F. Paul Wilson is one of the wave of horror-thriller writers to come after Stephen King who haven’t gotten the degree of cultural awareness that King has gotten. This is particularly odd considering that he created a very interesting character who is featured in the book I’m reviewing today – Repairman Jack.
Writer: F. Paul Wilson
ISBN: 076536137X, 978-0765361370
First Published: 2000.
Available from Amazon.com
Repairman Jack is, basically, an urban mercenary who helps the more-or-less helpless by “fixing” situations – finding missing persons, helping deal with abusive spouses and so on. Essentially, he’s an off-the-grid superhero for hire – and one who has previously had run-ins with supernatural forces (in his first appearance in The Tomb). Jack’s latest case involves a husband who hires him to find a missing wife, who was supposed to give a presentation at a convention put on by conspiracy theorist group SESOUP, which is also where most of the leads lie. However, the evil that Jack thought he had destroyed in The Tomb has far more minions then Jack thought.
Wilson gets enthusiast conventions. Check that, he doesn’t simply get enthusiast conventions, he groks them. Yes, the enthusiast convention in question is one for conspiracy theorists of all stripes, from UFO believers to Black Helicopter nuts to others. Still, it works. The convention is mostly populated by casual enthusiasts, who aren’t necessarily “True Believers” but we see in the background wearing “Keep Watching The Skies” T-Shirts, to the more passionate True Believers who Jack spends most of his time with, who resent the perceived “commercialization” of what they consider to be deadly serious.
The story has no denouement to speak of. It literally ends immediately after the climax. Now, if the next book (either in the Repariman Jack series or Wilson’s Otherness mythos) picks up immediately after this one, but if it doesn’t then that really doesn’t help the book much.
The story’s C-Plot, of Jack working a domestic violence case, feels a little out of place. If it wasn’t for the fact that there aren’t a lot of short story magazines where a story like that could get published (there isn’t anything particularly genre about it), I’d say that it would work considerably better as a short story.
Originality: The book is a sequel (not to mention being the third installment of a series), and part of Wilson’s “Otherness” mythos. I can’t say isn’t anything here that I haven’t seen before. However, I haven’t quite seen this combination of these elements before. 4 out of 6.
Imagery: Wilson paints some very distinct images of New York City and its citizens, as well as the attendees of the SESOUP convention. 5 out of 6.
Story: The pacing of this is fairly slow – with horrific acts happening very sparingly, and answers similarly being doled out slowly until the story’s final conclusion, where things pick up quickly, then slam to a screeching halt. If I were to chart out the action, I’d say that the story has a very slow rise, coming to sudden spike at the very end, and then stopping. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: Each of the characters have a fairly unique personality – with the one minor weakness of the various True Believers at the SESOUP convention, who are all pretty interchangeable, with the exception of their passionate belief in their respective conspiracy theories. 4 out of 6.
Emotional Response: 5 out of 6.
Editing: 5 out of 6.
Overall: I wouldn’t say that this is the best book in the Repairman Jack series, but it is an extremely enjoyable book. 4 out of 6.
In Total, Conspiracies gets 31 out of 42.
To really do justice to Repairman Jack, you should probably start at the beginning with The Tomb.
Wilson has taken his original six stories, which were not related, and turned them into something called The Adversary Cycle. Now all of his books are tied together, and he’s rewriting the final novel Nightworld to reflect this.
As part of this effort, Wilson has been writing Repairman Jack novels almost non-stop for the last couple years. And I have to say that he’s damaged the character — the last six to eight books have primarily advanced the Adversary Cycle story line at the expense of good Repairman Jack plots. I didn’t particularly enjoy the latest release, Fatal Error, for just this reason.
That being said, Conspiracies takes place early in the Repairman Jack series, and is recommended.
And here is the chronological list of Wilson’s Adversary Cycle works. I recommend reading them in that order versus in the order of publication.