Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Dark at the End

The Dark at the End
by F. Paul Wilson
Recommended Ages: 15+

It's really awkward to read the first six books in a series and then skip to the fifteenth book. I usually refuse to continue reading a series when I have to skip over even one book. But this was ridiculous - skipping from The Haunted Air to this book, in publication order the last novel in the Repairman Jack series. I caught on pretty well once things got moving, though I still feel a sharp need to catch up on Gateways, Crisscross, Infernal, Harbingers, Bloodline, By the Sword, Ground Zero and Fatal Error and bridge the gap in my reading of Repairman Jack.

There was another awkwardness at the end of the book. Partly this is an artifact of the Repairman Jack series being intertwined with the Adversary Cycle, of which the only book I have read is its second installment The Tomb, which also spun off as the first book in this series. Though the entire Adversary Cycle including its conclusion in Nightworld pre-date the publication of the Repairman Jack series (excepting The Tomb), Nightworld apparently contains the conclusion of this series as well. At least, I hope so. From Legacies to this book, Wilson brought forth a Repairman Jack novel every year from 1998 to 2011 and hasn't written once since, having moved on to other projects. So it doesn't seem likely a more satisfying conclusion to the cliff-hanger at the end of this book is going to turn up. And the ending, pardon the spoiler, looks pretty grim.

If, like me, you've been tuned out since The Haunted Air, you might be surprised to find this story opens with the world in imminent peril of being taken over by a hostile cosmic force called the Adversary or the Otherness. Its representative on earth, the virtually indestructible Rasalom, also known as The One, has come close to swiping our world from under the protection of the Ally, but he has one more trick up his sleeve and this one might really do the job after all. As Jack's power grows as the heir to the Ally's formerly-immortal human guardian, he sees a unique opportunity to take Rasalom out of the equation. But his one chance depends on a teenage mother of an only part-human baby to stay on the script while Jack's back is turned, so when she inevitably messes up the plan, tragedy and horror ensue that will leave the world teetering on the verge of a hideous change.

The reason I broke my own rule against skipping books in a series (let alone eight of them) is that I needed an audiobook to fill the gap while the library was repairing a scratched disk in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, which I had really planned to be reading at the time. I had to grab something quick because the library was closing and I didn't see anything else that interested me on short notice. Plus, alas, it turns out my community's library doesn't hold any of the earlier books in the series. Happily, the Zusak book is ship-shape and playing in my car stereo now. Meanwhile, I enjoyed Christopher Price's audiobook performance of this book. I believe I've heard him read some of the earlier books in the series. Simply put, his voice is Repairman Jack's voice in my mind's ear.

Besides catching up on the books I missed, there are more hours of Repairman Jack enjoyment in store for me. My local library does hold audiobooks of a prequel trilogy about "Repairman Jack, the Early Years," titled Cold City, Dark City and Fear City. There is also a trilogy of young adult Jack books, Secret Histories, Secret Circles and Secret Vengeance. And of course, there's still the six-book Adversary Cycle, starting with The Keep, which in a way I've already skipped in another inadvertent slip of my principles. Oh, well. Sometimes you take your experiences in the order life deals them to you. The experience of this book, though out of context, out of sequence, and out of desperation, was so fraught with suspense and creepy-crawlies that if I see another book by F. Paul Wilson, I won't be able to resist.

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