Children of the Sun > Reading & Writing

Repairman Jack

(1/2) > >>

The man:  F. Paul Wilson
(do not read the book synopses!  They give shit away.  I'll link the important ones below.)

I got into him because, in 1989, I watched Michael Mann's The Keep:

The Keep is about a group of Nazi's who take charge of a distant fortress in Eastern Europe that happens to be the prison of an ancient evil known as Rasalom (the “Adversary”).  Rasalom is Satan, or good enough.  A couple of soldiers think they have a lead on a hidden treasure and, of course, they set into motion events which release Rasalom from his prison...and this calls on an equally ancient agent of "good." (though Wilson doesn't believe in "good" in his books.  Rather, the forces of good are just trying to keep balance in a giant, cosmic war wherein we're just specks of dirt.)

The agent of good comes and battles Rasalom and Nazi's and everything ends happily ever after.

The Keep is a star-studded, richly-filmed, haunting movie.  It makes little sense and is less than enjoyable... Except for the Tangerine Dream music which is overwhelming and worth the price of admission alone.  It's like a music video movie.

So I just ruined the movie... But that's because the books are different. 

We open with The Keep, roughly the same story.  But it's simply the opening volley of an ancient battle between a force that, later in the series, becomes known as "The Otherness"  and another force known as "The Ally."  The Otherness is a larger force behind the Adversary, Rasalom, and other enemies we'll meet in the series.  It's a force -- alien, supernatural, whatever -- that sees Humanity as a great little race to take over and gain a foothold on the territory held by The Ally in this war we'll never understand.

Sounds like heaven vs. hell, but it's not.  There's no religious shit in this.

The Adversary Cycle is six books.  They are all standalone, except for the last book which brings the five previous plots together in a huge fucking blowout showdown.

The Keep

Nazis are fun!  And the book is strangely intoxicating.

The Tomb

We meet Repairman Jack for the first time.  Jack is an everyman.  Medium build, brown hair, no distinguishing characteristics.  What's he do?  He fixes problems... Any problem.  He's a one man A Team, except not so flashy.  He takes on a client and he fights for the just cause.  And, man, does he know what he's doing.  He takes a pounding and gives one back just as well.  In The Tomb...he meets the supernatural.  A seemingly overwhelming force, including vicious little raptor-monsters.  But that's no problem for Jack!  This is action-adventure with far east mysticism.

The Touch

A troubled doctor finds himself able to miraculously cure anyone even while life around him falls apart.  But the touch that heals is also the touch that curses.  This is serial killer crime fiction.

End phase one.

Now we crank some shit up.  Evil released, ancient warrior called to fight it, a young hero discovered, a doctor cursed with healing powers...


Secrets revealed, and a cast of strange and haunted characters slowly come together around events that began in the Keep -- the fallout from the end of that book... Rasalom's name is uttered again... 

This one is classic horror fiction.


Twenty years after Reborn, this is a direct continuation from Reborn.


Ladies and gentlemen... I present to you, the apocalypse.  The Otherness on earth, Rasalom walks again, the warrior of the Ally is forced to return, and Repairman Jack returns as well.  All of our characters make a showing... The world plunges into darkness, and the final battle is in New York City. 

Adversary against Ally, with our beloved (and most hated) characters in the middle.  Who will win...?

Now we take a break.  Wilson ended the series there (we find out who wins, of course), and he returned to medical fiction.  He's a doctor.  Not a fantasy writer.  He does a bunch of Robin Cook shit.  I followed him, both as a fan and hearing snippets through my industry contacts.  Wilson's agent was screaming for him to go back to Repairman Jack.  Of the whole cycle, the Tomb is the biggest seller.  People are ga-ga for Jack.  Wilson resists and resists until, finally, he caves in.

And, of course, now he's on top of a pile of money.

But how to approach a Repairman Jack cycle?  Jack's fate is clearly resolved in Nightworld.  So Wilson does something really weird.  He sets the first Repairman Jack novel immediately following The Tomb and follows a path through all of the events between then and when we next see Jack in the Adversary Cycle -- the final reel of Nightworld.

Jack's solving crimes.  He's fixing problems, existing off the grid and beneath our noses.  Throughout the Jack series, we get to know his background...and we learn that the Otherness knows of his potential early on (or, at least, the fact that he, or the old hero from the Keep, exist).  The Ally, of course, knows all about Jack, and is a constant presence in the background.  The former is trying to destroy him but, because the Ally is involved, neither can make a definite move.  Jack must follow his own path.  Along the way, he battles the agents of the Adversary, constantly trying to jump start the events in Nightworld, but he also fixes plenty of regular problems.  Sometimes straight-up crime fiction, and sometimes soaked with flying Tesla machines, apocalyptic plagues, and ghosts, you never know what to expect.

As the series works its way up to Nightworld (we're now a year away, series time) things start to get hairy for Jack.


(touching very lightly on events in The Reborn)

Straight up crime fiction, with a hint of the paranormal.


Jack hits the first real supernatural wall since his experiences in The Tomb.  We got plenty of hints in Legacies -- more just "you know what I know" stuff from Wilson.  Now Jack's given the first of many hints that drop on him like a brink on his foot.

We start the big Otherness-Ally battle with Jack in the middle here -- sometimes the theme of future books, and sometimes just a subplot.  Throughout, though, the subplot is coming together for a showdown.  Everything's connected, and slowly revealed to us.  What happened three books ago is suddenly put into focus, sometimes in an offhand casual manner.  Most always in a way that Jack doesn't see...but we do.  It's wildly delicious.

All The Rage

Jack battles corporate fucks who are running a nasty new designer drug.  The supernatural is sub-plot here, we get straight up action and an especially satisfying ending.


This one is the best of the series.  We open with a madman on the subway and a bloody shootout, after which Jack is pursued by a reporter.  Pretty bad for a guy who's not supposed to exist.

Meanwhile, his sister shows up out of the blue.  The story revolves around pure-Adversary shenanigans.  Think 28 Days Later, except far more insidious, ominous and chilling.  We get a long chapter where Jack meets the force behind the virus and enjoys a little flash forward that's good enough for a book on its own.

The Haunted Air

Tesla, baby.  And whatever is in that pit is all ready for the coming battle. Jack's got himself a murder cult and a monster to battle.


Jack travels to Florida after his father is critically injured.  Here he finally meets one of the Ally's familiars (always an old woman with a dog) who's talkative and gives Jack, and all the readers, a little light on what's going on.  Though we've been putting it together behind Jack's dopey back.  Wilson just tightens the knot a bit.  But no time for that -- Where the Ally is, so is the Adversary...


Jack battles a cultist church, very much like the Scientologists.  But these bastards are mean... Won't stop Jack, though.  For the first time, we start to see direct links (and so does Jack) to previous Otherness-related events.  This carries over to the next book, as well.  Something wicked is coming... If Jack can survive his two fix-its.


Jack, forced to work with his brother on a Caribbean paranormal adventure, comes to realize that the tragedy visited on his sister in Hosts, on his father in Gateways (and this book), and now on his brother, is the work of the Otherness.

And the latest, which I’m reading now:  Harbingers.

Chock full of answers about the Ally, the Otherness and the Adversary.

Fajwat -- to answer an earlier question, I have on hand five of the 16.  They're now on the table in the hall, so you can compare to the list.  Read the Adversary Cycle so long ago, I have no idea where it is... And the other books will be too hard to dig up.  You can get the remaining Jack books for pennies... But watch out with the Adversary Cycle.  Wilson made a big no-no.  As he wrote the Jack books, and the battle between the Adversary and the Ally deepened, Wilson went back and retconned the Adversary Cycle to match up.  So you now get the old cycle, which barely fits into what the universe has become, and the new cycle.

--- Quote ---In 1987, after finishing BLACK WIND, I started on REBORN. I'd outlined it years before but it didn't gel. I wanted it to look like a ROSEMARY'S BABY or an OMEN but actually be something different (just as THE KEEP looks like a vampire novel for a while, but it's not). I wanted to use an evil entity other than the tired old Antichrist, but who? Then I realized I already had that entity in Rasalom. I needed a suburban setting convenient to Manhattan, and realized I already had one in Monroe where THE TOUCH took place. I became intrigued by the challenge of tying those novels, and THE TOMB as well, into Rasalom's reincarnation, bringing the books full circle.

Things grew from there. The result was an outline for a 1,000-plus-page novel. Nobody was going to publish that, so I broke it down into a trilogy and sold it that way. But it remains a single novel-a roman fleuve, if you will.

The first three novels of the cycle-THE KEEP, THE TOMB, and THE TOUCH-are all stand-alones and can be read in any order, but all three should be read before the final three, which should be read in this order: REBORN, REPRISAL, NIGHTWORLD.
--- End quote ---

Oh, Wilson has linked up most of his stories since 1984.  This should turn you on (or off):


--- Quote from: nacho on December 04, 2006, 11:13:20 PM ---You can get the remaining Jack books for pennies... But watch out with the Adversary Cycle.  Wilson made a big no-no.  As he wrote the Jack books, and the battle between the Adversary and the Ally deepened, Wilson went back and retconned the Adversary Cycle to match up.  So you now get the old cycle, which barely fits into what the universe has become, and the new cycle.

--- End quote ---

Err.. thanks, that's a lot of information (and a lot of books).  So... help me out just a little more and tell me please: 1) I want the original, non-retconned Adversary books, yes?  Is that what you read?  2) shouldn't I read those originals before reading the later Repairman series novels you've laid out in the hallway?  Or you think I'd be fine starting anywhere or..?

Start with the Adversary Cycle.  The Jack books take place between the second book (The Tomb) and the last book (Nightworld).  But they're written with the knowledge that everybody read the Adversary Cycle, so it sort of fleshes out everything that happened in between and what was going on in the other books.  Very nice. 

All the background subplot stuff will be lost unless you read the Adversary Cycle first.

So, yes.  Read the AC first.

I read the original AC, yes.  But... The retconned version is supposed to better plug into the Jack books.  FPW had to fiddle with the time frame, and he wasn't as detailed with the Adversary, Ally (and...a third force?) battle originally.  We got it, but not as rich as Jack's world. 

As far as I can tell, all FPW did was fix the dates of events to match the Jack books and add a few other tidbits... Stuff that is both clumsy and redundant (because the Jack books have said it already).  So I'm going to say:  It doesn't matter.  Go to the used store in SS and grab the old ones off the shelves and just be aware that dates and times and other things may be off when, ten books later, things start coming up again. But that's okay because when a guy is battling an otherworldly dinosaur in the pine barrens while being chased by supernatural globes of light, all escaped from a carnival of death, you've already suspended your disbelief.

okay, thanks.  i can't remember dates anyhow


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version