on 18 December 2013
What to say? This book was awesome! I typically read and review fantasy, so this was a break from the norm for me. Apparently this series delves into that genre later on, but there wasn't any of it in here. I'm glad I read it though as everything about it I loved.
I have never read a "Jack the Repairman" book by F. Paul Wilson before of which there are a lot already. This is the first of a prequel series to those other novels (which I will read). Consequently, I already knew Jack survived, but even without the fear of death on the plate, the book kept me captivated and rooting for our "hero". Since I knew nothing of what comes after, everything was new to me. I look forward to lots of "ah-ha!" moments as I "catch up" with the series.
The book takes place along the eastern seaboard of the US in the early/mid 1990s, but mostly within New York City. Our hero is a college dropout who is about off the radar as much as anyone can be. He lacks a social security number, a license, even a telephone. And that is exactly the way he wants it.
Every single character is rich in personality. Each is unique and has their own desires. Dialogue is fantastic - not once did I think to myself "who would say that" - and the conversations all flowed fast and smooth. The attention to details the author took with the characters is something only those who read other people very well can manage. I was truly blown away by these aspects of the book. If you love great characterization, you will do flips for this book.
The plot was amazing too. There were always four or five things going on at once between multiple factions. From the mob and jihadist terrorists, to Latin gangs and tobacco runners, you never knew what was going to happen next. There was mystery and suspense on almost every page with new clues that lead to more questions while providing the answers you wanted to know. I can't forget to mention the love interest that came into play despite our hero's reluctance or his mysterious best friend who owns a successful sporting shop yet never has any customers. I can't give enough accolades for this book.
I rate this book a stunning 5 out of 5 stars. If you like mystery and thrillers you will devour this novel.
Having read all the Repairman Jack novels and even bought some of them twice in revised editions, I thought I had seen the end of this series and was missing it, like an old friend. So I was very glad to see the new trilogy, which looks at how Jack got started and how he met all the characters who inhabit his world.
This first part of the trilogy covers 1990 and Jack doesn't really see it as a good year - he is alone and clearly still mourning the death of his mother to a random killer. But we start to see how he first met up with Julio at his favourite New York bar and Abe in his sports shop - we get explanations for how they got started and why Jack is so tied in to both these characters.
We are also introduced to Jack's opponents - the first mention of "the One" and the introduction of a less than infallible Drexler. However, this is a "down to earth" story with none of the supernatural or fantastical elements that inhabit the life of the adult Jack. Here he is just finding his way in the big city, amongst all the lowest elements of society and with just his wits and aggression to help him.
What this seems to be about is how you find morality in a world which doesn't seem to reward it - how you find others with similar integrity. Jack is no saint and he dispenses rough justice, but he still tries to be a good man and this book shows how he is tested, yet manages to find solutions that sit with his conscience and how he finds others who have a similar world view. He doesn't find many and his path seems lonely, with many more on the other side of the equation. But the message seems to be that one or two true friends, beat any notion of popularity or superficial "success".
There are many other characters and the fun of reading this as a prequel is knowing that some will survive and others must fade from the scene - but it's how they do that and how that shapes Jack's situation? There is a plot that ties this together and it moves along quite nicely - so anybody who hasn't read any of these books before, could quite happily start here and see it as a gritty crime/thriller. But those who are already fans can enjoy this even more, as the answer to questions about the tight-lipped and enigmatic Jack - although the newcomers have the joy of going on to a large number of stories already in print.
It's a win/win situation for both.
on 6 July 2013
Cold City is the first in the Repairman Jack prequel series following the end of his regular series. F.Paul Wilson has said that he will do this trilogy and then that's it for Jack. We'll see if that happens. This is actually an interesting book, seeing Jack when he's still learning the ropes. Unfortunately, it feels like a first book in a series, with the pluses and minuses that usually entails.
It's 1990, and a man named Jack (we never will find out his last name, I don't believe) has dropped out of college and headed to New York to make his way. Strange things have been happening to him, dark urges that he must fight before they overwhelm him. He's gone off the grid, living on cash and the odd jobs that will pay him that, which almost necessitates some jobs that are a bit on the shady side. After he suffers one dark attack and almost kills a co-worker who has been bullying him, he's not sure what to do. Getting hired as a driver to smuggle cigarettes is quite lucrative and will definitely keep him able to live well--and buy the weaponry he might need for the days ahead. Especially when he encounters a preteen smuggling ring, some jihadists, and the mob trying to deal with his good friend, the bartender Julio. With all of that, he may be wishing for a monster from the dawn of time to deal with.
After having gotten to know Jack over the long course of the original series, it's interesting to see the basis for that personality we've grown to love. In 1990, he's very green, making mistakes and learning the lesson that sometimes you have to be ruthless to make sure things don't come back to bite you. He's already living off of the grid but hasn't quite been able to put his past behind him.
Wilson still has that flair for mixing his creations with real-world events. Jack gets mixed up in the murder of the rabbi Meir Kahane; the jihadists who carried it out are now fleshed out to be part of the Adversary's group (though they don't know it). I have a feeling Wilson will be working toward the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 before the series is out.
Wilson's characerization is top-notch, delivering the Jack we're all familiar with but who is yet still different because he's new at all of this. Abe is the same lovable curmudgeon that he's always been, and we see how he becomes Jack's supplier for pretty much anything he needs: weaponry, a skilled person to do a job, whatever. The villains also get that treatment, as they usually do in a Wilson novel, getting fleshed out into three dimensions.
Wilson ties it all together in a wonderful web of intrigue, with things coming together in different ways. The only real fault in the book--and it's not so much a fault as a minor annoyance based on how Wilson's previous books have gone--is that nothing is resolved despite coming together. This is clearly the first book in a trilogy, and unlike previous books (with the exception of the end of the original Repairman Jack cycle, where things ramped up to the conclusion), this one doesn't have an ending with threads that will continue into the next book.
Cold City flat-out doesn't have a climax. Instead, it pauses as everybody regroups, and there's a nice discussion between Abe and Jack about fate, butterflies, and God. I loved the conversation but wish there had been a bit of resolution to something. Even as the first in a trilogy, it feels very incomplete.
That being said, Cold City is a great novel, even better for those Jack fans who've been pining since the end of his modern-day series. You can understand things with no problem if you're new to the Jack-verse, but fans of the books will get so much more out of it.
Either way, give this one a read.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book © Dave Roy, 2013