Jokers Wild (A Wild Cards Novel book 3) edited by George RR Martin (book review).

To my mind, ‘Jokers Wild’, the third book in the ‘Wild Cards’ sequence originally released in 1987 was the finest of the three opening books. Written by 7 authors and a main cast of 29 characters from the talents of 14 writers, the series became a true mosaic. Segments of each author’s work were interlaced into one whole with no notation as to who was doing what as in the earlier two books. A total gestalt that is a joy to read but you still need the previous two novels, ‘Wild Cards’ and ‘Aces High’, to get all the ramifications. This is the book that will get you truly hooked into this series.

It is now the 15th of September 1985, 40 years after the Taskisian xenovirus was released on the population of the world. For the survivors, it had become known as the Wild Card virus and the people of New York City, especially the Aces and Jokers were celebrating their survival. However, the Astronomer is back, seeking revenge, getting his team to start killing those who stopped him first. Oh, he’s not even nice to his own people, having killed most of his lieutenants from the previous book, ‘Aces High’. When I read this book originally, I was surprised at the choice of the first victim, mostly because although he only had a brief appearance in the second book, I liked him enough to want to read more. It should therefore come as no surprise that the events are spread across a day and a half. Be prepared for a roller-coaster of a ride.

There are so many interlacing links through the day. Jack Robicheaux, aka Sewer Jack who can turn into a crocodile, is looking for his runaway niece, Cordelia, who had just come from New Orleans to New York that day. Jennifer Malloy, aka Wraith, stealing valuable stamps and a small ledger notebook from Kien’s wall safe and he’ll go to any lengths to get them back. Kien is also the enemy of the archer Yeoman who is quickly on the trail.

With the death of Howler, Fortunato is also on the scene, out to find all those involved in stopped the Astronomer at Cloisters and warn them of the danger. However, Roulette has already made her advances at Dr. Tachyon and it isn’t even mid-day. James Spector, aka Demise, thinks he has gotten away from the Astronomer by allowing the latter to kill him and then finds he has an assassination contract against the head of the Mafia Gambione family to fulfil.

The fact that I can reel of the sub-plots from memory shows how strong they are and I doubt if you will get confused by what is going on. The storycraft is that good here with a backdrop of an all-day party that brings it all to life.

There are so many casualties that it can be spoiler. It’s worth pointing out just how powerful and dangerous Hiram Worcester can be is demonstrated here. We also see inside the church of Our Lady Of Perpetual Misery for the first time and an introduction to Father Squid who has a bigger presence in later books. Oh, no matter what your power are, it needs to be fed so try to find time to eat.

When I reviewed the second book, I had to think about Captain Trips name and with this book, it is now shortened to Cap’n Trips. Far out, man. So are his friends, even if Hiram Worcester disapproves of one of his looks but doesn’t realise they are all the same person. Oddly, both Trips and Croyd do little in this book so gives plenty of space for the other Aces.

The strength of this book is in how the sub-plots cross over each other. Things also get dark and dangerous very quickly. The fact that there are so many resolutions and sighs of relief at the end makes ‘Jokers Wild’ also have a feelgood factor. Also ensure you have at least 90 minutes to read the last quarter of the book in one sitting. It’s all edge of the seat. If you don’t love the characters after reading this book then you’d be in a tiny minority. Read and enjoy and be grateful that Demise doesn’t have you in his sights.

GF Willmetts

January 2018

(pub: TOR/Forge. 384 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.99 (US), $18.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2617-1)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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