“By the Sword: A Repairman Jack Novel” by F. Paul Wilson won me over before I even started reading it.
Being a lover of Japanese history, philosophy, martial arts, Japanese swords (katanas), Zen, Japanese sword fighting, etc., I was certainly eager to read this book, though I waited almost three years before doing so. There’s something about knowing a series is getting ready to end that makes me want to save my books for future reading so that I can slowly savor them.
Wilson does not write a bad book. Though there have been some I haven’t enjoyed as much as others (this probably has more to do with me than the writer), Wilson is an exceptional author and has been since the beginning of his career. I would consider “The Keep,” “Black Wind” and most of the Repairman Jack novels A-list reading material. “By the Sword” is definitely in this group of winners.
The storyline of “By the Sword” has Repairman Jack being hired to find a Japanese katana that was stolen from its possessor in Hawaii and brought to New York City. This, of course, is no ordinary sword. The original material it was made from was magical and not of this world. The gaijin, or foreigner, who found it hundreds of years before, took the blade to a maker of Japanese swords (the master craftsman, Masamune) and had the sword maker refashion it into a magnificent fighting sword. Through the centuries the sword changed hands and was thought to have been destroyed in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan.
The sword has now resurfaced and everybody seems to want it, from Jack, to Hank Thompson and his Kickers (see “Bloodline”), a Japanese Yakuza group representing a powerful international company, and a Japanese fanatical religious cult known as the Katureta Kao. Everybody will kill to possess the katana and hopefully to bring about the change in their future that is greatly desired.
Involved in all of this is Glaeken and Rasalom (both from “The Keep”) as they represent the Adversary and the Otherness. The time of the end of the world is quickly approaching and the katana, along with the unborn baby of Dawn Pickering (once again, see “Bloodline”) will play an important part in the battle between the Adversary and the Otherness. Glaeken plays a somewhat lesser role than Rasalom, who avidly thrives on death and destruction. He seems to feed off the misery of others and is energized when massive killings occur for the benefit of the Otherness.
This is probably the most violent of the Repairman Jack novels I’ve read so far with dozens and dozens of people being killed in hand-to-hand combat, sliced up with swords, shot, cut into pieces with a chain saw and poisoned with tiny darts. Wilson certainly lets loose with this book and allows the guns to roar.
After reading this novel, I believe we now get a much better perspective of the battle that’s been going on for 15,000 years for control of mankind and the planet. I found myself feeling more comfortable in preparation for the upcoming ending of the Repairman Jack series. I guess things are starting to make sense to me now.
I also realized that it’s been 30 years since I read “The Keep” and about 28 years since I read “The Tomb.” Those are the only two of the six Adversary Cycle books I’ve read. I have to go back and reread them, along with “The Touch,” “Reborn,” “Reprisal” and “Nightworld.” Thankfully, the author has revised them so the time frame matches and the connections with Repairman Jack tie in. I may also have to go back and read the young Repairman Jack series.
Hmmmm. If I was paranoid, I would think Wilson was doing this to sell more copies of his novels, but I know for a fact he’s just trying to tie up all the loose ends so that the books make sense to the readers. He’s done one hell of a job rewriting and revising his earlier books.
Like Wilson’s other novels, “By the Sword” is sharply written with crisp dialogue, descriptive scenes and a storyline that keeps you guessing and wanting to find out how all of this will eventually end. Thankfully, I have time to read the next two Repairman Jack novels (“Ground Zero” and “Fatal Error”), along with the above mentioned books before the final Repairman Jack novel comes out in October. A totally revised edition of “Nightworld” will soon follow in 2012, capping up the entire series.
One last note, I noticed that the picture of the author on the rear cover of the dust jacket of “By the Sword” shows a much younger Wilson. I wonder if he’s getting younger as we get closer to the end of Repairman Jack. It’s possible.
Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas “The Encounter” and “The Tunnels,” both of which can be purchased at Amazon’s Kindle Store for 99 cents each.