books

F. Paul Wilson

Books

Adversary Cycle: The Keep (1981)

Repariman Jack: The Tomb (1984/2004) , Legacies (1998), All the Rage (2000), Hosts (2001), The Haunted Air (2002), Gateways (2003), Crisscross (2004), Infernal (2005), Harbingers (2006)

Anthologies: Blood Lite (2008)

 

 

The Tomb (1984/2004)

Repairman Jack fixes things. Not appliances or houses or anything so prosaic, but instead fixes situations.

When he is asked to “fix” two separate problems at the same time, little did he realize that the situation would turn deadly–and the girl he loves in mortal danger–the girl he loves being in fact an actual child he will protect at any cost.

Jack is my kind of hero. He’s not a good person per se, in that he works outside the law to do what needs to be done. But when such a job needs done, he is the best man for the job.

And the story is just the kind I like as well: a noir mystery with supernatural overtones. This is very obviously a revision from the 1984 original publication, but that’s okay, since with a few changes, the story fit well into modern times (the lack of cell phones was the only glaring modern omission.)
What I particularly enjoyed was the fact that I truly had no idea what was going to happen–although I was pretty sure certain characters were going to survive, others I was not quite as sure about, which became slightly worrying as the deaths began to pile up.

The one thing I disliked was the book ends with Repairman Jack attempting to recover from his wounds–and you’re not told whether he lives or dies. Of course knowing that this was the first book in the series took the edge of that fear, but at least all plot lines were resolved, and loose ends were tied up. So I suppose it was a good enough ending–and one that seemed reasonable enough for Jack’s life.

If you like supernatural fantasy, then you will want to check out The Tomb the first book in the Repairman Jack series. And I am going to go order more of the series right now.
Rating: 8/10

Legacies (1998)

The second Repairman Jack book takes up an undetermined time after the events of the first book, Tomb. The indeterminate time is most likely due to the fact that there were 15 years between the two books.

When a local AIDS clinic where Gia volunteers is robbed, she convinces Jack to take the case. And solving that problem leads him to an involvement with another case that may be far more serious.

We saw some of Gia and Vicki in this case, but only peripherally, because the mystery this time revolved around what is in Alicia’s father’s house, that so many are so willing to kill for.

As with the first book, this was an excellent story with fantastic pacing, and characters I felt I got to know over the course of the story. Also, as with the first book, this story is not for the faint of heart. Lots of bad things happen, many of which are completely disturbing.

Where the two books differ, however, is that if the first book was mystery tinged with fantasy, this story is more mystery tinged with science fiction. Instead of being magical, this time the story revolves around an invention straight out of science fiction.

As for weak spots, I think the only one I particularly noticed is that I found the character of Gia rather weak and flat. Probably because she comes across as a heroic do-gooder with zero complexity. However, she isn’t the main character in this story, and we are seeing her through Jack’s eyes, so that influences her portrayal even more. But I did find it a tad bit grating.

Alicia, however, more than made up for Gia’s lack of complexity. She is a complex character who we know something bad has happened to in her past, but we don’t know precisely what that bad thing is. And of course even once you’ve prepared yourself, it’s still horrible and shocking.

I also liked how Jack was working multiple cases at once, which I thought was realistic, but I also liked the way that we learned some insight into Jack’s character in the way he resolves his cases. (This one was particularly enjoyable I thought.)

The other point I especially liked about Legacies is how even the bad guys come to have depth. We learn about their concerns and problems, which makes them all the more intriguing, because instead of being flat, generic bad guys, we learn some of why they are motivated to behave the way they do. Not everything, but enough to make those characters far more interesting.

If you enjoyed the first Repairman Jack novel, then you will definitely want to continue with Legacies. If you have never read about Repairman Jack, you should be able to begin the series her with no difficulty. Although I always recommend staring a series at the beginning if you can.
Rating: 8/10

All the Rage (2000)

The third Repairman Jack novel, Conspiracies, has not been reprinted, and the used prices were a little steep, so I skipped Conspiracies and went straight to the fourth book, All the Rage.

As with the previous two Repairman Jack books I read, I very much enjoyed All the Rage. Jack is asked to look into a pharmaceutical researcher who is being leaned on by one of the towns mobsters. As another client has already asked Jack to take a case involving the mobster, he starts to investigate both the mobster and the pharmaceutical company, and soon discovers monsters from his past may be involved.

Meanwhile, there’s a new drug on the streets–a drug that frequently drives users to an uncontrollable rage, and Jack continues to stumble across the drug and those who both wittingly and unwittingly take the substance.

One of the things I particularly like about this series is that the stories build upon each other. For example, Jack had made a habit of meeting his clients at a local bar. However, he learns that such habits can be tracked and soon learns that even those habits have to be changed. It was little more than a throw-away paragraph in the book, but it meant that the author was thinking, and I really like that in a series.

The other thing I like is how Jack is willing to accept morally gray areas. He will not kill people for money, however, if bad people happen to die in foreseeable situations, Jack is not going to lose any sleep over the matter.

There is far less of Gia in this book than in the previous two books I have read, which considering how I felt about her in the previous book I read, is a good thing. Since I didn’t find her annoying, I was better able to appreciate Jack’s feeling towards her and Vicki.

There is a good deal of technology in All the Rage in the creation of designer drugs, however, it is in essence a supernatural story. I’m curious as to whether the series will continue to swing back and forth between technology and fantasy. I’ll have to keep reading to see.

Although you could read this book without having read the first book, Tomb, I think that it works better if you have read the first book, because then you fully understand Jack’s revulsion. But mostly, if you like supernatural fantasy this is a series you don’t want to miss, and I’m glad that the books are being reprinted.
Rating: 8/10

Hosts (2001)

The further into the Repairman Jack series I get, the more I’m starting to miss having read Conspiracies. In the fifth Repairman Jack novel, things start out badly for Jack when he’s on a Subway car where a man pulls out a gun and starts picking of the passengers one, by one. Things get worse from there, as not only is Jack scared of being identified as the hero, but he ends up getting called for a job that he absolutely cannot refuse.

As with the previous Repairman Jack novels, Hosts was well done, with a pace that tore along and didn’t make putting the book down very easy. (I snuck away for a few minutes while my parents were her Sunday to finish the book.)

But what I like best about this series is that although the are conclusions, there are not necessarily happy endings. It’s not that I’m opposed to happy endings or anything, I just like reading books where you really have no idea what characters are going to survive to the end of the story. When other characters die, it somehow makes you feel much more relief when other characters do survive.

We’re also continuing to see some of Jack’s habits come back to haunt him. In the last book he had to change where he met his clients because he was becoming predictable. Now he learns he has become predictable in other ways as well.

And really, that’s what I think I enjoy most about these books. Lessons learned in one book are carried into another, as are bad habits and problems. If Jack does something foolish, if it doesn’t catch him in the current book, it may well catch him in a later book

I am frustrated, however, by the fact that I really have no idea what happened in Conspiracies. (Great. It’s available for pre-order… for the end of September 2008. BAH!) I just know that things are building from book to book, and just is involved whether he likes it or not.

If you haven’t read a Repairman Jack novel, and you like true supernatural mysteries/thrillers, then you definitely want to check out this series, starting with The Tomb.
Rating:7/10

The Haunted Air (2002)

The sixth Repairman Jack novel, Haunted Air takes place a year after the events of The Tomb. Jack is still in turmoil after the events of Hosts as he attempts to deal with Kate’s death.

Like the previous books, Jack is still learning more about The Otherness, and still unhappy that he has been told he has a preordained place in that battle. However, like the previous books, through Jack’s current cases we slowly learn more about The Otherness and what Jack is battling, but this book (like the others) has a satisfactory conclusion. We know something is coming, but we don’t know where or when, but we are learning at the same pace as Jack, and meanwhile he finishes the cases he started in the book, so there is still a satisfactory sense of conclusion to the book.

What I particularly liked about this book was the relationship between the brothers Lyle and Charlie. Regardless of what they have had to do to get by, they mange to survive, and even thrive in their own way. They are who they are, made by their circumstances.

I also enjoyed he evolution of Jack’s character, as he struggles with his future as well as his past. This story went in directions I did not expect, as Jack considers his future, as well as the battle against The Otherness.

One thing I did like is that for those of us who have missed Conspiracies, we do learn a bit about things that must have been discovered in that book. Thank goodness, because it won’t be re-released until this fall. (I hate waiting.) Although you could start the Repairman Jack series here, I believe it would be far more enjoyable to start at the beginning. No only will you understand more of what is going on, but you will also be able to enjoy learning about Jack and watching him change as his relationship with Vicki and Gia deepens.
Rating: 8/10

Gateways (2003)

In this seventh Repairman Jack novel, Jack receives a call from his brother, saying their father is in the hospital in Florida, and Jack needs to go down to take care of their father.

While there, Jack must discover not only what placed his father in the hospital, but why. And he continues to learn more about the Otherness and the Adversary. He also tries to learn more about Anya, the woman who lives next to his father, and who seems to be watching out for him.

As with the previous stories, Gateways was a good story, and although we continue to learn about the coming storm, the arc of this story was completed, which is always important to me. What I found interesting was that in the resolution, the problem one thinks would loom the largest played only a small part in the story and in Jack’s interest.

More importantly, Jack begins to mend his relationship with his father–a relationship that further disintegrated after Kate’s death. As Jack moves to become a father himself, I’m glad he is patching things up with his own father.

I also liked Anya, and was disappointed that we were left with more questions than were answered about her. But then that’s par for the course with these novels, and really, the way life works as well. Sometimes you just don’t get to learn all the answers.

If you like supernatural fantasy, then you’ll wan to read the Repairman Jack novels. Just make sure you start at the beginning, with The Tomb.
Rating:7/10

Crisscross (2004)

Jack is still in the Repairman business, despite the fact that Gia doesn’t like the way she never knows if he’ll return safely from his fix-it jobs. And with Gia’s pregnancy (Despite the fact this is a multi-book pregnancy, Gia is only at 20 weeks. She might be pregnant for years at this rate) Jack is becoming uncomfortable with putting himself in harm’s way, for the pain his death would cause to Gia and Vicki.

Jack takes on two fix-its. First is an old woman who wants to discover how her son, who joined the Dormentalist Cult, is doing. The second is a woman who is being blackmailed and can no longer pay. ANd as with previous books, there are no more coincidences in Jack’s life.

A little less Gia in this book, and a little less of Jack’s personal life, but two very good fix-its. Though I have to admit that being involved (excluding Gia) seems to be rather deadly, since so many people he deals with end up dead. I’m beginning to be surprised when people make it to the end of the story, as opposed to being surprised that Wilson is so willing to kill off so many characters.

But primarily I really liked the fix-its in this book.

If you like Repairman Jack, then you’ll want to pick up this books. If you have not yet read a Repairman Jack book, you could conceivably start here, however you’ll have pick up on the background really qucikly.
Rating:8/10

Infernal (2005)

The next book (9th?) in the Repairman Jack series, Infernal again contains little but misery for Jack. A visit from Jack’s father turned terribly wrong turns into the visit from hell from Jack’s brother Tom.

It’s actually impossible to say anything more than that, without giving away the main parts of the story.

So how does this book fit in with the rest of the series? Well, in that Bad things continue to happen to Jack, it fits right in.

SPOILER
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END SPOILER

Is this book as strong as earlier books in the series. I don’t think so. Unfortunately, the series is reaching critical mass, and is taking on a life of it’s own. I think that it would be nearly impossible to begin the series at this point, there are too many things happening that are dependent upon knowledge of past events–even having read Crisscross recently, I’d still forgotten an important detail that came up here.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the resolution of the story arc in this book. It felt rather… strained. Looking like someone does not mean that

Also, Gia’s pregnancy must be the longest in the history of the world. Poor woman. Luckily for her she’s still barely showing. (Excuse me? Bogus!)

If I’m sounding bitter, I’m not really, it’s just that things were not very resolved in this book, and the overarching story arc is starting to take over every book, and I’m wondering if this series is ever actually going to end. So I’m holding off reading the next book, until Bloodlines comes out in paperback. And even then I’m going to read cautiously.
Rating: 6/10

Harbingers (2006)

The tenth Repairman Jack novel things are beginning to come to a head as finds Jack at odds with the entities that have wreaked such havoc in his life.

Abe is still trying to find a new identity for Jack, and a way for him to reenter society. But Jack himself is still reeling from the events of the past two books and hasn’t worked since then. However, one of the regulars at Julio’s asks Jack to help him find his niece–a good girl who was snatched on the way to school. The police think she’s probably a runaway, and so won’t act, but Timmy is desperately afraid something terrible is about to happen, and begs Jack to help.

Jack’s search for the girl introduces him to the Oculus and the Yeniceri, and brings Jack’s past forcefully into the future.

The tone of Harbingers is extremely dark. Not that the other books haven’t been dark, but it seems as if the accumulated deaths are starting to catch up with Jack and he’s starting to lose the ability to act rationally.

If you were already reading the Repairman Jack novels, there’s no way you’re stopping any time soon. If you haven’t read a Repairman Jack novel, don’t start here. Go back to the beginning and read your way forward.
Rating:7/10

 

Anthologies

 

Blood Lite (2008) edited by Kevin J. Anderson

This anthology came out in hardback last year, but considering the theme, I was more than content to wait until it came out in paperback. Which it recently did.

As with most anthologies, there are good stories and bad stories, but there weren’t too many stories that I hated, though there also weren’t too many stories that I adored. So I’d say it all came out in the wash.

The Ungrateful Dead - Kelley Armstrong
Mr. Bear - Joe R. Lansdale
Hell in a Handbasket - Lucien Soulban
The Eldritch Pastiche from Beyond the Shadow of Horror - Christopher Welch
Elvis Presley and the Bloodsucker Blues - Matt Venne
No Problem - Don D'Ammassa
Old School - Mark Onspaugh
The Sound of Blunder - J.A. Konrath and F. Paul Wilson
An Evening with Al Gore - Charlaine Harris
Dear Prudence - Steven Savile
A GOod Psycho Is Hard to Find - Will Ludwigsen
High Kicks and Misdemeanors - Janet Berliner
PR Problems - Eric James Stone
Where Angels Fear to Tread - Sherrilyn Kenyon
A Very Special Girl - Mike Resnick
Love Seat Solitare - D.L. Snell
I Know Who You Ate Last Summer - Nancy Holder
Bitches of the Night - Nancy Kilpatrick
The Bell...FROM HELL - Jeff Strand
Dead Hand - Sharyn McCrumb
Day Off - Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher’s story, “Day Off” was one of the best in the anthology. The start of the story was fabulous, but I’ll leave it at that for those who have not yet read the story. As far as the rest of the story, Harry has the day off, but just like his life, things end up spiraling out of control quite quickly. I was reminded of something I read, and I can’t for the life of me remember where, so I’m paraphrasing “when you take each action individually, it’s completely reasonable,” and that’s where Harry is. Any single individual thing would be fine, but (as with life) everything always seems to happen at once, which is what makes things so difficult.

I also quite liked Charlaine Harris‘ story, “An Evening with Al Gore.” Her non-Sookie stories are hit and miss with me, but this one was definitely a hit. It’s a look at what happens when a wealthy couple and their friends watch “An Inconvenient Truth” and decide to do something about it.

The story “The Eldritch Pastiche from Beyond the Shadow of Horror” by Christopher Welch was quite amusing, and also made me think of my friend Eric, who is a fan of Lovecraft and horror. I’m sure there were plenty of jokes that went over my head since I really do not like horror, but I was amused all the same.

Kelley Armstrong’s story, “The Ungrateful Dead,” was the first story in the book, and although I didn’t think it was as good as Jim Butcher or Charlaine Harris’ stories, I did enjoy it, and thought again about picking up another series by Armstrong.

I also like Mike Resnick’s story, “A Very Special Girl.” It was different in tone from the other stories in the book, and although it felt like these characters belonged in a longer story than this, it was both fun and interesting.

There were some stories that I didn’t like at all, I thought “Mr. Bear” was particularly awful, and I didn’t like “A Good Psycho Is Hard to Find” either. But over all, the stories were pretty good, and the series was worth reading. I would have been annoyed if I’d bought this in hardback, but it’s not a bad buy as a paperback.
Rating: 6/10