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Lowball
Edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass
A Wild Cards Novel
Tor, $25.99, 352pp
Published: November 2014

Oh, hooray!  Another Wild Cards novel to play in!  This is the 22nd book in the series, by my count, and not counting the graphic novel or the e-books.

It’s been a generation or two since the Takisian virus was dropped over New York City in 1946.  Most of the original characters that we loved are gone.  The last five books have gradually introduced a new pantheon of aces, jokers and deuces.  Some of those characters are now becoming quite familiar; although, it doesn’t really feel the same to me.  Those early characters popped in and out of almost every book like a familiar neighbor.  So many of them were near and dear to me.  I haven’t quite embraced the new kids on the block yet although I’m really getting fond of The Amazing Bubbles.  The authors kept a line to the past by keeping a couple of characters going – Father Squid, Jube and, of course, Croyd.

This book focuses on the disappearance of various jokers in Jokertown; however, the police at Fort Freak seem less than enthused about investigating.  The disappearances affect the denizens of Jokertown in varying ways.  Father Squid is determined to find out who is abducting, and possibly murdering, some of his flock.  A young detective in Fort Freak sees it as an opportunity to be the hero but his investigation will challenge him in ways he didn’t foresee.  Croyd, suffering from his perennial paranoia, is sure he’ll be next but he accuses the wrong people.  Rustbelt (another new favorite of mine) has a very different reason to find the missing jokers – to please his adoptive daughter.  But I think my favorite new character is Marcus – otherwise known as the Infamous Black Tongue – a young black man who is a snake from the waist down.  His motivations and story were spot-on.  Their stories and experiences swirl around each other, rarely touching, but coming closer to the truth with each turn.  And, in true Wild Card fashion, the authors bring back several characters that we’ve seen in the last couple books, just so we can keep our connection to them.

A good story in a series that has the potential to last forever; having new life breathed into it with every new author introduced into the fold.  I still look back on the early stories that had such magnificent plots but maybe that’s nostalgia talking.  I like the new plotlines and I think the series still has a lot of life in it.  Keep ‘em coming.   ~~ Catherine Book

Contributing authors are:
Michael Cassutt
David Anthony Durham
Melinda M. Snodgrass
Mary Anne Mohanraj
David D. Levine
Walter Jon Williams
Carrie Vaughn
Ian Tregillis

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