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Nightworld (Adversary Cycle/Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Edited by David G. Hartwell
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765321671
Date: 22 May 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

This is it: the last story of the epic Adversary Cycle, spanning dozens of novels and many short stories. The last battle between two ancient foes, as mankind dies screaming in the growing dark...

Rasalom has triumphed. His latest gambit has succeeded, despite the best efforts of Repairman Jack and the failing hero named Glaeken, and now the Change begins. It starts small--the sun rises late, against all physical law, and sets early. What seems like an astronomical impossibility soon comes down to Earth as the first bottomless hole opens in Central Park, right beneath Glaeken's window.

In Nightworld by F. Paul Wilson, the payoff to a story that spans continents and millennia comes to a close. Heavily revised from its original publication in 1992, largely to incorporate the many Repairman Jack novels that have been written since, the story brings together characters from many of Wilson's works and ties them together in a big dark knot.

The key struggle is between Glaeken, an old man who once fought on behalf of the Ally (a benign, seemingly apathetic force that is nominally "good") and Rasalom, once killed but resurrected and now more powerful than ever. Rasalom serves the Other, which seeks to make the Earth into a hellworld... IF it can steal it from the Ally's sphere of influence.

Rasalom has made this happen, and now the world begins to change. There are fewer hours of daylight with every dawn; more horrifying, bottomless holes are opening and releasing swarms of insects and, gradually, ever larger monsters into the world to prey upon mankind. They want humanity to suffer, to fear, to yield to darkness in every way so that Rasalom's victory can be complete.

But Glaeken is not ready to surrender. Even as Jack sends his love, Gia, and her daughter, Vicky, to safety with buddy Abe Grossman, the ancient warrior comes up with a last-ditch plan that requires bringing together two necklaces owned by Jack's one-time lover Kolabati, shards of a sword broken in Romania, and a once-autistic boy who holds a fantastic power. If all these elements can be united, there might be a chance to save the world.

All it requires is undertaking insanely dangerous travels through monster-haunted skies, where Jack will confront Kolabati's demented new lover, ex-priest Bill Ryan and his damaged friend will endanger an entire village for two pieces of metal, and a mother will make an ultimate sacrifice.

Along the way, Ernst Drexler (who was Rasalom's right hand man) comes to a horrifying realization. Hank Thompson, an old enemy of Jack's, achieves both clarity and madness in the sewers under a Jersey Turnpike rest stop, partly when he discovers what his Kicker philosophy amounts to, but mostly when he's shown his place in Rasalom's world. Suffice it to say both earn their reward for helping the Other's champion.

It will take more than Glaeken alone can bring to bear if Rasalom is to be stopped, and more than one of these heroic characters will fall before all is said and done. But the fate of the world rests on their shoulders and they'd better be ready when the sun is finally banished and night rules the Earth.

Simply put, Nightworld is F. Paul Wilson's masterpiece. Repairman Jack is arguably his greatest creation, but this is the book that puts Jack to his ultimate test. Even so, it's not Jack's show alone; he is only one hero, and not always the most crucial one.

For instance, any reader who ever wanted to know how good Abe really is gets to see the weapons dealer in action; the scenes in the bunker, with Gia and Vicky, are some of the most harrowing chapters in the book. Likewise, the siege of Toad Hall in Monroe, NY, where the monsters are especially eager to find and kill little Jeffy.

Wilson weaves together these disparate narratives with incredible skill, prefacing each chapter with a bit from the radio or a TV listing--and amps up the horror as, one by one, these voices fall silent. It's an extremely effective and creepy tactic, suggesting the scope of the horror without showing it. Likewise, Ryan's brilliant friend Nick, who makes a devastating mistake early on, is an oracle whose words foreshadow the terror and loss to come; he makes very effective use of this character, sometimes throwing curves but all too often playing it totally straight.

It is exceptionally rare for an author to weave together strands from so many diverse books and even series. It is even more so to have done it so well. F. Paul Wilson deserves awards for this achievement, representing so much of his writing career to date. The only question now is where he goes from here. I cannot wait to find out.

Highly recommended.

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