, potentially threatening all the inhabitants of New York and Jokertown equally.
If the above means absolutely nothing to you then it is very likely you have never come across the hugely colourful selection of mosaic novels edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass known as the Wild Card series. Following an alien virus that mysteriously rained down on New York in the middle of the 20th century, many survivors were transformed into strange hybrid creatures known as Jokers or given superpowers - in some cases both. Everything from tentacled appendages to the ability to make imaginary characters real is now commonplace, but the same basic crimes still exist and the disappearance of a few Jokers quickly develops into a serious problem for the under-manned police force.
Lowball is a decent entry in the Wild Card series but is one that may not sate the appetite of existing fans and is unlikely to attract too many new ones. Focussing much more on the seedier side of Jokertown and concentrating primarily on the Nats, or unaffected, than previous novels, Lowball is without doubt extremely well written with a host of fascinating and bizarre characters, some old, some new. The problem that exists is that there is less cohesion between the intertwining stories than in other novels, with some plotlines and characters simply disappearing or the stories just fading away to unsatisfactory conclusions.
Perhaps as the middle book in a proposed trilogy these failings are understandable, and the Wild Card series is always an enjoyable read, but Lowball doesn’t quite deliver on its early promise as perhaps it should.
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