Wild Cards: Lowball. Book Review

Edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Gollancz, p/b, 400pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns

The latest in the Wild Cards series is a mosaic novel – a collection of short stories by different authors that all meld together to tell one overriding tale. Each tells the story from a different characters’ viewpoint, but is linked to all the others and the overriding story arch.

The overall premise of the Wild Cards universe is that an alien virus hit Earth in the 1940’s, which either killed or mutated most of the population. Those lucky enough to remain (mostly) normal in appearance gained powers and were known as Aces. Those unlucky enough to have physical mutations and powers are known as Jokers.

In this novel, Jokers are going missing – at first, no-one notices or cares, but the Joker priest Father Squid is persistent, recruiting other Jokers to help investigate the disappearances.

Lowball is a great novel that reflects the human spirit well – each character has their own, uniquely human imperfections. There are no Supermen here, even the Aces have their own issues – relationship problems, inferiority complexes and illnesses. The Jokers face their own troubles – gang culture is rife, and those trying to do good have their own internal struggles to deal with.

Eminently readable, and stands alone well, this has laugh out loud moments, pathos and action aplenty to please even the most discerning of readers.