Nightworld: A Repairman Jack Novel
F. Paul Wilson
Hardcover, 400 pages, $25.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
F. Paul Wilson and his character Repairman Jack have some things in common. They are not, for example, content to be confined to a single series. If Wilson and Jack were bees, it could be said that they enjoy cross pollinating. In this heavily revised edition of Nightworld (which was originally published in 1992), The Adversary Cycle and Repairman Jack saga again converge. Another instance of comparison between author and creation: neither metaphorically cries “uncle.” These are guys whose warped sense of humor laughs in the face of harsh realities – and complicated story lines. It’s hard to imagine Jack’s voice without hearing Wilson’s sardonic whisper in the ear. That makes for quite a hoot, even when the protagonist is faced with dire straits. And in Nightworld, the dilemmas are most dire indeed. In this version of the tale, Jack ain’t just riding shotgun. His role is expanded considerably. The rewritten novel provides him with ample participation opportunities, and melds the two series into a highly entertaining and cohesive whole.
The apocalypse is near. Rasalom, the evil being who first appeared in The Keep, is back with a vengeance. As he decreases the length of daylight hours, he curtails the courage of humankind. Feeding on insecurities and fears, Rasalom becomes stronger and increasingly odious. Unleashing a plethora of horrific insects, the guy revels in their people-feasting: “The jawed things were like airborne piranhas, swooping in, sinking their teeth into an arm, a leg, a neck, an abdomen, ripping a mouthful of flesh free, and then darting away. Blood spurted from a hundred wounds.”
But wait, there’s more. If the deeds of the vile insectoids don’t repulse, consider this depiction of an encounter with their glob-like countenance: “He angled the lamp. Yes, wings – translucent, at least a foot long, fluttering like mad. And eyes. A cluster of four black, multifaceted knobs at the end of a wasplike body the size of a jumbo shrimp, lined with rows of luminescent dots. Eight articulated arms terminating in small pincers stretched across the mucus-filled membrane.”
These horrors ascend from enormous holes on the East Coast, wreaking havoc on New York City while one of the holes absorbs The Pentagon. The narrative, though, isn’t all about beastly bugs and centuries old vendettas. People matter most profoundly in the book. Interpersonal relationships are salient to the storyline. Reactions are based on feelings as well as on intellect. The author beautifully illustrates that strength can be intensified by solidarity of sentiment.
Lingering emotions and former plotlines mingle with facility in the yarn. Scenarios are neatly tied together, and residual hostilities are addressed and heightened for maximum dramatic potential. There is an emphasis on stark horror that makes for compelling reading. In the Author’s Note of this edition, F. Paul Wilson states that he’s “agreed to write three more Repairman Jack novels” set in earlier periods, to fill in historical gaps. Then he concludes: “I need to move on.” That’s all well and good. Who can complain considering how long Jack’s been around? With Nightworld, Jack again figures prominently and, bless him, makes a world of difference to an already fine tale.