Sunday, November 28, 2010

A busy and booky week

Fatal Error Well, cut off my legs and call me Shorty, I haven't updated for over a week! It was a busy time over the holiday. Dinner with my family on Thanksgiving day, then the in-laws over for spaghetti on Friday, then Shane and Matt over yesterday for pizza and Rock Band. (Neither of them had played before, and I think they really enjoyed it! Shane mostly did bass, and Matt was a natural on vocals. As they would say, "Fun!") Since people were coming over, I had to do plenty of tidying up and cleaning in the preceding days. Today is finally a quiet day, so it's been football and getting caught up on reading.

Thus I have a couple of book reviews for you. First is Fatal Error, the penultimate (I always love a chance to use that word!) Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson. Jack is one of the best characters in modern fiction, in my opinion; he is a Fixer. If people get into trouble, a friend might refer them to Jack, and he looks at their problem and decides if he wants to tackle it or not. Jack is no gun-for-hire; he is more of a vigilante who evens the playing field for average, decent people who are being hurt or preyed upon by bad guys. In other words, Jack is a good guy who hates injustice, blackmail, and bullying.

Unfortunately for Jack, he has also been noticed by a couple of mysterious forces in the universe: the Ally and the Otherness. These are not necessarily Good and Evil; the Otherness is simply antithetical to sentient life; the Ally often protects such sentient life, but is generally more apathetic. It's hard to distill it into a few sentences, because the series will ultimately consist of 15 novels, with connections in several more of Wilson's works. (By the way, I'm friends with Mr. Wilson on Facebook, and he's a really interesting and cool guy. Very accessible and responsive to fans!) It's amazing to me that he has kept this storyline consistent and expanding for all these years, and I'm very curious as to what sort of records he keeps in order to keep everything straight!

Anyway, these books are set very much in the natural world, but there is a significant overlap between the natural and the supernatural, with guardians and connections and mysterious orders who want to promote the Otherness and aid in its ascendancy on earth. There are no coincidences. Jack is not a supernatural being, and his tactics are definitely the ass-kicking kind. This, for me, is one of the most interesting aspects of these novels and of Jack. He is an average guy in height, weight, and looks, but also has an element of the Otherness within him. When he is confronted with those who wish to harm him or the ones he loves, that Other Jack makes an appearance...and you don't want to mess with that guy.

I think many of us have that darkness in us; a possibility in which our rage will overcome us. As decent members of society, we learn to discourage it and keep it under control. Jack does, too, but his job and his mysterious circumstances mean that sometimes that darkness is released. It frightens his girlfriend, Gia, but he protects her and her daughter fiercely from those who wish to harm them. I just think it's a really interesting psychological aspect to the story, and makes Jack a fascinating character in his complexity. I will really hate to see this series come to a close, but I hope Jack doesn't disappear completely.

Full Dark, No Stars Next is Stephen King's latest, Full Dark, No Stars, a collection of four novellas. It was a birthday present from my sister, Diana, so thanks, Di! I zipped through this in no time, and I believe I stayed up until 6 AM one night in order to read it. Sometimes you reach that tipping point where you just can't stop reading. I know some of you know exactly what I'm talking about!

This is a very aptly named collection, because these are incredibly dark stories. Cancer, murder, rape, more murder...King writes with a savage glee about some of the darkest of subjects, but I also feel a sense of humanity there. As if he doesn't want some of his characters to do what they do, but he can't stop them. The bleakness of these stories was almost too much to bear at times. I sometimes realized that I was sitting there with a horrified look on my face; this is not his typical horror fare, and is much more terrifying because of our knowledge that such things do happen sometimes in real life, and happen far too often.

As I've gotten older, I haven't lost my love of horror movies. However, I've found that what is more interesting and scary for me is how average people react to extreme situations, and how they interact with each other. (That is one of the reasons I love "The Walking Dead"...Episode 5 of 6 tonight!'s the penultimate episode in season one! Oh yeah...twice in one post. Awesome!) In a world where people are routinely brutalized in the name of religion, or executed for who they love, or mutilated in some sort of bizarre cultural ritual, such ordinary evil hits a little too close to home, and that makes it all the more terrifying.

I think what ties these books, and shows like TWD, together for me is that they force me to wonder how I would react in extreme situations. Would I have the courage of Jack to stand up to universal forces of chaos, or just to stand up for someone I love, even if it meant harm might come to me? In King's stories, would I have the courage of the woman in "Big Driver," or that of the woman in "A Good Marriage?" Would I do what was best for society and humanity even at the risk of my own peril? I hope I am never faced with such choices, but if I were, I want to believe that I would have the courage of my convictions.

Maybe it's silly to get so philosophical over a couple of novels, but that's just the way my mind works. I enjoy thinking about hypothetical and far-fetched situations, and think that it can help in how you might react to certain real-life situations. I think I'll just ask myself, "WWJD?"

What would Jack do?


  1. You naughty girl--WWJD?!

    After months of wonky podcasts and serious non-fiction, I couldn't take it any more and had to indulge a little literary escapism: Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series. I haven't had to stay up at night reading in YEARS! I'm slightly embarrassed when my populism peeks out, but I couldn't help it.

    Now, you've got me worried. What if I get hooked on Repairman Jack? I'll never post again!

  2. this is not his typical horror fare, and is much more terrifying because of our knowledge that such things do happen sometimes in real life, and happen far too often.

    One of the quotes I partially remember is one about the savaging in Rwanda... 'there are no more devils in hell because they are all loosed here...' Reality is far worse than the imagination because of the points of reference and while it is something that is within us, as with Repairman Jack (Equalizer? Mr. Wolf??) the thing about Stephen King and his books is the link his books have to the familiar. The phenomena that he dips into on occasion is almost always buttressed in reality. We can identify with the character and the story. One of his shorts. 'Dolan's Cadillac', he consulted with professors for accuracy in his work. So you see, King writes stories that CAN happen, particularly if legends are true (Desperation) or if science gets away from us (The Fog).

    Glad you had such an enjoyable time for your holiday. I don't feel bad at all about the Colts, but three cheers for old Notre Dame and one big one for 'Da Bears'!!

  3. Several books back I became annoyed with Stephen King because he seemed to be becoming more about quantity than quality--I mean, not every book needs to be 700+ pages.
    But I keep hearing people talk about this new one so I may have to hint-hint-hint to Carlos about it for Christmas.

  4. You should get a bookshelf on your blog from

  5. The King book sounds like something I would really enjoy. My mom is an avid reader and will also stay up till the wee hours to finish her book. When I find a truly good book and have the time to read I love being swept away. I've asked for a Kindle for xmas.

  6. It was a great weekend, thanks for your hard work.

  7. I'm looking forward to reading Full Dark, No Stars; thanks for the review Beth.


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