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Harbingers (Repairman Jack) by F. Paul Wilson
Review by Drew Bittner
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 076531276x
Date: 19 September, 2006 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Hunting down the girl grows complicated when a quartet in black suits interrupt a cult ritual killing and throw off Jack's rescue. The quartet—who identify themselves as "yeniçeri"-are trying to save the girl as well, so that Jack is in the awkward position of having to interfere with their plans to make sure she reaches safety.

The yeniçeri aren't happy about that and manage to track Jack to his favorite watering hole, Julio's, where he turns the tables. After some feints on both sides and a near-lethal misunderstanding, Jack discovers that he isn't alone in his battle against the supernatural Otherness. An ancient organization known as the Militia Vigilum fights for "the Ally"—the enemy of the Otherness—with yeniçeri as foot soldiers and mystic seers called Oculi taking orders (called Alarms) from the Ally itself.

The Oculus in charge of New York believes Jack is the Heir, meant to lead the fight against the Otherness should the Ally's missing-in-action champion be killed or incapacitated. Although they urged him to join their cause, Jack has doubts...reasonable ones, it turns out.

Along the way, Jack's chance to come out of the shadows finally arises. His buddy Abe has put everything together and Jack is slated to travel to Europe, coming back in his new identity of Mirko Abdic. This will let him marry his longtime love Gia, adopt her daughter Vicky, and become a father to the baby Gia will have soon. But a chance meeting in Florida sets off Jack's danger sense and sends him hurrying back to New York, where dire events are in motion: the Oculus gets an Alarm that sends the yeniçeri to kill someone with a connection to Jack.

When he finds out, Jack must take the most dangerous gambles of his life to set things right, pushing his fix-it skills to the limit and uncovering the extent of a devastating betrayal. The yeniçeri may be highly trained soldiers...but they've never faced anything like Repairman Jack.

Events from several past novels take on new significance in this story, as Wilson neatly overturns everything readers "know" about Jack and his battle against the Otherness. Although the Adversary Rasalom puts in two major appearances, the story here is really about the mortal agents of the Ally. Cal, Miller and Zeklos, the three yeniçeri who get the most attention, couldn't be more different: Cal longs for discipline as his team crumbles around him, his hard shell cracking as he is ordered to do something he cannot handle; Miller is a near-sociopath whose arrogance and rage make him dangerously single-minded and intolerant; and Zeklos, seen as a failure and screw-up, is nevertheless loyal and so faces only unacceptable choices. The Oculus and his daughter, Diana, are victims of fate as well, chosen by the Ally to be its connection to Earth. They all show, in different ways, the cost that once-ordinary people pay if they want to save the world, and are tiny masterpieces of characterization by Wilson.

Wilson also brings Jack to new heights in this novel. His formidable writing skills put his hero through the wringer as never before, proving the adage that a hero is measured by his enemies. When those enemies should have been friends, the struggle can be all the more painful.

It's not nonstop action, however. Not to spoil anything, but this novel contains some of the most heartbreaking work Wilson has ever penned. A couple of scenes reveal, with wrenching delicacy, some "might-have-beens" in Jack's life that the reader will never forget. As much as anything, this is a story about why heroes do what they do, why they fight the good fight, as well as the prices they pay. It's brilliant work.

The endgame for Repairman Jack is coming. With a re-release of Wilson's epic-ending Nightworld on the horizon, the Adversary Cycle is drawing to a close—but judging by Harbingers, it's sure going out with a bang.

Highly recommended.

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