Jokers Wild, edited by George R. R. Martin

jokerswildDisgusting Alien Powers Used to Abuse Little Kid.
Juvenile Delinquent Uses Ace Powers to Aggravate City.
Aggravate?  Can’t I at least terrorize?
Maybe when you’re older.
-Conversation between Kid Dinosaur and Doctor Tachyon


Of this set of Wild Cards books, this is the one I found most enjoyable.  While the first book set the stage, and the second one had a theme, Jokers Wild is a mosaic novel, with all the storylines occurring simultaneously.  The only books that I’ve read that surpasses this one in blending multiple authors into a seamless story were the Star Trek collaborations (which covered all the television series in separate books except for Voyager).

Jokers Wild’s major plotline picks up from a plot from Fortunato’s stories.  The Astronomer, the mind behind the coming of the Swarm (or at least so it’s popularly believed) has decided that he’s going to finally repay all the aces that smashed his base of operations in the Cloisters-by killing all responsible, saving Fortunato for last.  He’s gathered a number of aces to give him a hand with it-although one notable exception who doesn’t want involved again is Demise.  That decision puts him up at the head of the list for the Astronomer.

The timing of the Astronomer’s rampage couldn’t be worse.  The date is September 15, 1986, the fortieth anniversary of the day the Wild Card virus was unleashed on Earth.  Wild Card Day has become New York’s version of Mardi Gras.  And there’s a lot more happening than just the Astronomer’s work.  A young thief going by the name of Wraith has stolen a pair of notebooks from a Kien Phuc (don’t laugh-it’s really his name!), and one of those notebooks is far, far more valuable than it looks.  This leads a number of individuals hunting for it, not the least of which is the most infamous archer in the city.

In the meantime, a mysterious organization is moving in against the Mafia, looking to take over organized crime in the city.  Rosemary Muldoon, an assistant DA and mafia princess, and her ace friend Bagabond become involved with that, while their mutual friend Jack Robicheaux tries to catch up to his niece Cordelia, who’s just run away to NYC-and she becomes involved with a bunch of the events of this book.

And just to keep things interesting, other characters are heavily involved in the assorted plots, such as Doctor Tachyon, Hiram Worchester-the owner of the restaurant Aces High-and his friend Jay Ackroyd, a character who I really enjoy reading!

This was, in my opinion, the best of this trilogy.  While there were some hiccups due to the number of writers, the story tended to blend well-characters from multiple stories interacted with each other seamlessly, and the tone of each character was maintained by all the writers.  There’s plenty of intrigue-as evidenced by Wraith and the notebooks, Demise in his attempt to make a living (not in a nice way) while evading the wrath of the Astronomer, and the Astronomer’s work to have each of the aces who ruined his plans killed.  And there’s enough action to satisfy-from a confrontation in Aces High to a fight in the sky above New York.

If the reprints stop here, at least Jokers Wild ends at a decent enough note-it’s a good stopping point for those who don’t want to continue paying the overpriced re-releases.  But if so, I’d still recommend hunting down remaining Wild Card books at used bookstores (or even online), because it gets better.  After all, this is a book series that isn’t afraid to do in characters (which will become abundantly clear), which sets it apart from the reset-button mentality of other super-hero genre novels (Batman, Spider-Man, etc).

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