Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The success of The Keep in 1981 made F. Paul Wilson a hot commodity in the then-exploding horror market, and his publisher was eager to follow it up. Wilson gave them Rakoshi, for release in 1984. The publisher liked it, but wanted a title easier to tie in to The Keep, and suggested The Tomb. There isn’t a tomb in it, Wilson protested. No one will notice or care, said the publisher. It’s always nice to end this sort of story with an anecdote that illustrates how the creative guy was right, but here you have to score one for the suits: The Tomb was a hit, and very few people noticed it was tomb-less.

Twenty years later, Borderlands Press brought out a revised version of the book under the original name, and that is the volume reviewed here.

This is the first of the “Repairman Jack” series. Repairman Jack is a fellow who lives off the grid, with no valid ID, Social Security number, or any of the other things through which we are tracked in life. Jack’s job is to “fix” things – hence the moniker – but not appliances. If you are a businessman being shaken down in a protection racket, Jack will fix it. If something valuable is stolen from you but for some reason you can’t go to the police, Jack will recover it. Jack has become one of the most if not the most enduring characters of weird fiction, with twelve books (and three Young Adult novels) published chronicling his exploits and Wilson says it will stretch to fifteen before concluding.

The story begins when Jack is hired by an Indian diplomat to recover an amulet, stolen from his grandmother in a mugging. Jack does so with flair, but there is something decidedly strange about the amulet. At the same time, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Gia asks him to help find one of her aunts, who has disappeared. In my only criticism of the book, in an improbable coincidence, this disappearance is linked to the Indian diplomat and the strange amulet.

It seems the Indian is involved in a revenge plot stretching back over a hundred years, and has bred an ancient malevolent race of beings called the Rakoshi to do his bidding. These creatures are large and powerful, as well as virtually unkillable, so Jack has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he is resourceful.

Rakoshi, in either of its incarnations, is a great book. Jack, who is something of a manifestation of Wilson’s libertarian political philosophy, is a very appealing character, and it is easy to see why his fans clamored for his return. It is a hot kick-off for the series.

My memory is not strong enough, and I don’t have an inclination to do enough research, to analyze the changes made between the first publication and this edition. The one thing that seemed apparent was the updating of technology: jack has a big screen TV, everyone uses cell phones, etc.

SPOILER WARNING. When I first read the book at the time of its initial paperback release, and before Jack was brought back in the ongoing series, I believed the book’s ending meant Jack died. Even though I know he comes back, it still reads that way to me.

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