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Infernal, by F. Paul Wilson

After resisting the darker, otherworldly side of F. Paul Wilson's writing for years, I have come to deeply respect his ability to write supernatural tales as no other author does; I've also come to enjoy these novels of his much more than I would have dreamed. (If you're interested in learning more about Wilson's writing in general, along with many other subjects, please see my interview with F. Paul Wilson -- he said it might be the most peripatetic interview he's ever done, which I took as a sign I did well.) Just as he did in libertarian classics including Wheels Within Wheels (a Prometheus Award winner), Wilson masterfully weaves a compelling story around realistic, complex characters. In Wilson's horror or supernatural novels those come with a twist of unreality that isn't so otherworldly as to be laughable. Thus, I've joined the legions of Repairman Jack (RJ) fans who eagerly await each new novel in the series.

Infernal is Wilson's latest RJ novel. While it has a substantially different feel than many of its predecessors, it was still very satisfying. Lighter on action than some of its forebears, Infernal packs a psychological wallop for those willing to invest some time into thinking about what's going on. Ironies abound, as Jack struggles with trying to enter a system he's fought to remain outside of for decades -- but on his own terms. Readers finally meet Jack's long-estranged older brother, the judge -- and discover that Jack is much more moral than this supposed servant of justice. It's also the "loner" brother who has the solid relationships when all the chips are down. And, in perhaps the ultimate irony of the book, Wilson puts a sinister shiver into the aphorism, "Be careful what you wish for -- you might just get it".

In Infernal, recent events have Jack struggling to keep his head together in order to deal with his problems. This time the fixes are all personal, and it's an interesting shift to see the typically controlled, competent Jack get boxed into uncomfortable positions, largely due to emotions that distract him. While it might seem at first blush that not much is accomplished over the course of Infernal, readers who remember that "there are no more coincidences" in Jack's life will realize that several potentially important things have transpired.

Wilson's writing style has always been very good, even as he shifts from genre to genre. Those who like the tough fix-it aspects of previous RJ novels or the supernatural explorations into the Otherness may find the heavier psychological nature of Infernal challenging, or disappointing. For me, the unfolding of the story was every bit as engaging, and the climax as intense as the more action-packed tales. It even allowed me to accept the rather dodgy way out Wilson creates for Jack. Brief re-appearances by characters from previous RJ novels were an unexpected bit of fun. Infernal isn't the rippingest Repairman Jack novel, but it is the deepest one thus far. F. Paul Wilson delivers yet again in fine style.

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