How low can you go? Let’s scrape the bottom of the barrel with Down and Dirty, edited by George R. R. Martin.
The fifth volume in this totally-unique “mosaic novel” series. As in the previous volume, Aces Abroad, this one focuses on the effects of the Wild Card virus outside of the United States.
Source: Goodreads [https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/67959.Down_and_Dirty]
If Down and Dirty has a central plot, it’s Croyd the Sleeper becoming Typhoid Croyd and spreading a mutant strain of the Wild Card virus throughout New York. I do say “if”, because the Croyd thing doesn’t take center stage until over halfway through the book. The stories up to that point are largely unrelated, though they do have a few things in common: they are boring, depressing, or feature the protagonist getting raped. Sometimes all of the above!
Sewer Jack is dying of AIDS, gets raped by Bludgeon, and ends up stuck in alligator form. Lovely, sure am glad I read that. Kahina gets raped by Mack the Knife, then murdered in front of Chrysalis and Digger Downs to intimidate them into working for Puppetman. Because while her Islamic upbringing may have taught her that it’s a woman’s place to be veiled by a burqa, Wild Cards knows that a woman’s true place is chopped up and stuffed inside a refrigerator. And because there ain’t no brakes on the rape train, there’s the sequence where Water Lily falls under Ti Malice’s power and gets used as a sex toy.
This book’s treatment of Water Lily is probably the most offensive and insulting thing in the entire series, practically single-handed guaranteeing its position as the worst Wild Cards novel of all time. (There is one other, much later Wild Cards novel which might manage to earn an equally low score, but its crimes are mainly being stupid and boring. In terms of content, Down and Dirty is worse). Up until now, Water Lily has been an interesting, optimistic, energetic, and bright-eyed heroine. Well, time to change all that! The abuse she suffers under Ti Malice would be bad enough, but the book takes it a step further with the transformation she undergoes after her exposure to Typhoid Croyd. Gone are her boring old water powers. No, now Jane Lilian Dow has a new ability: to cure Jokers of the Wild Card virus by having sex with them.
Yes, that’s right: Water Lily, has been transformed into Joker rape-bait. I’m not kidding. By the end of the book, there’s a bounty placed on her by criminals looking to turn her into sex slave so they can charge Jokers exorbitant fees to be cured by raping her. Needless to say, her character has been so irreversibly ruined that she will never appear in another Wild Cards novel again. A round of sarcastic applause, please, for whoever made this creative decision. I can only assume that they actually were intending to bring her back at some point, no doubt for a rape scene involving some hideous Joker with slimy tentacles and suppurating sores and oozing pustules on its genitals; only for the writer assigned to this task, in a brief fit of sanity, to burn the manuscript to ash and bury it on consecrated ground. So, instead of having to read about Water Lily getting literally raped, we merely have to watch as her character is metaphorically raped by this indefensibly bad plotline.
…Honestly, it’s probably for the best that Water Lily never appears again. Fly and be free, Jane Dow! May you find your way to a better series, one written by an author with some modicum of taste and decency!
Some other stories involve the Great and Powerful Turtle considering retirement, but ultimately deciding against it; fucking Leo Barnett being a fucking hypocrite as fucking usual; Buddy Holly becoming an Ace, because why the hell not; Gimli and Roulette getting unceremoniously offed to clear out some space for new characters, some abrupt but at least non-offensive and rape-free story arc closure for Yeoman and Wraith; and the writers finally remembering that Modular Man still exists and giving him that hackneyed old tale about a robot confronting fears of mortality (Didn’t Star Trek: TNG do a plotline like that with Data? Or am I thinking Voyager and the Doctor? Whatever; the point is, it’s been done). This is also the book where Rosemary Gambione behaves in such an utterly despicable manner that the mere knowledge of it taints my memories of her introduction in Jokers Wild. Remember how she promised she’d use her power to reign in the Mob? Well, for her first steps in taking the organization in a kinder, gentler direction, she has Bagabond’s boyfriend murdered as part of a coverup. Notably, this does not actually accomplish anything, as he had already passed the information he’d found on to the newspapers. Also notably, she has the sheer unadulterated gall to afterwards ask Bagabond for help! Naturally, Bagabond is so traumatized by the betrayal of the woman she considered her closest friend that she flees to Guatemala and won’t be seen for a very long time. On the bright side, things completely fall apart for Rosemary as well, and she gets a one-way ticket to Cuba and out of the Wild Cards series forever. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
Anything else? Oh, right: Blaise. Fuck Blaise. There, review complete.
Under my review system, three stars denote an average good book and two stars denote an average bad book. The one star rating is reserved for books whose badness is far beyond average; books which I find actually offensive. For its treatment of Water Lily, Down and Dirty has the distinct dishonor of being the first Wild Cards novel to fall to that level. For shame.
Final Rating: 1/5