Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review—Cold City

Repairman Jack's one of my favorite recurring literary characters. As I've mentioned elsewhere, my love of reading (and particularly my love of the horror genre) is directly attributable to my father, and his parents as well. My grandma and grandpa kept me in solid supply of spooky stuff to read—be they horror comics or novels. My grandma introduced me to Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koonz, and F. Paul Wilson.

The first of Wilson's novels I read was as a kid back in the early 80's; I started reading "The Tomb" at Grandma's house, camped out in a big cozy chair in the huge front room/library of their expansive farmhouse in central California. I still remember how that first long chapter of the book surprised me—it read like a good old-fashioned adventure story up until the end of the chapter... when all of a sudden, MONSTERS showed up! I was immediately hooked on Wilson for life.

Since then, he's written 19 books in the Repairman Jack line, along with several other stories and novels that feature him or events tied to his life in some way or another. Some have been better than others, but all of them were very entertaining. The last one in the series was initially going to be "Nightworld" but Repairman Jack fans convinced him to do a final trilogy about Jack's formative years in New York. His origin story, if you will.

"Cold City" is the first book in that trilogy.

With each book in the Repairman Jack series, things grow more and more fantastical. Early on, a lot of his plots are against relatively mundane threats like criminals, conspirators, con-artists, and the like, but by the end, he's going up against all sorts of monsters, undead foes, Lovecraftian horrors, and eventually the end of the world. And as delightful as those books are... ("Nightworld" remains one of my favorite books of all time) ... there's a certain charm that gets left behind when the foes get so out of this world.

The supernatural is present in "Cold City," but only VERY subtly and margianally. In fact, if you haven't read all the Repairman Jack stories to come before, you might even miss the supernatural elements entirely. Here, we see Repairman Jack as just Jack, a young man in New York who's living off the grid and only starting to build up his skills by working as a smuggler and a protector/avenger of those in need. There's all sorts of cool Easter eggs and prizes to delight long-time readers of the series, but the book also reads great as an introduction to Jack. If I had one complaint (and it's a pretty small one) it's that among the slavers, terrorists, vengeful co-workers, mobsters, cultists, con-artists, and more who Jack ends up going up against in this book, there's probably one group too many. Yet Wilson manages to pull off this vast cast of bad guys arranged against Jack nonetheless, and the book's final chapter does a great job "recapping" the situation as it's built during the previous 350 pages.

Fair warning—as with several of the books in this series, there's not really an ending... just a point where the pages stop. All three books are VERY tied together, and while there is a climactic scene of sorts in "Cold City," it's really all about not only setting up the next two books, but about setting up the star of the entire line of books. As such, and as someone who's been following Repairman Jack's adventures for over 30 years, I found it to be an excellent read.

(Special thanks to Pierce Watters, who gave me this book for Christmas at last year's Paizo Holiday Party—he knows F. Paul Wilson and was able to get me an inscribed/signed copy direct from the author! Best Secret Santa EVER!)

Cold City...
  • ... is a delight for fans of Jack, especially in that it also introduces several other characters who are mainstays throughout the series and a few new ones who aren't. I'm pretty sure these new ones aren't going to make it out of the trilogy alive, otherwise we'd have heard about them by now!
  • ... has Jack getting in over his head multiple times, and it's pretty cool seeing a Jack who doesn't know how to handle a gun or trail a bad guy or sneak around learning the ropes.
  • ... made me hungry; I had just started a diet, and each scene where Jack brings his friend Abe food made my mouth water. Especially the big plate of bagels and lox!

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