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Book Review

Book Cover

Low Chicago (Hardback)


Authors: Various
Editor: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Harper Voyager
417 pages
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 828358 2
Publication Date: 11 June 2019

In the late nineteen forties, an alien virus arrived on Earth. The virus mutated a proportion of the population. Some were given useful powers and some were hideously deformed. With no rhyme or reason for the outcome, the change is analogous to turning over random cards...

Low Chicago (2019. 417 pages) is another collection of stories, set in the ‘Wild Cards’ universe. The collection is edited by George R. R. Martin and assisted by Melinda M. Snodgrass.

This collection is interlinked stories have been provided by Saladin Ahmed, Paul Cornell, Marko Kloos, John Jos. Miller, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Christopher Roew and Melinda M. Snodgrass.

The collections tend to have an interlinking story which provides a framework for both the overall narrative and individual stories. In this case, a number of the Wild Cards have been invited by a notoriously vicious gangster, Giovanni Galante, to participate in a very high stakes poker game. Things seem to be going well until all hell breaks loose. When Meek is attacked he instantly retaliates with a power that sends the majority in the room back in time.

Although all of the players and their bodyguards have been sent to the same place, the Palmer House’s penultimate floor, they have been sent to very different time periods, from as near as the sixties right back to when dinosaurs still existed. It soon becomes clear as reality starts to break down, that those who have been sent back are deliberately altering history, endangering the whole of the present. Each story is interlinked with Nighthawk and Meek attempting to go back in time and return the guests before their meddling destroys history.

It’s not a bad basis for an anthology, but I don’t think it works as well as some of the other books in the series. For myself there were a number of questions which the book failed to address.

So, they are all sent back at the same time and presumably there was a period when their actions effected history, so why does it seem that anyone upstream from a change does not experience a different world to the already known history. Sure, they put history back on track, but it would have been more interesting to see the stories played out on an increasingly changed background; instead earlier changes appear to have no effect on any of the presents.

There is also a problem with repetition. Now I realise that that authors did not all sit in a room and write, but the editors should have paid more attention. Often information was being repeated more than once for no greater reason that the writers all feeling that they had to establish the characters and the world.

For the most part the writer chose to have their protagonist’s do some relatively boring stuff, like save a president or kill a gangster. The only writer who grasped just how bonkers the stories could be was Paul Cornell’s ‘A Bit of a Dinosaur’ which ranked as the best in the book.

Overall, a nice, if flawed addition to the series.


Charles Packer

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