F. Paul Wilson is without doubt, the finest writer of truly entertaining fiction on the shelves today. His face paced style of action meets espionage meets horror meets whatever the hell the imagination can come up with never becomes stale and his ability to tell a story as though he were sitting next to you is unparalelled.
Of all the trains in the city, the gunman just had to pick the one that Jack was riding. Jack saves a trainload of passengers in the first few pages of the book, almost has his identity blown by an overzealous reporter and then has to help his long lost sister get her friend out of what appears to be a weird cult. Jack is back and at his best. Get ready for a wild ride that only Repairman Jack can provide. I couldn't put this one down! This has something for everyone. Die-hard Jack fans will learn more about his past and be delighted to know that he's got some adventures ahead! Looks like the Otherness has a thing for him and it's not letting go. I can't wait for the next book!
Jack does have several wonderful moments -- with the subplots, especially. But he spends most of this book being uncharacteristically and inexplicably (not to mention unforgiveably) dense. The only rationaliziation for his obtuseness is to stretch the book out, and Wilson is usually above such sloppy plotting.
For any less enjoyable character and writing, this would rate only two stars. Since Jack remains so much fun, this squeaks by with three.
Jack has his own problems to deal with. Caught on a subway train with a mass murderer, he goes into action, shoots the killer and saves dozens of lives. Unfortunately, another passenger is Sandy Palmer, a third string reporter for a New York scandal sheet, who realizes this story is a chance to make it into the big time. Jack, who has made a career out of being totally anonymous, sees only that publicity will destroy his hard won independence. He is willing to do everything in his power to deflect Sandy's well meant attention.
In a Manhattan Delicatessen Joe and Stan Koslowski are reading Sandy's report on the train shootings when they realize that the hero Sandy is describing is their old nemesis. The brothers once made a living blowing people up until Jack was hired to return the favor. He left them alive, but destroyed up their home, their stash, and their reputation. Joe, disfigured in the final conflagration has only one thing on his mind - revenge.
And spread throughout the city are eight people, all treated by a mutated virus which has changed them utterly. Their brain tumors are gone, but so is their personality. Instead they are united by a telepathic hive mind. The virus that drives them has only one goal, to survive, to mutate, and to spread until it is the master of its world.
F. Paul Wilson weaves all these threads together in the kind of tightly plotted novel which is characteristic of the Repairman Jack series. This time, however, Jack may be in over his head. He may be able to stave off Sandy, and he may be able to befuddle the Koslowski's, but he has no hope of finding a cure for a mysterious virus. For once, the Repairman lacks the tools to do the job. It will take far more than Jack to resolve this problem, and he finds himself blocked at every turn.
This is a typical Wilson novel, well plotted, but a bit thin in characterization. After five novels in the series Jack had developed little, nor has Gia, his girlfriend. In fact all of the original characters are just as they were. This makes "Hosts" comfortable to read, but the characters are now so familiar they are almost parodies of themselves. The only real twist in this novel is that Jack must come to terms with Kate's homosexuality. A factor that deserved more attention than it received.
The Repairman Jack novels started out as horror stories with a strong supernatural bent, and have gradually become suspense stories with a slight touch of the spooky. The only hint of the weird is a strange Russian lady with a white Malamute who warns both Kate and Jack of trouble. It is she wo tells us that there is more to come. This has been an eminently readable series, and I look forward to far more of Repairman Jack.
Marc Ruby - for The Mystery Reader
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