Exciting news for all the Wild Cards fans out there. Today is the publication day for the newest Wild Cards hardcover from Bantam, the thirty-third volume in the overall series… but no, you do not need to have read the first thirty-two to enjoy this book.
SLEEPER STRADDLE is the title. And yes, as our long-time readers will no doubt guess, this one features a character who has been around since the first Wild Cards Day (September 15, 1946 — the day Howard Waldrop was born): the Sleeper, created by the late great Roger Zelazny.
In poker, a sleeper straddle is a blind raise, made from a position other than the player “under the gun.” Sleepers are often considered illegal out-of-turn play and are commonly disallowed. In Wild Cards, the Sleeper is Croyd Crenson, who was a high school freshman on his way home from school when the virus was released over Manhattan. From that day on, Croyd has been continuously reinfected by the virus whenever he sleeps, his body reshaping itself into a myriad of new shapes and forms. Each time he wakes, he is changed. Sometimes he wakes as an ace, with astonishing new superpowers, different every time. Other times he wakes as a joker, malformed and hideous. He lives in terror of the day he draws the black queen, and does not wake at all. Croyd can sleep for days, weeks, even months, but when awake he does all he can to keep sleep at bay. Unable to hold a normal job or have a normal relationship, he lives on the margins of society; he has been a bodyguard, a thief, a mercenary, a con man, a hero for hire… whatever it takes to survive. Everyone knows Croyd, and no one really knows Croyd.
You never know what you are going to get when the Sleeper wakes. He is the ultimate wild card… and our most iconic character. It is long past time he had a book of his own.
The lineup this time around:
“Days Go By,” by Carrie Vaughn,
“The Hit Parade,” by Cherie Priest ,
“Yin-Yang Split,” from William F. Wu,
“Semiotics of the Strong Man,” by Walter Jon Williams,
“Party Like It’s 1999,” from Stephen Leigh,
“The Bloody Eagle,” by Mary Anne Mohanraj,
“The Boy Who Would Be Croyd,” from Max Gladstone.
The stories will be tied together by “Swimmer, Flier, Felon, Spy” from Christopher Rowe, featuring his enigmatic investigator Tesla. Other featured characters will include old favorites like Golden Boy, Oddity, Lazy Dragon, and Ramshead, along with some great new aces and a colorful assortment of jokers and jacks.
Ye editor is hardly objective, of course, but I have to confess, I have always loved Croyd, and it was great to see him in action again, in tales that spanned the decades, from the Fifties to the present day. Those of you who are already Sleeper fans will be delighted, I think, and as for all the readers out there who have yet to meet Mr. Crenson… you have a treat in store.
Roger would have loved this book, I like to think. I hope you will as well.