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F. Paul Wilson

Gauntlet Publications

US Signed Limited Edition First

ISBN 1-887368-46-9

Publication Date: 2001

363 Pages; $50

Date Reviewed: 05-31-02

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery

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

Disease is one of those real-world horrors that nobody can avoid. We've all caught a cold. We've all had the flu. We've all heard about flu pandemic of 1918. 20 to 40 MILLION people died in this event that gets less press than the latest facelift drug upgrade. So -- it's established we're scared of diseases and with good reason. Disease is not an uncommon topic for horror writers. Michael Crichton made his name with a killer disease in 'The Andromeda Strain' -- and spawned a book selling, movie franchise empire. In 'Hosts', F. Paul Wilson posits one of my favorite threats -- a sentient disease, and pits it against the ever-resourceful Repairman Jack. The reader might have a sentiment who will win the battle, but that won't stop you from watching the pages whip by at light speed. And that won't prepare you for the costs.

First and foremost, 'Hosts' is a novel in a series, and while readers could theoretically jump in and start here, they'd be well advised to go back to 'The Tomb', or at least the latest set of Repairman Jack novels, 'Legacies', 'Conspiracies' and 'All The Rage'. Any questions -- the answers are at Wilson's Repairman Jack Web site, -- A look at the 'Grand Unification' page will inform you that Wilson has woven a pretty tangled web. So, let's presume that you've read the basics above. What you want to know is this -- how's the latest Repairman Jack novel?

I'd have to say it was pretty rockin'. It starts as Repairman Jack is reunited with his sister. Turns out Kate Iverson's gay and hasn't seen Jack in 15 years, but now she needs help. Her partner, Jeanette Vega, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor has made a startling recovery. Too startling, it appears -- she's joined a cult. Meanwhile -- there's always a meanwhile in these latter-day RJ novels -- Jack has some pretty severe problems of his own. Caught in a potential subway massacre, he's forced to show his hand and act. He takes out the potential mass-murderer, but is seen doing so. His anonymity is at stake. His very life is at stake. Gauntlet makes a very attractive book, with nice cover art by Harry Morris, a nice binding, and a signature page for about $15 more than you'll pay for the Trade Tor edition. If you're interested in first editions, these are certainly worth the very fair price.

The resolution to these and other problems take Jack further into Wilson's mythology than he's ever gone, and take more from him than the reader expects. Wilson does a fantastic job at creating new characters, particularly Sandy, the tabloid reporter who twigs onto Jack's unique occupation, if not his identity. He also plays hardball, putting his charters into real jeopardy. As he does so, he expands the story, bringing back characters from other tangential series to help raise the stakes.

Wilson's menace here is ingenious and insidious. He also preserves the humor that has made the Repairman Jack novels more enjoyable than the average thriller. His prose rockets away underneath the reader in the best traditions of King and Koontz. Most importantly, the reader really comes to love Repairman Jack, and look forward to his annual outing. In fact, in researching this review (the price of the book is not on the jacket), I made the enjoyable discovery that the latest novel is due out next month. I'm signing up now. If you've read and enjoyed the Repairman Jack novels, then you can't afford to miss 'Hosts'. If you haven't read them, start with 'The Tomb' and get ready for a long summer of reading.