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Volume 28, Number 2-3, Winter, Spring, 2010

Ground Zero

By F. Paul Wilson

Tor/Forge, 2009
Reviewed by Anders Monsen

The endgame approaches. The third to last new novel in F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series bears the dicey title linked so closely now to the gaping hole where once the twin towers stood in New York City, Ground Zero. The books have almost ceased to exist as independent novels. Old threads continue along their course, new threads appear that shed light on other aspects of Jack’s life and history, and the grander secret history of the world. The cast continues to grow. Early chapters provide a brief run-down of the current events, which have become less about Jack the individual and more about his role in the battle against evil.

Jack, the lone wolf fixer who lives outside official society was enlisted against his will in the fight against the Adversary as the potential Heir to the Adversary’s previous nemesis, Glaeken. This former warrior, now an old man retired and virtually powerless, appears finally ready to mentor Jack in their battle against Rasalom, aka the Adversary, aka the prime instrument of the Otherness in this world.

Gia, Jack’s lover and almost mother of his child seems strangely distant in this novel. Her brush with the forces of the Ally that took her unborn child in Harbingers has affected her deeply. She and her daughter are the center of Jack’s world. More and more, however, Gia and Vicky have faded into the background as the story becomes less about Jack and more about his role vis a vis the Adversary and the various groups and characters on the chess set of the Secret History.

Another recurring character is Diana. An Oculus, or seer of the humans on the side against the Adversary, she is but a teenager thrust into her role by the death of the previous Oculus. Her group and Jack face the same enemy, but are not necessarily on the same side. Her father, the previous Oculus, interpreted his visions in such a manner that Jack and Gia’s unborn daughter died.

Meanwhile Dawn, pregnant with her step-brother’s child, remains a captive by Rasalom. Her unborn baby is another hedged bet against Glaeken, and a possible key to opening the gates to the forces seeking to consume and enslave our world. She almost aborted her child in the previous book, and she knows she is a pawn in a terrifyingly larger picture than she can imagine, and only wants out.

Jack has infiltrated the Kickers on the part-time basis to better keep an eye on them. The Kickers are in the midst of a turf war with the Scientologist-like group first seen in Crisscross, the Dormentalists. Ernst Drexler, a high ranking member of the Septimus Order and a faithful servant of Rasalom, continues working on the Opus Omega, seeking to open up the doorways to the creatures beyond, hoping for favors from Rasalom after he transforms into his victorious form and takes over our world. When Rasalom instructs Drexler to recruit one of the Kickers into a scheme to create a new weapon against the Lady, the mysterious force manifested in various of the novels as a woman with a dog at her side, Drexler selects Darryl, who out of desperation agrees. The strange egg-like structure Drexler calls the Orsa subsumes Darryl, and begins to transform him at a cellular level.

Meanwhile, a woman is posting messages on 9/11 truther bulletin boards, taking great care to remain anonymous. She turns out to be Louise Connell, Jack’s childhood friend whom everyone called Weezy. She is now a target by the servants of the Adversary for having stumbled across images of Rasalom as he conspired with Osama Bin Laden to bring down the Twin Towers. Gifted with a photographic memory, she has noticed that images of one of Bin Laden have changed in print, always removing the same person from photos—could this be Rasalom? Jack is hired to find Weezy by her brother, Eddie Connell, after a hit and run sends her to the hospital. Find her he does, and in the process kills some of the agents sent after her. Weezy tells Jack after learning he killed two men who were trying to kidnap her from the hospital, “You’re not the Jack I knew. You’re scary.” And she should know; according to the novel Secret Histories (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), she and Jack were best friends during their teen-age years. Jack enlists her to decipher the Compendium, as her eidetic memory may well give them a method by which to decipher the continually shifting text.

With Weezy in the picture, life gets complicated on a personal level for Jack. They were best friends for many years, and both very likely harbored unfulfilled crushes on each other. These feelings bubble up again to the surface, more so for Weezy as Jack has Gia. Meanwhile, Eddie has transformed himself. Always the overweight kid who cared more about video games, he is now a trim go-getter. When Weezy discovers that he is a member of the Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order (Drexler’s group), she freaks out. Clearly they have not shared everything despite being in touch daily after her husband died a few years ago.

Plot and character are the two steady pillars of Wilson’s fiction. In Ground Zero Wilson seems to be marshalling his troops, especially those against the Adversary. Various groups are jockeying for position on the other side, hinting at potential conflicts of interest that may benefit Jack and his forces. With only two books remaining in the series, one might surmise that the regular fix-it aspect of Jack’s life will become less important, and the effort to understand his role and what they are up against will become more critical. None of the characters can yet see how close they are to the edge, but every hint is there to readers who have followed the series. Despite working with a known ending, Wilson’s build-up remains strong and full of questions, just the way to keep a series going.

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