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Reprisal (Adversary Cycle/Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765321664
Date: 06 December 2011 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Will Ryan is not who he seems. A handyman/gardener at a small college in North Carolina, he used to be Father Bill Ryerson--and a brush with an ancient evil many years ago has left him hunted, hounded and broken.

If it were only his life at stake, Ryerson might not care so much, but this evil is insinuating itself into his world... and left unchecked, it will visit hellish retribution on everyone in Ryerson's life.

Such is Reprisal by F. Paul Wilson, a tale of revenge and courage set within his Adversary Cycle of stories. The sequel to Reborn, wherein a figure of power and menace managed to return to the living world, this novel follows the events of that book and resolves the story of Ryerson leading into Wilson's magnum opus, Nightworld (due this summer).

Years before, Ryerson was a priest who was falsely accused of molesting and murdering a child named Danny Gordon. He fled those accusations and assumed a new life far away from his native New York. But NYPD detective Renny Augustino hasn't forgotten or forgiven, and he follows up on any clue he can to nail Ryerson.

At the same time, Ryerson has found a friend in Lisl Whitman, a math professor. Their platonic relationship is one of his few joys in life.

And then Rafael Losmara enters the picture. A handsome Spanish-French grad student, he sweeps Lisl off her feet and seems to be unusually involved in things on campus. He sets off warning bells for the ex-priest, for no reason he can name.

At the same time, there's the narrative of young Jimmy Stevens and his mother Carol. To call Jimmy precocious is like calling an A-bomb hot; he has a malevolent intelligence and a horrific agenda, which he intends to work out with or without his mother's help. Carol is left nearly broken by her son's raw evil, but cannot grasp how it came to be. This story, too, ties in well with the overall narrative.

Before all is done, the game of revenge against Ryerson will claim lives and upend a cozy, safe little world, unleashing horrors nobody could have imagined. Ryerson will need every bit of his faith and courage--as well as assistance from the evil one's greatest enemy--if he wants even to survive, not to mention triumph.

If he fails, the enemy will move on... to every man, woman and child on Earth.

Wilson delivers a spectacular novel in Reprisal, a re-release of the 2005 original with extensive updates by the author. Small touches here and there help the book fit even more smoothly into the greater tapestry of Wilson's meta-arc, with references made to other works and other characters.

Ryerson is a figure much like Job, only less morose and more active. Although he wants only to hide from the world--and escape the hellish phone calls that ring whenever he's too long near a landline phone--he cannot escape for long; the enemy's resources and hatred are too powerful and focused for that. But by pushing him so hard, the enemy runs the risk of overplaying his hand, a weakness Wilson explores brilliantly. The enemy isn't just cruel, he's so full of himself that he cannot envision failing -- which is why pride goeth before a fall.

Lisl is well created, too, a young woman with nearly crippling self-doubt who blossoms with first love. But that love is flawed in ways she cannot see, partly from ignorance and partly from desperation, and Wilson shows how that hopeful emotion can be turned against itself.

Likewise, Renny Augustino and his pal Nick Quinn are drawn into this plot almost in spite of themselves, both of them needing answers to long-held questions. What happens to each is, perhaps, inevitable but Wilson makes them more than either first seems to be.

Wilson's book is a harrowing tale of an ancient evil reaching out to enact retribution on a good, just man. It's a primal horror story, the battle between supernatural forces and a man armed only with his wits and courage against the night. Sometimes that's enough. Readers will thrill to see how the age-old tale plays out this time.

Highly recommended.

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