Category: Repairman Jack

“The Touch” by F. Paul Wilson Review

The touch

The Touch

Author:  F. Paul Wilson

Released:  1986

As a stand alone book in F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary Cycle, The Touch barely ties into the events of the Repairman Jack world or even the rest of the Adversary Cycle stories, but was overall one of my favorite books I’ve read by the author. The book is the story of Dr. Alan Bulmer, a family physician who gains the ability of the Dat-tay-vao, a healing touch that works for about an hour a day. Patients who come in with hearing loss or broken bones leave Bulmer’s office completely healthy. The ability seems to know no limits, fixing life long birth defects or nearly fatal cancer. The ability draws Bulmer into the intrigue of an ambitious senator, as well as the attention of other local medical professionals, all of which believe Bulmer is either having a breakdown or is now a scam artist. The only man who seems to have any idea what is going in is the Vietnamese gardener for the local widow, a man with a set of skills reminiscent of Liam Neeson in Taken.

While Wilson can craft great page turners, nobody will ever confuse him for John Steinbeck. Wilson often falls back on cliched character types and racial stereotypes throughout his writing, and The Touch is no exception. The bad guys are foreshadowed early and there is no guessing when it comes to who Alan should trust. Despite all that, the story moves at a brisk pace and I frequently found myself wondering how I would respond in the same situation. The progression of the touch on Bulmer is obvious to the reader immediately, but it is understandable how Bulmer could ignore or overlook the negative effects (or diagnose them as stress) for as long as he does.

Much of the suspense of the book hinges on whether Bulmer’s ability would work on a person with autism, which was sort of odd to distinguish among all the conditions a patient could have. Wilson wisely focuses much of the doubt as coming from a character worrying about the possible effects on her son. With a simple story and few major characters, this is the type of book that lends itself to thinking of cinematically while reading. (For my reading, I pictured Harrison Ford as Bulmer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the widow (when they were in their 40’s), Naomi Watts as Bulmer’s wife and Richard Jenkins as the Senator.)

My book also included the short story, Dat-tay-vao which explains how the ability crossed the ocean from Vietnam to America. The story features some very unlikable characters in a tense Vietnam setting, while filling in a blank that I wasn’t particularly interested in knowing about. Still, who can complain about a free bonus story.

5-star

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“Reborn” by F. Paul Wilson Review

Reborn

Reborn

Author:  F. Paul Wilson

Published:  1990

The Adversary Cycle:  Book Four by Publication, Book Two Chronologically

For those into how books fit into larger overall universes,Reborn is the fourth book in F. Paul Wilson’s the adversary cycle, but the second book chronologically, which means it takes place after The Keep but before the entire Repairman Jack series and somewhere during the Secret History line of books (this takes place in the 1960’s if that helps). Throughout this whole series of books Wilson has done his version of ghost stories, science fiction, and even vampires. Here is Wilson’s Rosemary’s Baby story, so much so that the characters even mention it on a few different occasions.

The story goes that a married couple discover that a wealthy man who has just died may be the secret father of the husband. This revelation leads them to search through his journals for the identity of the man’s mother and any other information they can find to give him answers about his parents. Along the way there are connections to secret World War II science experiments, a possible vigilante with a crow bar, and an order of religious individuals dedicated to stopping the anti-Christ. There is also an appearance from at least one character from the first Adversary Cycle bookThe Keep .

Mentioning Rosemary’s Baby and the anti-Christ crusaders will give you a pretty good idea of how the plot of this book progresses, but it’s impossible to discuss without getting into that facet. I admire Wilson for attempting to tell an interesting story about the return of a formidable villain in his world, but the nature of the plot feels derivative to that iconic work. The greater problem however is that the entire book is populated by people making horrible decisions.

The two main characters are meant to be sympathetic, but both of them willingly turn a blind eye to horrific acts willingly. Similarly, the heroic character provided by Wilson in the form of a Jesuit Priest always remains reactive to the plot (the most heroic thing he does in the entire book is not have sex with a woman who wants him to). The series’ recurring heroic character does nothing in this book to influence the tragic turn of events.

Even within the logic of the book, it’s difficult to figure out what you (the reader) want to have happen. There is a force that benefits when people suffer or cause emotional harm. Does that mean that the sex between two consenting adults will be good or bad for that force (the book decides that action will aid the evil force). Or if a woman tries to perform an unwanted abortion on a trusting relative (here the book says that will harm the evil force). The result for me was a rather unpleasant reading experience where I knew a bad outcome was going to happen the entire time and every choice along the way is just drawing out the inevitable tragedy.

So far the Adversary Cycle has suffered compared to the Repairman Jack Series as it has lacked the moral center of Jack (a man whose own particular morals are certainly not in line with the general public). I’m still planning on reading the two remaining books before I finish up both series withNightworld but my hopes for finding another great series of books is slowly dwindling.

2-star

“The Keep” by F. Paul Wilson Review

 

The KeepThe Keep

Author:  F. Paul Wilson

Published:  1981

I’ve reached a point in my read through of the Repairman Jack books that the next one I read is the conclusion to the entire series.  I also see that it is the conclusion to something called the Adversary Cycle.  Since it ties into the Repairman Jack books, I’ve decided to go back and read the Adversary Cycle books prior to reading that last installment because why spoil the ending to a whole separate series of books by an author I like that I’d probably end up reading eventually anyways?  Up first in that series is The Keep, the events of which have been obliquely referenced in other Repairman Jack books.

Set during World War II (Pre-American involvement) The Keep is about a structure in the Dinu Pass in Romania that is seemingly abandoned but kept in pristine condition.  The structure becomes relevant when German soldiers take up residence as part of a strategic location in their plan to eventually build a death camp in Romania.  The story is told from five viewpoints:

1)      A German Captain in charge of securing the keep, whose soldiers begin dying violently

2)      A German Nazi S.S. Captain sent to the keep to find out what’s causing the deaths and to stop it

3)      A Jewish man who has studied the keep for years and is brought in by the Nazi Captain to provide answers

4)      The daughter of the Jewish man who is his caretaker and assistant in his studies

5)      A mysterious man who travels to Romania to investigate what’s happening in the keep

Much like with the Richard Sharpe books, I much preferred the section with the non-Nazi Captain to those about the Nazi Captain.  Characters written as evil for evil’s sake in the military tend to be less interesting and more monotonous than competent, more human characters.  One of the best aspects of The Keep is that it provided both aspects in its German soldiers, a deft handling of the political and ethical climate of the era.  The rivalry between the two officers is done very well, and provides much of the early tension before the supernatural elements begin appearing.

This being an F. Paul Wilson book, supernatural elements are a given.  The setting and clues early on point to the culprit being a vampire (Romania, imagery of crosses, fatal wounds to the neck) and with Ghosts and demons having appeared in Repaiman Jack books I didn’t immediately rule that creature of the night out as a suspect.  As more information into the force of evil appears, fans of this series will pick up on additional clues as to who or what is at work.  Certainly anybody who has read the Repairman Jack series will anagram any bad guys name who shows up; if you haven’t read those books then that is not a spoiler.

As a stand alone novel this book works fine, but it is definitely more enjoyable as part of the overall Secret History universe Wilson has established.  Glaeken on his own in this novel is an interesting character, however with his rushed into a few pages of dialogue he reads more like a dream man from a romance novel than the hero of a battle between good and evil.  I prefer having discovered his history as it unfolded over several books in Repairman Jack then how it was quickly disclosed here.

The romance novel analogy is unfortunately not only present in revealing Glaeken’s past, but also in every seen between Magda (the Jewish daughter) and the mystery man.  Wilson struggles with discussing Magda without either bringing up her physical attributes in the eyes of the German soldiers or the stirring pangs in her body for the forbidden touch of this man unlike any she has ever seen before.  I can excuse some of the writing as an attempt at a 1940’s woman who was stifled in her development by being the caretaker for her father, but the vast majority of her characterization was distractingly bad whenever it was the focus.

As the first book in the Adversary Cycle, this did enough to get me interested to read more.  At the end of my copy of the book was a chart outlining the chronological reading order of the rest of the Secret History books, so I’ll probably follow that instead of the Goodreads/Wikipedia recommended order.  There are also several other books listed that go beyond Repairman Jack or the Adversary Cycle, in what I can only assume or Secret History books, so maybe I’ll try those out eventually as well (nothing like being a OCD when it comes to lengthy series).

3-star

“The Dark at the End” (Repairman Jack #15) by F. Paul Wilson Review

dark

The Dark at the End

Author: F. Paul Wilson

Release Date: September 2016

I had looked up the Repairman Jack chronology on Wikipedia back when I started reading F. Paul Wilson’s series of books back around 2012. At that time, I saw that “The Dark at the End” was the last book in the series but that there was another book called “Nightworld” that Jack appeared in and took place well after the series. That book also concluded its own series called the Adversary Cycle. As a result of all that, while reading “The Dark at the End” (and to a lesser extent, “Fatal Error”) I was expecting some sort of resolution for the Repairman Jack series. If that’s your expectation of this book, you’ll be disappointed. Apparently, sometime around when I started the series, the author heavily revised “Nightworld” to provide the proper conclusion to this series and tie all of his Adversary Cycle books together. Since I’m a dork and a completest, at this point I’ll probably read the four books in the Adversary Cycle that lead up to Nightworld before finishing off Jack’s story (don’t want to get those books potentially spoiled).

As the actual penultimate chapter of the Repairman Jack series, this was a good installment although as the scale has gotten grander the series has suffered a bit in two regards. The first is that many of the things that make the series so fun are be benched. In this book, there are no clients or fix-it jobs for Jack, no dorky collecting anecdotes, no trip to Julio’s. As a stand alone novel, it would not work as well as several of the previous entries. The other problem is that the inherent ridiculousness of the Lady is a huge focus and her “dying three times” rule that was created in the last book is on full display at a climactic moment in this one. Likewise, **Spoiler alert** Rasolom’s ability to orchestrate events jumps into hyperdrive in this book, with him being able to correctly predict minute decisions by Jack, Glacon, the Lady, Weezy and Dawn Pickering, but not able to predict a trap when his servants all go missing or that leaving behind the most powerful sword in existence for his only two enemies might come back to haunt him.

Following the events of “Fatal Error,” Jack and Weezy are thrown for a loop when the Lady is attacked my gunmen. Jack also starts to develop a further connection with his immortal buddy based on the transition from heir to the One. Gia, Abe, and everybody not mentioned or part of the O’Connell family take a back seat to the Jack’s group of Otherness thwarters, while Drexler from the Order gets some interesting character development and Hank Thompson takes a backseat. Instead of having the stop a plan or bad guy from doing something terrible (well, I guess that’s still the motivation here) the plot is driven by the good guys actively planning to vanquish/depower/kill the bad guy. That was a refreshing change for the series, until the all knowing bad guy reveal at the end.

3-star

“Fatal Error” (Repairman Jack #14) by F. Paul Wilson Review

fatal

Fatal Error

Author: F. Paul Wilson

Release Date: October 2010

The penultimate book in the Repairman Jack series continues the long running storyline of Jack vs the Otherness and steps up the stakes as the Kickers and Septimus Order cause havoc on a global scale. In this installment, Jack is drafted into helping a computer programmer save his kidnapped family, a long time ally of Jack’s bites the big one, and the stage is set for Rasolam and Jack to finally show off in the final chapter.

This book does well in the series by ramping up the stakes instead of just the Lady and Jack’s loved ones being targeted. The kidnapper at the beginning is probably as despicable of a villain since we’ve seen in “Legacies,” and as a dad and a husband I even had a hard time reading some of the descriptions of his actions. Likewise, the effects of the Kicker/Order plot are felt instantly in the New York City setting which does the closest to revealing a horrific future that the series has shown since “Hosts.” Keeping Gia and Vicky away for most of the book usually helps keep the story moving as well.

My biggest gripe with this volume is “The Lady’s” storyline, which felt forced at the end of “Ground Zero,” and feels doubly (or triply) so with the three deaths twist and continued presence. The stakes just don’t feel high enough when the Otherness can continually succeed in their plans but this old lady just keeps coming back like the villain in a Stephen King novel. The confrontation between Jack and two kickers at the airport also felt out of place in this, with no real payoff besides a release for Jack for his frustrations. Leaving Gia and Vicky alone at the terminal while doing this also seemed out of character and didn’t really lead to any payoff.

Minor issues aside, the story again drew me in and I’ve enjoyed spending thirteen prior books with these characters and look forward to finishing up the series and checking out the prequels.

4-star

“Ground Zero” (Repairman Jack #13) F. Paul Wilson Review

ground

Ground Zero

Author: F. Paul Wilson

Release Date: 1988

** spoiler alert ** Twelve books into this series (with only two to go, plus a handful of prequels) and I’ve finally given one of these books below four stars on Goodreads. This book follows Jack as he gets hired by a childhood friend to find Jack’s own childhood best friend and uncover the conspiracy that is trying to silence her. *Spoilers Follow* The main thing that didn’t work for me was the author tying in the events 9/11. I often say these next words jokingly, but even I thought the use of that event as a plot device was too soon.

The plans by the otherness in this book also felt more hokey than in past books, with the evil mechanism having a lame name, vague abilities and so-so payoff. The book routinely relies on nobody but Jack being able to use common sense (see Hank blindly following Drexler, or the old woman with her dog’s reaction to danger). The entire ending is then saved by the equivalent of hitting the reset button on an old video game.

Still, I’ll give this book 2 stars for advancing the plot further in the series while tying in characters from the prequel novels and answering most of the big questions about the rules of this contest and who are the players are.

2-star

“By the Sword” (Repairman Jack #12) by F. Paul Wilson Review

by the.jpg

By the Sword

Author: F. Paul Wilson

Release Date: 2008

“By the Sword” continues the overall feel and development of the Repairman Jack series, but the overall plot of the novel feels a bit repetitive over some of the earlier novels. Jack is retained to find a missing samurai sword, which of course has some connection to his role as the Enemy of the otherness. At the same time, Dawn Pickering from the last novel continues to be a macguffin of the magical variety, being pregnant with a baby that can bring balance to the force, or something along those lines.

The book did feature a great sequence towards the end where three different groups fighting for possession of the sword all end up in the same building at the same time. Based on that sequence alone I bumped this from a three to a four star read, but the rest of this novel was a weaker installment in the Repairman Jack series.

4-star