Dark City by F. Paul Wilson
Dark City by F. Paul Wilson (Tor, 2013) sees the in-filling continue in the Repairman Jack saga. For those of you keeping count, there were the three books dealing with the teen years and then we have the sixteen book series leading up to the revised Nightworld which also concludes the Adversary Cycle. This is the second book in the Early Years Trilogy. This new sequence shows Jack arriving in New York in February 1991, and beginning to establish the basis of the career in which he becomes the Repairman. In Cold City, he consolidates the friendship with Abe, and meets Julio and the Mikulski brothers. There’s excitement as Jack gets involved in an operation to disrupt a child sex abuse ring which leads us into a story with multiple threads.
At this point I need to take one step back and write a few words for those who have not previously encountered Repairman Jack. Here’s a listing of the running order so far: http://www.repairmanjack.com/forum/content.php?157≈ As you can see, this is an epic piece of work and everything is woven together. The characters who appear in this book are fairly constant throughout the series and, for those of you new to the series, the coincidences which save our hero are not coincidences. For example, the “woman” known as Mrs Clevinger plays the guardian angel to save Jack, and on the other side, Drexler is deep in the thick of things to recruit helpers to promote chaos when the “time” comes. In fact, the teen and early years set of books is all part of a major irony which runs throughout the series. From the outset, Jack is a young man in search of himself as an independent person. He wants to live an unremarked life, below the radar. As we find him in this novel, he’s living on cash reserves. He has no social security number, no bank account, and no credit card. He thinks he’s finding his own way yet, unknown to him, he’s being shepherded — “groomed” is not quite the right word because it’s acquired an unfortunate sexual connotation — in a particular direction. If you read this book as a standalone, there will be much you will not understand. Yes, the book has exciting passages but, without a context, I suspect you will struggle to derive any consistent enjoyment. So because the YA books are less than perfect for adult sensibilities, the advice has to be to go back to the true beginning, i.e. Black Wind and The Keep. That way, you get a better understanding what’s happening and why. The only downside to this is that you’re no longer reading a conventional thriller. From the outset, the overarching narrative is a supernatural or horror thriller. If that’s not your thing, it may be a good idea not to start because, as the series gets closer to Year Zero, it grows more obviously supernatural (in the broadest sense of the word because elements of the plot are actually science fiction).
For the purposes of this plot, we have the first early planning of terrorist action against the Twin Towers. This is going to use Moslem jihadists to plant a bomb. We get to the 9/11 assault in Ground Zero (secret history stories are great fun). So this episode sees Jack still pursued by the “Dominicans”, Jack changing apartments, buying a new car, and thinking about where his relationship with Cristin might be going, and a second auction set up as a trap. As is required in Repairman novels, there’s quite a high body count. In this case, we’re also into exploring the best response to the sexual abuse of children. Needless to say, this book is not suggesting probation and/or other noncustodial forms of treatment aimed at rehabilitation. It assumes the worst of the men and takes a firm line in punishment. That this also disrupts the plans both of Drexler and the jihadists is an unappreciated side effect.
Since I’ve been reading F. Paul Wilson from the beginning of his writing career, Dark City was a necessary addition to the pile to read. As a fan it does not disappoint. It maintains the usual pace with plenty of incident to entertain on the way to a satisfying climax and a good hook into the final volume in the immediate trilogy.
A copy of this book was sent to me for review.