By the Sword: A Repairman Jack Novel
by F. Paul Wilson
Edited by David G. Hartwell
Review by Drew Bittner
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765317070
Date: 11 November 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Jack's still reeling from the shattering revelations of Bloodline when a new case raises new challenges--and dangers. He is asked to help retrieve a stolen, ruined samurai sword for its rightful owner... but when the Kicker cult, the last remnant of a murderous Japanese sect and a powerful, shadowy corporation join the hunt, it's every man for himself, with Jack in the middle.
In an author's forward, F. Paul Wilson explains that his preference for neat and tidy "done in one" stories is giving way to a narrative necessity. Events in the Repairman Jack canon are speeding toward their culmination in the apocalyptic Nightworld, a reworking of Wilson's earlier novel of the same name. Because there are a number of story threads that must be completed, he says, not every story will deliver a conclusion to every plotline that he serves up.
Readers have nothing to fear. If anything, Wilson is taking his game to an entirely new level in By the Sword, the most ambitious Repairman Jack novel yet. Jack is pitted against a number of enemies this time around, some of whom have long memories and a lust for revenge against a certain urban mercenary.
Jack finds himself struggling in the wake of some recent shattering events. Empty and bereft, he cannot even take comfort in the company of his girlfriend Gia--she too is suffering from heartbreak and, in some ways, is worse off than Jack.
So Jack does what he always does -- finds a case. And one appears, just like that. A young Japanese man, finding Jack through an intermediary, asks if he would retrieve a sword that was stolen from his home in Hawaii. The sword is extremely old and in very poor condition, but it is a family heirloom and must be found.
Jack takes the case, even as a dangling plot thread--in the form of a pregnant girl--carries over from the previous novel.
Both sword and girl play pivotal roles as Jack battles the last remnants of a death cult (one with a truly nasty WMD). More recent enemies reappear as well, complicating Jack's troubles immensely.
Wilson continues to up the stakes for Jack and his circle in By the Sword, pushing his hero to his limits both physically and psychologically, with a truly harrowing climax. The stories keep getting better and better, especially as Wilson is not afraid to show the toll that this ongoing fight is taking on Jack and his loved ones. Elements like that are often lost in action/adventure--the fact that heroes (and often their families) pay a price--but Jack is paying in spades, even as the danger grows.
Wilson also manages to start tying in elements of his other works, constructing the bridges that were so startling in Nightworld, turning his books into a meta-narrative about the world's downward spiral and eventual day of reckoning. In that light, By the Sword may be seen later as one of the more important stories in the cycle.
Though not an ideal place to begin reading Repairman Jack by any means, By the Sword may be one of the best in the entire series.