A genre-hopping, time-jumping, crowd-pleasing chain novel under the curation of old master Martin, he of Game of Thrones fame.
Low Chicago is a card game, but it’s also a fine description of the demimonde-haunting characters who turn up at the Palmer House at the beginning of this octoauthorial extravaganza. One is John Nighthawk, “a smallish black man in a dark pin-striped suit with a discreet kidskin glove on his left hand.” A discreet glove? Well, roll with it. Nighthawk, who’s spent time on the road and time in the big city, has had unusual powers since 1946. Others gathered around the card table include an actor who starred alongside John Wayne and a gigantic mutant half of whom is “an anthropomorphic version of a Bengal tiger.” You’d think that someone with such distinctive markings would call attention to himself in the Loop, but when said someone is under the aegis of a gangster named Giovanni Galante and a moll named Cynder, “an ace with a potent flame-wielding ability,” people tend to look the other way. When the story gets into time travel in earnest, it’s sometimes a little hard to keep track of where we are and why we’re there with, say, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy at one minute or, at another, a fellow bent on rubbing out a teenage Galante before Galante himself kills for the first time (“Mob guys got some kind of fucked-up ritual where you kill somebody when you turn sixteen?”). Indeed, the characters themselves don’t seem to know themselves, as when said half-tiger finds himself wondering “whether to answer sixteen years ago or in seventy-two years” when asked when he acquired his curious appearance. Not all the pieces hang together, and some are better than others, but the authors do a respectable job overall of tangling with the ineffable.
Is it sci-fi? A viral thriller? Yes and no, and while not for every taste, a pleasure for the experimentally minded.