The Dark at the End by F. Paul Wilson
Mao Tse Tung once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.” And then there’s that old Irish joke about the visiting American lost in the countryside who asks a farmer how to get to Dublin. The farmer advises, “I wouldn’t be starting from here if I were you. . .” All of which is a first step to a review of The Dark at the End by F. Paul Wilson (Gauntlet Press, 2011).
In my previous reviews I’ve been confidently writing the “news” that this volume completes the narrative arc to link up with Nightworld and so will be the last Repairman Jack novel. Yet, it seems pressure has been applied to Mr. Wilson (in the nicest possible way, of course, and probably involving the transfer of dollars) and the latest news is there will be three more books. This time he intends to fill in the gap between Jack’s arrival in New York and The Tomb. This will then be the new end and Jack will not be pining for New York. He will be no more. I’m not quite sure what I think of this. I suppose it will make a change to go back to his early days as an adult fixer — remember we’ve already seen him fixing a couple of things in Johnson which were a little tame — so it’s going to be all about Jack picking up experience while living under the radar. I’m not against the idea of Jack without the supernatural trappings. Some of the early novels do work well as almost pure thrillers. But we’ll have to wait and see how Jack’s moral code forms. One of the problems with the YA trilogy is the tendency to explain Jack’s early evolution. The difference between showing and telling led to some slightly soggy passages. As a mature fixer, Jack is formidable and just gets on without thinking to hard about what he’s doing. I fear we may meet a Jack who’s overintellectualising his development into a “hero”.
Which is my way of filling in before starting the review of The Dark at the End. The opening sections are actually rather flat, slightly lacking the characteristic Wilson sparkle on the prose front. There’s a rushed feel to it as if he’s working hard to summon enthusiasm for finishing this grand project and just wants to see it done. After a while, it settles down and gets more of a flow to it, but it’s not quite as smooth a read as some of the earlier books. As to the plot, we see everything now poised for Rasalom to unleash “Hell on Earth”. The Lady is no longer broadcasting and Jack’s attack on the One has failed. The way all the pieces are moved around the board is pleasingly precise, ensuring we get where we need to be for Nightworld to work — although, truth be told, Wilson has been at work revising the original which first appeared back in 1992. At lot has been happening in the intervening years and getting all the dots on the “i”s and crosses on the “t”s will take some tweaking. The definitive version is due out sometime in 2012.
So there you have it. For those of you who, like me have been waiting for this book, it delivers a good ending of the narrative arc. For everyone else, don’t start reading this series here. You won’t know who anyone is nor why they are acting in sometimes bizarre ways. If you genuinely want to be completest with Jack, start with the YA books and then get on to the series proper. If you want to big picture, follow this link for the storyline.