Lowball is the latest in the Wild Cards series. I’ve not read any of the Wild Cards books before and it turns out I didn’t need to. I was quickly able to pick up on the world – like ours but after a virus has turned some of the population into super-powered mutants – and dive straight into the plot.
If I hadn’t read any Wild Cards before what attracted me to Lowball? Let’s not judge a book by the cover – even one with a musclebound snakeman on it – and instead look at the editors. There’s Melinda M. Snodgrass and George R.R. Martin taking the helm on this task. I have to say; they’ve done very well.
Lowball is a clever collection of stories woven into one. Authors include Carrie Vaughn, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, Mary Anne Mohanraj, David D. Levine, Michael Cassutt, Water Jon Williams and Snodgrass again (perhaps Martin edited her work). The result does not feel fractured at all. There are a fare few characters, but the plots overlap and it means each little section has its own action high and development twists. I find it quite the mystery that it works so well; but it works.
The book picks up with a mutant who looks like a truck getting involved in an incident on the motorway. This brings in a host of different law enforcement agencies, each with their own approach to the wild cards and other mutants and quickly escalates. The various feeder strands of information don’t rush to meet, they take their careful, measured time and the result is very satisfying.
Lowball is a mixture of a detective thriller and superhero book. It’s a mixture of action and mystery. It’s all these things… and it’s also something else entirely. There’s a sort of casual approach to the world of mutants; policemen that look like monsters, monsters that look like men and all sorts of people trying to cope with their own personal demons, that provides a comforting sort of juxtaposition.
I’d recommend Lowball to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, likes superhero noir (is that a genre? Did Lowball just invent it?) or to those looking for a change of pace. The story(ies) are perfectly formed and so the whole is greater than the sum of the elegant parts. It works for me.
Put it on your wishlist.
My copy of Wild Cards: Lowball was provided for review. It is available from Gollancz and retailers.