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January 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Haunted Air By F. Paul Wilson
Forge Trade: ISBN 0312878680 PubDate October 2002
Review by Paul Giguere
416 pages List price $24.95  
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Have a problem on your hands? Can’t turn to your family, your friends, or the police? You need a repairman, someone who “fixes” problems. More specifically, you need Repairman Jack. Part horror, part thriller with a dab of science fiction thrown in at times, F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series is a unique and original creation that has gotten better over the past nineteen years.

Jack is an antihero of sorts who, officially, does not exist. He hasn’t any traceable identification, doesn’t pay taxes, and is a nonentity as far as documentation and records go. Jack takes on jobs for people who have run out of options (and sometimes hope) to find justice, solace, or relief from a system that has failed them. He is resourceful and brilliant all at the same time (think ultra-paranoid McGuyver).

 Jack first appeared in 1984’s The Tomb which was a smashing success but it took fourteen years for Jack to make another appearance in another novel, 1998’s Legacies. Since then, Wilson has written three additional Repairman Jack novels (Conspiracies, All the Rage, and Hosts) in a relatively short period of time. Each one has continued to round out Jack’s character. For instance, he has a love interest in Gia, a single mother, and he has cultivated closer and more meaningful friendships. This has brought him closer to becoming a mainstream citizen but that hasn’t dulled Jack’s sense of self-preservation in the face of paranormal clashes, his proclivity towards a Libertarian existence, or his own sense of justice.

 In the latest outing, Haunted Air, Jack, a true skeptic if there ever was one, accompanies Gia to a séance that is being hosted by two charlatan brothers in a house with a history of insanity and violence. During the séance, an earthquake opens a portal in the basement to, what appears to be, another world. Working with the two brothers, Jack investigates the supernatural goings-on only to discover that truth is far more evil that he could have ever suspected.

The behind-the-scenes supernatural elements in Wilson’s Repairman Jack series have often been compared to H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. In both Lovecraft’s and Wilson’s stories there are omnipotent beings, strange worlds and other planes of existence in the cosmos that are far greater (and more terrible) than humankind can ever comprehend and humanity is barely an extra actor on the stage of existence and reality. The difference is that while Lovecraft’s protagonists are mostly victims at the mercy of these cosmic powers, Wilson’s characters fight back (often with effective and surprising results).

Haunted Air is a very satisfying entry in the Repairman Jack series and is one of the best novels in the series. However, if you haven’t read the novels that precede Haunted Air, you should. Part of the fun of this series is seeing Jack change over time while also collecting the various supernatural puzzle pieces that reveal Wilson’s impending apocalyptic plan for humanity. Great fun!

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