As I've written before, I am a huge fan of the Wild Cards series and it's been a long time since I've read a really good Wild Cards book. This was the one I've been waiting for for about 15 years. The first seven books of the series were very strong. But the ones that followed wandered a bit too far from the premise and expanded the universe a bit too much for my tastes. I think it's because Chris Claremont joined the group of writers!
Anyway, Wild Cards XVII: Death Draws Five gets right back into the nitty gritty of the Wild Cards universe. It's been 16 years since Fortunato left America for a Japanese monastery, and his and Peregrine's son, 16-year old John Fortune, has turned his wild card. For the uninitiated, 90% of the Wild Card virus' victims die horribly, 9% become disfigured Jokers, and 1% become powered Aces. It doesn't look good for young John until he becomes an Ace, with a 1-in-10,000 longshot! While watching a "Siegfried and Ralph" tiger show in Las Vegas, John's Ace power of healing shows up just in time to save Ralph after he is mauled by one of his own white tigers. Like Law & Order, it's ripped from the headlines!
Unfortunately for John, there are forces at work to claim him. One is former President Leo Barnett's Secret Service agent Billy Ray (Carnifex) and the Midnight Angel, a new Ace in the service of President Barnett, who just happens to think that John Fortune is the second coming of Jesus Christ. As if that wasn't enough, the Catholic Church sends the Allumbrados (Enlightened Ones) after John because they believe that he is the Anti-Christ.
I'll leave the rest of the book to you, the reader, as John is the focus of a massive manhunt by highly motivated and even fanatical predators. We do get to see several old friends besides Fortunato, and among them are some of my favorite Wild Cards characters, like Yeoman and Wraith. It's good to see what they've been up to these past several years, since Wild Cards takes place in real time instead of comic book time. Fortunato is 62 years old now, and arthritic. This book made me feel young!
Unlike most of the Wild Cards books, this one was written by a single author, John J. Miller, who was the creator of many of the characters featured in the novel. Miller will also be working on the Wild Cards universe for Mutants & Masterminds, a game in which I've become interested. He's writing the campaign setting, so I'm really looking forward to that project.
I hesitate to add criticism to a review of a novel that I enjoyed so much, but the proofreading in this book was atrocious. And it was bad enough that the misspellings distracted me as a reader enough to take me out of the story. The phrase "guilty conscious" was used twice on the same page when the author meant to use "guilty conscience." That's just bad editing.
Overall, though, I give this book my highest recommendation. If you haven't read a Wild Cards book in a while, pick this one up. You won't regret it.