REPRISAL by F. Paul Wilson


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 First-class horror novel and third volume in a malignant- entity series begun with The Keep (1981) and Reborn (1990). The Keep (Nazis versus vampires) faded into clichÇ after the first half, but Reborn (a clone of Rosemary's Baby) held together for a brilliantly ghoulish climax. In Reborn, the son of clone Jim Hanley, at the moment of the son's conception, became the host of the evil entity living in Jim. Jim died but mother Carol now finds herself raising an incredibly intelligent freak, a baby who devours newspapers, books, and TV journalism as soon as he can sit up. At age five the boy takes over family finances and by age fifteen has run a nest egg up to $60 million. Then, with forged papers making him an adult, he goes off to do undergraduate work in psychology at Darnell University in North Carolina--although why a supermillionaire needs a degree in psychology is not clear. This fascinating story is, unfortunately, treated almost as a subplot while the novel's true subplot gets major space. But the secondary story has a fabulous payoff, in which a seven-year-old orphan--adopted by a financially upscale, physically hollow zombie who looks like Teddy Roosevelt--is crucified to the bedroom wall and remains alive (though completely drained of blood) and in fact is still alive when buried at night by a lapsed Catholic priest and dug up again five years later. Meanwhile, the entity, now known as Rafe Losmara, has seduced overweight math teacher Lisl Whitman into his orbit as a way of getting at the lapsed Catholic priest, whom Rafe sees as his (un)natural enemy, and the tie between Lisl and Rafe, as he leads her into moral decay (shoplifting without guilt), gives us the novel's richest pages, with the reader wondering if perhaps Rafe isn't onto something with his supraman swill.... The conventional climax is only a springboard for Rafe's big ploy in the next novel. Wilson's most gripping yet, with his strongest characterizations.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-913165-59-X
Page count: 350pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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