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Fatal Error (Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Cover Artist: Photodisc
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765322821
Date: 12 October 2010 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Munir Habib is in hell. His wife and son taken by a sadistic kidnapper, Munir is forced to commit sins against his faith and dignity--as a prelude to even worse things. He needs help. He needs Repairman Jack.

Jack has problems of his own, however. As Fatal Error (the penultimate Repairman Jack novel) begins, Jack, his childhood friend Louise "Weezy" Connell, the once-immortal warrior Glaeken and the crippled entity known as the Lady are all that protect humanity from otherworldly horrors. But the end of the world is coming.

Elsewhere in Manhattan, Dawn Pickering is about to deliver her baby--a baby whose ultrasounds she is not allowed to see. Her suspicions escalate to a cold, terrified certainty when the baby is whisked away moments after birth...and she catches a glimpse of something very wrong.

Weezy continues exploring the contents of the Compendium of Srem, a book full of secrets about their enemy Rasalom and the Other that he serves. Her mere possession of the book has made her a Most Wanted among Jack's foremost enemies--the Dormentalists, the Kickers, and especially the Septimus Order. She knows too much about the Secret History and she must be found, immediately.

Which makes it all the more problematic that her brother Eddie is a member of the Order--and has been commanded to lead the hunt for his sister.

Jack takes on Munir's case, digging through a handful of clues to find Munir's wife and son after a horrific "proof" is delivered to the desperate father. The investigation takes some unexpected twists and turns, ultimately giving Jack a hint about the Order's latest master plan. If it works, it will cause worldwide havoc and, very possibly, finish off one of Rasalom's greatest enemies.

What does it have to do with Munir Habib? And can Jack stop it, even if he learns enough of the plan's horrifying scope?

F. Paul Wilson's series is approaching its terminus, with this being the next-to-last title in this epic horror series. Jack is now fully engaged with the war against Rasalom and the Otherness, but his hands are tied by Glaeken's abundant caution. At the same time, Weezy's own safety is thrown into doubt as the three groups serving Rasalom's aims carry out a worldwide search for her.

Given the trajectory of this story, it's hard to say it's a positive or uplifting reading experience, but Jack and his allies do manage to steal a few victories from the bad guys. That's about the best that can happen, since Wilson's legions of fans know that the story ends with the apocalyptic Nightworld (a revised edition of which comes out after the last Jack novel, due next year). That Wilson manages to keep the reader on the edge of his seat, especially in the last half of the book, is no surprise at all; Wilson is a proven master at fast-paced, gripping storytelling. The narrative steadily picks up speed until the last half moves like a rocket.

Over the course of the series, Jack has evolved only incrementally--he is still the same guy, fundamentally, that first showed up in The Tomb. If anything, he has (mostly) come to terms with his role as a champion of humanity and Glaeken's potential replacement. He is also still capable of monstrous rage and cold-blooded cunning, making him one of the most formidable protagonists in fiction today. Jack gets to let loose in a number of scenes, particularly in a harrowing trip to pick up Gia and Vicky (his girlfriend and her daughter) from the airport.

Munir's plight is engaging and deeply emotional, the heartbreaking helplessness of a man being tormented for the "crime" of being a Saudi and a Muslim. Wilson's point with this character is clear, but he refrains from overplaying it.

Perhaps the most interesting character development lies with Ernst Drexler, the "actuator" who serves Rasalom directly. A stray comment from Hank Thompson (leader of the populist uprising movement known as the Kickers) gets him thinking: what will happen after the Change, when Rasalom's Other takes control of the Earth?

Wilson's saga is drawing to a close, that much is sure, but there's a huge amount of story left to go. Much like each novel, the series itself is hurtling forward like a runaway train and the end is now very much in sight. Who will survive and how will these many plot threads be tied up? So much left to discover...

Strongly recommended.

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