Repairman Jack fixes our world for the 14th time (Ground Zero, 2009, etc.)—one more to go.
“The penultimate Repairman Jack novel,” Wilson labels this in an Author’s Note. “I’m ending the series with number fifteen.” Maybe that’s why 14 has such a skimped, stepsister feel to it. True enough, series fans will find the familiar cast—good guys and evil-doers alike—more or less intact, but it’s all somehow muted, as if time is being marked while the big bang gathers force in the wings. Sure, monomaniacal Rasalom, aka the One, still wants to end history—whatever that really means—and the secretive, sinister Order continues to do One’s doomsday bidding with maximum efficiency. But where’s the passion? Even an idea as grandiloquent as Internet-smashing dwindles in the telling here. The Internet is duly smashed, the Order brings it down worldwide, but the resultant chaos is short-lived, short-shrifted and, as a consequence, manages to seem inconvenient rather than catastrophic. Fourteen’s most suspenseful—and gut-wrenching—section happens early on. Munir Habib, an American citizen born in Saudi Arabia, awakes one day to the nightmarish realization that his wife and little boy have been kidnapped by an Arab-hater. Ransom isn’t the object. Munir’s suffering is. A series of bizarre tasks are set before him, which he performs to the humiliating letter while knowing how probable it is he’ll never again see his beloved wife and child alive. Clearly, this is a Repairman Jack moment. He’s contacted, he arrives, he sorts things out for the deserving Munir—and readers will love the take-no-prisoners way he does it. But at this point there is still more than half a book to go.
Obviously, Wilson wants to save the best for last, but that leaves the underfed penultimate novel in need of a literary Repairman Jack.