Book Review: Lowball by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass

Lowball by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass (ed.), Wild Cards #22


Decades after an alien virus changed the course of history, the surviving population of Manhattan still struggles to understand the new world left in its wake. Natural humans share the rough city with those given extraordinary—and sometimes terrifying—traits. While most manage to coexist in an uneasy peace, not everyone is willing to adapt. Down in the seedy underbelly of Jokertown, residents are going missing. The authorities are unwilling to investigate, except for a fresh lieutenant looking to prove himself and a collection of unlikely jokers forced to take matters into their own hands—or tentacles. The deeper into the kidnapping case these misfits and miscreants get, the higher the stakes are raised.

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and acclaimed author Melinda M. Snodgrass, Lowball is the latest mosaic novel in the acclaimed Wild Cards universe, featuring original fiction by Carrie Vaughn, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Mary Anne Mohanraj, David D. Levine, Michael Cassutt, and Walter John Williams.

Perfect for old fans and new readers alike, Lowball delves deeper into the world of aces, jokers, and the hard-boiled men and women of the Fort Freak police precinct in a pulpy, page-turning novel of superheroics and mystery.

If you have been following this blog you know that I am a very big fan of the Wild Card series, I have reviewed already several books and short stories for the blog.  When I read the story Joker's Wild  I learned that later this year, November to be exact, a new addition would be released, Lowball. I have been counting down the days until it's release and it was well worth the wait. Wild Cards is such a cool universe to read and it has been strongly going on for 22 books already. And as I always say when I review a Wild Cards story, forget Marvel's superheroes, instead embrace those of Wild Cards, they have much more depth and development going on in their characters. These kind of story should be made into a movie, I know Michael Bay must be able to make this into a blockbuster. 

In the Wild Cards series it must be noted that every three books there is a new sort of series. ALl the books are in relation to each other but every trilogy has a different storyline. Lowball is the second book in such a trilogy, a trilogy that started with Fort Freak. Now this story arc brought something new to the Wild Cards scene as before there was a heavy focus on the Aces and Jokers were described as horribale beings, with Fort Freak a light was cast on Jokertown, a safehaven for Jokers, though it wasn't all roses and sunshine as it is quite a dire setting in Jokertown. Again we follow several events in the manhattan jokertown precinct. 

Even though Lowball is the second book in the series you can read this story very well without having read Fort Freak. Ok so what is the sory about? Several weird things have been happening in and around jokertown, most notable have been of yet unexplainable disappearances of several very jokers, and not just any jokers, but jokers with an impact. Since this is a case of high importance and the police isn't really doing much about it, Father Squid recruits the help of IBT, Infamous Black Tongue, also called by his real name Marcus, who is like a centaur except has a snake body, pretty awesome.But with weird and unexplainable evidence piling up it becomes more and more of a pressing matters and there is only one organization in the Wild Cards universe that is very well suited to help out with this. SCARE, which is an acronym for Special Committee for Ace Resources and Endeavors, think in the lines of the FBI or CIA but then all aces. Now there is one important player here whom, if you read the reboot series has made quite an impact, Jamal Norwood, who also goes by the handle of Stuntman. Jamal has the gift of a virtually indestructible body, able to "bounceback" after getting hit, he can survive everything. As the investigation furthers all parties involved start to make some startling conclusion that really turn around the storyline. It soon comes to show that there is something and someone big behind the disappearances that has a specific goal in mind. One great aspect of the books is that the story doesn't cave with being a second book in the series, the story is brought forward in the hands of some new and old characters, jokers and aces alike, creating a very cliffhanger moment in the end. When you finish Lowball you can only part with a feeling that everything that happened was being used to set something big in motion. 

I already mentioned that there are new and old characters; jokers and aces that you meet along the way. Yes I have a few favorites so far in the series and to my surprise I found them back in the storyline, some Aces that featured in the first reboot trilogy and in the series American Hero make a nice entrance here. The premise of the story was solely based on Jokers but reading about Drummerboy, Stuntman, Earth Witch and Curveball. These I have gotten to know through and through in the earlier stories but they definitely left an impact and was great to see their involvement once over. Now there were also some characters I was less familiar with, like Father Squid, the Infamous Black Tongue, Marcus, and Eddie. From these all I really enjoyed reading Eddie's part, he is a weird guy, has deformities and is thereby limited in his movements. The only thing he does on a regular basis is use his powers to draw images on a sketch pad that he is able to call to life and be his ears and eyes, the latter being the most important part as it allows him to snoop around. Well there have been sightings of a peeping tom in Jokertown, so who could this be? As a kind of duality, Eddie is sometimes employed by the Jokertown Precintct as a sketch artist... now these things seem to start to interfere with each other. The other characters those of Father Squid and Marcus help to bring more insights into what is actually happening and this is far from pretty at all... ALl in all awesome characters, but come to think of it I wouldn't have thought otherwise. 

Now one thing where I always give high praise is the connections of these Wild Cards books, it must be hard writing a book by yourself but having nine authors writing one story in a book, that must be a hard task but once again the stories really flow very nicely into each other making it feel like that just one author wrote them. Of course you can read that some author write differently but on the whole it's very good. I have been a big fan of David Anthony Durham's Acacia Trilogy and his story Those About to Die definitely left his marks, very glad to see that he joined the Wild Card Trust!

So far I have read a lot of action in the Wild Card series but this trilogy, which started in Fort Freak and continues in this book, Lowball shows a completely different side of the glamour that is accompanied with being an ace. This does coincide with the different stories, but I was impressed with the overall setting of the story that each author managed to bring to the forefront. Jokertown isn't a pretty place to live in and this become very obvious. Though the setting is very grim and bleak there is something strange, alluring and mysterious to Jokertown, must also be partially owed to the inhabitants. 

Lowball for me is a winner through and through, I have been counting down the days until there would be another full length book released and I devoured it in one sitting. The characters are memorable and the setting of the story is continuing to give a certain uniqueness. Even though the series has been going on for twentytwo books so far, there is never a dull moment to be found. As I already said I am a bit tired of the Marvel adaptations but I just cannot get enough of the Wild Cards universe. High quality and should be on everyones reading list. Lowball does leave the series on a cliffhanger, and with everything that happened in this second book just somehow feels like there will an big conclusion waiting to unfold. Bring on the next please!

Comments

  1. I believe I have read all the books in the series except Fort Freak bought it a while back but it was slow and never finished now after reading this I will go back and finish it. I hated this ended on cliffhanger books are too long between prints to end in a cliffhanger it might be 2 years till next one.

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