on 30 May 2012
< This is a review of the revised and expanded version of `Nightworld' published by F. Paul Wilson in 2012, although some of the comments are relevant to the earlier (circa. 1992) version of this novel. >
`Nightworld' is where it all ends. What began with `The Keep' and was continued through a number (one could almost say innumerable) `Repairman Jack' novels is tied up and finished in this novel. In it we say goodbye to a number of favourite characters (both good and bad) and some which should never have been allowed into print. It's a good novel, but a novel of two-halves.
On the plus side this is a fine end to the Adversary Cycle/ Secret History of the World Cycle which has taken up the more recent Repairman Jack novels (inc. the Young Repairman Jack novels). Praise where praise is due, the sheer readability of these novels has kept me returning to F. Paul Wilson year-on-year, as a new novel in the sequence is published.
As in all good horror novels the characters aren't too overdeveloped* (we never get a look into the inner lives of most of them), rather the novel is events driven, yet they have become well known to us over the past few years. It also has Rasalom (aka. The Adversary, Sara Lom, Rafe Losmara, Sal Roma: the possibilities are endless - let the reader understand), perhaps one of the most ridiculously bad baddies in recent years. It is the perfect read for a long journey home. The ideas are also interesting: Chaos/ Gravity Holes, airborne Leviathans, creates from the chaos realms etc. There is also Wilson's ability to understand and write about society on the edge, of what humanity might be like were the rules of society suddenly to disappear, though one cannot help but think that this has more to do with his right wing political philosophy (Libertarianism) than it is necessarily to do with his creative spark.
On the negative side: What F. Paul Wilson has never done well and which hasn't been improved in the rewrite is the twee nature of Jeffy and the Gia/ Vicky relationship. In what should be the darkest of horror novels, charting the end of civilisation as we know it, these two bring light and insufferable childish niceness so that when they appear, my heart immediately sinks. Whilst the latter is (unfortunately) integral to the plot, I do wish the former had remained a thought in Wilson's head or had been edited out at an earlier stage in the cycle.
There is also the problem of the constant and often near indecipherable Americanisms which litter the text - yes Wilson is an American author, but American authors seem to get stuck on Americanism which makes their novels appear provincial to those who live on the other side of the Atlantic and thus who don't share their product driven society. I appreciate that Wilson is an American author, but at times it seems that the novel is being used one longer commercial break, so constant is the product placement. (I don't care what brand of "beer" Jack drinks, or that he uses a Glock as opposed to a H&K or a Smith and Wesson; such information is superfluous and detracts from the text. English, even American English, is a versatile language, it does not need to limited to popular brand names.) The use of Yiddish idioms by Abe Grossman is, however, more understandable, it fits within his character framework, rather like a Englishman in foreign climes this tendency has become more and more pronounced as the novels progress. What it does mean though, is that if someone does not understand the American/ New Yorker idiom, it can be very difficult to understand exactly what it being said.
Finally, too much time has been wasted finding places for earlier characters from the Repairman Jack/ Adversary cycle, characters whose presence add little/ nothing to the text other than to have a walk-on part, these characters seem to have been included merely to remind us of his earlier work (and perhaps to encourage us to re-read them). One has to wonder if it is an attempt to get us to go back and read his back catalogue, in a similar way to that of `Repairman Jack: By the Sword' was an attempt to re-launch his earlier novel `Black Wind'.
Does the world need a new and expanded version of `Nightworld'? Yes and no. YES, because it updates the novel to bring it into line with the recent Repairman Jack/ Secret History of the World corpus. This series of novels have taken the story well beyond the scope of the 1992: there are new characters, Rasalom has been explored and expanded as the role of Jack. It also reassigns parts of the story to other (newer) characters, whilst others find themselves pretty much written out of the text.
NO, because the novel does not go far enough in some ways. It is too much an expansion of the 1992 novel, it retains too much of the original and it doesn't extend the novel so much as expand it - all that takes place, takes place within the scope of the original novel. One can't help but think that if Wilson had taken the opportunity to rethink and rewrite the novel a much better novel would have emerged from this process. What we get is a larger (sometimes bloated) version of the original - Abe Grossman would no doubt be proud!
In spite of my criticisms on style Wilson remains one of my favourite writers, one to whom I can return again and again.
Coda: Naturally you are not going to begin reading F. Paul Wilson's work with this novel. If you are new to it (and this review hasn't put you off) then start with `The Keep' and go from there, you won't be disappointed.
* 'Dracula' is perhaps one of the most famous and most read horror novels in history, yet in terms of literature it is very badly written, with little or no character development, yet it remains one of the most important and most read books in its genre.