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WesternSFA
Nightworld
A Repairman Jack Novel
by F. Paul Wilson
Tor, $25.99, 398pp
Release Date: May 22, 2012

This is it: the revised, expanded, updated conclusion to the epic Secret History of the World stories and novels that include the Adversary cycle and the Repairman Jack story arc, including three young adult novels of Jack’s formative teenage years. In this book’s Author’s Note, Wilson writes “… I have agreed to write three more Repairman Jack novels from the period between his arrival in NYC and The Tomb, just to fill in those gaps…. After those books, it is over….I need to move on.” Fair enough.

Long time readers who already know the old Nightworld will find the expansion gratifyingly fleshes out Jack’s role in the endgame; newcomers will be on the edge of their seats as arch-villain Rasalom attains his supremacy. Rasalom can now operate with an utter disregard for the laws of nature and physics: he can open bottomless pits; he can send out swarms of murderous horrors; he can teleport simulacrums of himself to torment his enemies and telepathically mock them. All this is now possible because Rasalom has finally succeeded in isolating humanity from The One – an impersonal, galactic Presence that affords sentient species a degree of protection from the destructiveness of The Other, the consuming entity that battens off of pain and fear and hatred, of which Rasalom is the avatar. Previously, the sentient soul of humanity and all life on earth was represented by The Lady, a seemingly middle-aged black woman who always had a dog with her. But now The Lady has been “killed” three times, and most of humanity seems to have chosen fear over courage, cruelty over kindness, and greed over responsibility. Humanity, having abandoned conscience and self-restraint, has consequently been abandoned to its own devices.

Glaeken, the Champion who has opposed Rasalom for millennia, refuses to give in to despair – that would give Rasalom the victory. He sends the two other men who have earned Rasalom’s particular hatred, Jack and Bill, to opposite ends of the earth to find the scattered fragments of the original artifact that can throw a spanner into Rasalom’s machinations.

Jack’s task is to retrieve the two necklaces that prolong life and bestow certain protections to their wearers from their keeper, the beautiful but dangerous Kolabati. Jack is loath to leave behind the two people he loves best in the world, Gia and her daughter Vicky; but when he sees the terror of the situation, he entrusts them to Abe, his old friend who knows a thing or two about survival and a thing or three about defensive weaponry.

Bill is sent to the ruins of the Keep, the tower that once held Rasalom imprisoned. Accompanying him is Nick, a young physicist who has the misfortune to get too close to Rasalom in an investigative capacity and barely survives.

Meanwhile Carol, that much enduring woman, who seems like the unacknowledged soul of the world, the uncapitalized Lady, remains at the edge of the abyss, refusing to look in, but nevertheless witnessing all that comes from Rasalom’s will to harm. Carol, like all quiet heroes of the story, including the radio announcers who stay on the job and the doctors who keep at their posts, epitomize how “it is very difficult for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”

And what of Rasalom’s followers and minions, the ones who have consented, who have been promised power in his wake? Aristocratic Ernst Drexler has enjoyed the good life for decades while facilitating Rasalom’s ascension, and the streetwise Hank Thompson has also played a part in clearing the way. Do they enjoy the harvest of their sowing? Hank is an especially intriguing character, because he has so much in common with Jack while being his opposite number. Hank is an Un-Repairman and completely selfish; his skills and mindset are shadow versions of Jack’s: very similar, but put to diametrically opposed uses.

There are a number of questions along the lines of “What happens to so-and-so?” that go unanswered; but if you have enough imagination to visualize the described scenes in your mind’s eye, you can answer these questions for yourself; reading is, after all, a co-creative act.

Does the healing power that exacts a price from the wielder, which used to manifest in an alcoholic Viet Nam vet, reappear? Yes. Does Glaeken convince Jack to take up the burden of The Guardian? That would be telling. Does a mysterious Lady, accompanied by a dog, show up anywhere in the story? Read and find out. And along the way, enjoy the odd moments of whimsy, as in the description of the mansion referred to as Toad Hall – a lovely tribute to the classic children’s book by Kenneth Graeme, The Wind in the Willows. Wilson’s contribution to epic, apocalyptic story-telling is officially “complete” with this revision of Nightworld, but we still have the three promised prequels to look forward to; and I, for one, am eager to see what else Wilson has in mind to share, once he has “moved on.” ~~ Chris R. Paige, Tucson , AZ.

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