Gateways, by F. Paul Wilson

gateways-by-f-paul-wilson coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Ray Wallace

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OVERVIEW: The latest addition to the Repairman Jack series, the crime/horror books that feature one of the more interesting characters in modern fantastic fiction.

DETAILS: First there was THE TOMB. Then there was LEGACIES, followed by CONSPIRACIES, ALL THE RAGE, HOSTS, and THE HAUNTED AIR. Now F. Paul Wilson brings us GATEWAYS, the seventh installment in his ongoing “Repairman Jack” series. For those of you unfamiliar with this character, Jack “fixes” things for a living. And we’re not talking about TV’s or computers or automobiles here. Is someone you know being blackmailed? Do you suspect a friend or relative of being abused? Has your spouse suddenly gone missing? Well, then Jack’s your man. For the right price of course. And, no, he’s not a hired assassin but if things do turn ugly during one of his fix-its then he’s more than ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to come out of it in one piece.

In GATEWAYS Jack must leave his usual stomping grounds, New York City, and fly south to sunny Florida where his father lies in a coma after a terrible automobile accident. Now for the past fifteen years or so, Jack and his father, Tom, have not had the closest of relationships. Not that Tom hasn’t made an effort to be a part of his youngest son’s life. But Jack cannot allow his father to know the truth about what he does for a living, about the way he lives outside the law, how he is, in fact, a criminal by society’s standards. Or how it was his mother’s brutal death that led him down this path in the first place. No, he is certain these are things his father would never understand.

While in Florida Jack gets caught up in the strange circumstances surrounding his father’s accident. First of all, what was his father doing out driving in the middle of the night all by himself on such a deserted stretch of road? And how is it that the call reporting the accident apparently came in BEFORE the accident even occurred? Such a thing isn’t possible, is it? Normally, no. But recent events in Jack’s life have forced him to view things he’d once considered impossible in an entirely different light. There were the rakoshi, of course, the vicious, mythological creatures he was forced to battle in THE TOMB. And there was the sentient virus bent on world domination in HOSTS. And who could forget the Otherness – – the vast, cosmic force hell-bent on conquering all of existence – – or the “nexus points” through which its disruptive influence occasionally enters our world?

The bulk of GATEWAYS takes place in and around the Everglades as Jack’s father has recently taken up residence in a community on the outskirts of this vast wetland. The book is populated with a cast of unique and interesting characters. There is Anya, Tom’s close friend and next door neighbor, a woman whose lawn stays lush and green in the midst of a terrible drought and who uses strange symbols and trinkets to protect her property from evil. And there is Carl, the groundskeeper of Tom’s neighborhood, a self-chosen outcast from a group of deformed squatters living within the Everglades. Then there is Semelee, leader of this strange group of malformed individuals, the only member with no physical deformities who possesses a pair of magic seashells which she uses to control the actions of the animals and insects around her. Finally, there is Tom, a character mostly hinted at in past novels, a man largely regarded by Jack as simple and stoic and rather boring, whom Jack comes to discover has a few secrets of his own and is a much stronger and more resourceful person than he ever imagined.

Like its predecessors, GATEWAYS is part crime novel, part horror novel, a fun and highly entertaining amalgam of genres that is sure to (pardon the cliche) please old Repairman Jack fans and newcomers alike. One doesn’t need to be familiar with the earlier books to enjoy this one, although I have no doubt that anyone encountering Jack here for the first time will immediately head to the nearest bookstore in hopes of tracking down the other installments in this ongoing saga. As for how much longer this series can continue, well, only F. Paul Wilson knows for sure. Toward the end of GATEWAYS a bit of not-so-subtle foreshadowing informs the reader that Jack will soon face some very dark times. As a fan, I can only hope that there will be a few more books, at least, before the end finally arrives, be it bright or grim.

BOTTOM LINE: Yet another fun and entertaining read in this ongoing and consistently inventive series. Long live Repairman Jack!

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