This review was posted to the old TTA Press website on 15 June 2007:-
INFERNAL by F. PAUL WILSON
Forge hardback, 352pp, $25.95
This is the ninth novel in Wilson’s Repairman Jack series. For those not in the know, Jack is a guy who has dropped off society’s radar, a man with no identity, a many skilled adventurer without portfolio who occasionally breaks cover to set wrongs to right and deal with menaces, be they supernatural in nature or merely human. In short, he’s a superhero, and as any veteran of the Marvel Age of Comics will tell you, with superheroes it’s always the family who do the damage. Sure, Spider-man can beat the crap out of Doc Ock and the Green Goblin, but what’s he do when Aunt May has a heart attack or Mary Jane starts seeing another guy?
Infernal opens with the arrival of Jack’s father, with whom he has just begun to bond after a long hiatus in family affairs, and his subsequent murder in a terrorist attack at the airport, plunging Jack into a hunt for the killers, one which will force him to rely on underworld connections. Worse still, he has to involve estranged older brother Tom, and Tom, to put it bluntly, is an arsehole, a crooked judge who is facing a hefty prison sentence, and a philandering scumbag who doesn’t hesitate to hit on Jack’s girlfriend. Nevertheless Jack is guilt tripped into helping him out, and on a diving trip off the coast of Bermuda they recover the long lost Lilitongue of Gefreda, one of a series of hellish artefacts known as Infernals, and supposedly with the power to hide one from one’s enemies. Naturally it all goes horribly wrong, and Jack’s loved ones end up in the firing line.
I’m not familiar with the series and so can’t say if Infernal is representative, but for me it has about it the feel of a book that’s just marking time, or laying essential groundwork for something very big in the pipeline. It doesn’t seem complete. Otherwise, it’s an agreeable enough read, holding the attention but never to the extent that ‘gripping’ is a word you would want to use to describe the effect. Wilson is a writer who knows his stuff, making all the hard work seem effortless, carrying the reader along with a prose style that’s as laidback as the locals in an ad for Malibu. The characters are fun to be with, credible in the way they care for each other, with the possible exception of Tom, who is the clichéd arsehole older brother to the max (think John Candy in Splash, only darker and with no humour or other redeeming features). The supernatural angle, padded out with flashbacks to an earlier attempt to dispose of the Lilitongue, seemed a bit forced, but my suspicion is that it was there simply to introduce the Infernals and these will play a more significant part in future Repairman Jack stories. All things considered, I enjoyed Infernal well enough, without getting the feeling my life would be any the poorer had I missed the boat, and so would only recommend it to those already following the series. Otherwise, check out an earlier adventure, or Wilson’s vampire classic The Keep.