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F. Paul Wilson


US Hardcover Limited

ISBN 1-887-36820-5

Publication Date: 1999

327 Pages; $50.00


F. Paul Wilson

Tor Books / Tom Doherty Associates

US Mass Market Paperback

ISBN: 0-812-56699-8

Publication Date: 10-2000

448 pages; $6.99


Date Reviewed: 08-23-02

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction

08-26-02, 12-06-02, 01-07-03

The world of conspiracy theorists is dangerous ground for even the experienced novelist. The reality is already weird enough so that a writer runs the risk of creating a fantasy less interesting than the truth. If the writer errs on the side of accuracy, there is potential for trivializing his subject. If a writer goes for the humor, not only can it seem as if they're taking aim at an easy target, but there is ample opportunity to create a 'straw man' that is easy to knock down with boring results. In 'Conspiracies', his third recent Repairman Jack novel, F. Paul Wilson runs the gauntlet and comes up with a winner. In large part, this is due to the endearing nature of Repairman Jack himself, but Wilson is experienced and canny enough to avoid the obvious pitfalls. He's also smart enough to come up with a nicely conceived plot that ties the novel to the other Repairman Jack novels and even to 'The Keep'. He's creating his own conspiracy in the web of connections between his novels.

The novel begins as Jack is contacted by Lew Ehler, whose wife Melanie has gone missing. Jack's first response is 'I don't do missing wives'. The circumstances of Melanie's disappearance manage to change his mind. Lew and Melanie are players in the world of conspiracy theory. In fact, Melanie managed to interrupt Lew's viewing of The Weather Channel by talking to him from the TV, warning him that only Repairman Jack could help her. Jack masquerades as a UFO contactee to attend the conference where Melanie was supposed present a paper where she tied all conspiracies together in her Grand Unification Theory (GUT). 'Conspiracies' is filled with abbreviations. Jack is at first bemused by the Conspiracy theorists and their characters are for the most part fairly predictable. But nightmares, murders, disappearing corpses and a creature straight out of the Book of Revelations bring things into a very different perspective.

'Conspiracies' is an excellent demonstration of extremely skilled series fiction. Readers find out more about Jack, but not too much. The story itself is a gripping bit of supernatural mystery, with enough elements of both to keep readers of both genres satisfied. 'Conspiracies' also moves the plot of Jack's confrontations with the supernatural forward, upping the ante while re-affirming Jack's desire to keep his feet on the ground. The reason Repairman Jack makes such a great protagonist in a novel of the supernatural is that he's so pragmatic in his approach to everything, including the supernatural. Wilson consistently creates ingenious pranks and stunts for Jack that seem eminently reasonable and do-able.

Wilson takes some chances in 'Conspiracies', and they mostly pay off. By upping the ante for supernatural action, he risks losing mystery fans who don't like to deviate from the straight and narrow. But those who do will be more deeply hooked than before. You'll want to have read a number of Wilson's novels to keep up on his general thrust. You should start with 'The Keep', follow up with 'The Tomb', then at the very least read 'Legacies' before you read 'Conspiracies'. You'd be well advised to read 'The Touch', 'Reborn', 'Reprisal' and 'Nightworld' after 'The Tomb' and before 'Legacies'. But add them all up and you've got a conspiracy of major proportions, one that results in 'Conspiracies'.

This makes 'Conspiracies' something of a lynchpin novel in the Repairman Jack saga, and it is becoming a saga. Jack is up against a dark force that Wilson mines for a variety of effects. He's a master at changing directions but keeping the tone and character consistent across a number of novels. Sometimes the novels might strike a science fictional tone, and others are pure supernatural horror. Still other moments are gripping detective mysteries, and others actually funny humor. Some readers might not find the mix right; this isn't highly textured artistic prose, it's a wide-open supernatural/science fiction detective series that aims for entertainment. It's a bull's eye and an artistic success as well, as Wilson creates a character who might encounter anything, anytime. If you're willing to be surprised with every new novel, then Repairman Jack and F. Paul Wilson are the right men for the job. The limited edition nets you a couple of signatures, a much nicer cover design courtesy Harry O. Morris, an interior deisgn by Morris as well, and much nicer print job.