Jokers Wild is the third volume in the Wild Cards shared universe series edited by George R. R. Martin. Unlike the previous two volumes in the series (Wild Cards and Aces High), this volume uses the format of a mosaic novel, where several writers write individual story lines which were then edited together into one novel length story.
The action of Jokers Wild takes place on September 15, 1986, the fortieth anniversary of the release of Xenovirus Takis-A, the so-called "Wild Card virus". The anniversary of this event is observed as Wild Card Day and celebrated or cursed depending upon each individual victim's reaction to the virus.
This particular Wild Card Day sees the Aces of New York City stalked by the evil Astronomer, whose plans had been stopped in Aces High. Determined to get revenge on all the Aces who beat him, and Fortunato in particular, he and his minions Demise and Roulette stalk and kill several characters throughout the course of the book.
Unlike the previous two novels which had several self contained, one chapter stories and characters that appeared only once, Jokers Wild follows pre-established main characters and their interwoven stories. The main characters are:
- Fortunato and his vendetta against The Astronomer;
- Roulette's goal of seducing and killing Dr. Tachyon;
- Sewer Jack hunting the streets for his missing niece;
- Wraith dealing with the implications of a difficult theft;
- Hiram Worcester opening Aces High as a safe haven for The Astronomer's victims;
- Bagabond choosing between her two closest friends in their respective times of need; and
- Demise continuing to see just how much he can get away with working for the Astronomer.
This book contains the following tropes:
- Anyone Can Die: Seemingly everyone is at risk.
- A Day in the Limelight: This is the first time Hiram gets a story arc, after being a supporting character in the past two books.
- Death by Sex: Roulette.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Kid Dinosaur
- Evil Plan: The Astronomer tries to pull off one of the 'ultimate revenge' variety.
- Extremely Short Time Span: Compared to the previous two books which skip through years and decades, this book takes place over one continuous 24-hour period.
- Hidden Depths: The Astronomer is revealed to have originally been planning to rule the world by saving it.
- Humiliation Conga:
- The Astronomer has a well deserved one.
- Demise spends most of the book getting shot at and otherwise abused through most of the day.
- Killed Off for Real:
- The Howler and Kid Dinosaur.
- Existential treaties can be written on whether this applies to Modular Man or not.
- MacGuffin: The two rare stamp books and especially the mysterious third book a journal containing the records of various criminal activities that Wraith steals from a mob kingpin. Several story lines are about different people trying to hunt them down, and the books change hands many times.
- Mauve Shirt: Howler and Kid Dinosaur were revealed to be this.
- Missed Him by That Much: Several characters run into Cordelia, Jack's niece, unaware that Jack is running all over Manhattan looking for her.
- Ms. Fanservice: Peregrine, Wraith and Roulette.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Fortunato gets one of these. He discovers that the device the Astronomer had in his possession would have allowed him to destroy the Swarm.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: The book everyone is searching for is originally full of important writing. However, the writing is "lost" when Wraith ghosts with it through a wall. Of course, as Yeoman realises after a bit of thinking, the villains don't know that the book is now blank, but it still makes a lot of the work a large portion of the cast went through pointless.
- The Starscream: Demise, surprisingly, is the one to finally put down the Astronomer.
- Superpower Lottery: The Astronomer, Fortunato.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: The two main plot lines are the Astronomer's plan to hunt down the Aces that stopped him, and the hunt for the important books Jennifer stole. Except for when some goons break into Tachyon's apartment looking for the books, when the Astronomer attacks Ace's High while Jennifer is there, and Demise's involvement in both, the plot lines do not intersect.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Fortunato gets one of these when one of his "Geishas" points out they're hookers who sleep with him, and no matter how much he dolls it up, he's no different from any other pimp.