Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t know if they did this consciously or if it was simply the consequence of a series that started in the 1940s and ended in the (at the time) present day of 1980s, but I think it’s fascinating that this first trilogy (in a 19ish book series) has each successive book compressed in time. The first book is a regular shared world anthology in which it’s clear who wrote each story and each is self-contained – if providing a history for the next one. It takes place from the 40s to the 80s. The second book is one story in which POVs change with each chapter. It spans a year or so (if memory serves). This book is one story in which each chapter is a POV change, it’s impossible to know who wrote which characters, and it only takes place over the course of about 24 hours. It definitely gives a certain feel of whiplash like slamming on the breaks to have the timelines compress like that.
There was definitely a feel, in this book, that perhaps The Wild Card Trust was just going to get a trilogy. The plot points, which I’d rather not spoil, seem to suggest a certain finality that gives a lot of weight to the events. It truly seems like anything can happen because this isn’t a series that needs to be sustained. We’ll see if things seem to change in the next quartet.
As for the story, the feeling I had last night (in which I stayed up HOURS beyond when I should have because the plot was moving so fast) reminds me a lot of Snatch (the awesome Guy Ritchie movie). Actually, the second book reminded me of Snatch with its “bowling ball”. This book is like 5 different Snatch-plots happening at once and intertwining like those friendship bracelets that girls made in the 80s and 90s. It lends a real dark humor to the plot as people keep having near misses and stealing/kidnapping the items from others without even knowing their true value. Layered on top of everything is the Wild Card Day parade which seems (I think?) to be a commentary on the real life Gay Parade? There’s even what I interpret to be a connection made for a metaphor between Joker Status and AIDS – given when this was written (mid/late 80s) and the location (NYC) this makes a ton of sense. Overall it’s hectic and exciting and I’d hope that folks would have gone through the first two books (different as they are in tone and arrangement of plot) to get to this one. The next book is about the effects of the Wild Card Virus outside of the USA (up to this point in the series it’s barely been outside of NYC and LA!), but if they continue to return to NYC, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the changing character of The City.
Also, if the narrative continues to move forward in time, I wonder how they deal with the comics issue (being so clearly based on comic characters and plots). That is to say, Marvel and DC are loathe to let the X-Men and Superman, etc die so they keep rebooting so that we never see an aged Superman (save Mark Waid’s great Kingdom Come). Other than Dr. Tachyon who’s said to be long-lived and perhaps Croyd due to his regeneration, do the authors allow for new characters and voices to enter the pantheon? Do they just stay forever in the 80s? I guess we’ll find out because so far I intend to continue reading the series.
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