Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Evaluation: The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson (Author's Definitive Edition) (1984) (Re-released in 2004)

I previously reviewed the original version of F. Paul Wilson's start of the Repairman Jack series back in 2011. I have been into these books, reading them and enjoying them for a good long while, but about two years ago, I started having less time and had a good amount of trouble getting through the last four or so books of the series. I had forgotten some details and generally felt frustrated that I couldn't easily get back into the mindset I needed to read these books. So, back in November or so I started reading this book. But again I ran into time troubles which have only recently begun to resolve themselves. And thus, I started reading through the series again, almost as if it were new to me.

I really enjoy the series, and must again express my surprise that very few other people I know (most of whom are into this type of fiction) have ever even heard of the author before much less the series. But I've certainly expressed my love of the series to them in the interim. Anyway, since I've already reviewed this particular book in an earlier form, I'm basically just going to go over some of the changes I noticed and give a bit more critical look at the book itself. Reading through it a third time has left me much more enthused to read the rest of the series, but a little less high on this particular book. It seems like a strange this to me, so maybe I should explain.

The story and the players in the story: Jack, Gia, Vicky, Kusum, Kolobati, Abe, and the rest, they all work really well here. They work well as rounded character in well-rounded situations. There was never a moment when I was wondering if a character were evil or good. Honestly, evil and good don't seem to exist in this universe. There seems to be something else at work, in my opinion something more realistic. The villains are never cackling and twisting mustaches. They are conflicted antivillains most of the time, ready to do horrible things, but only because they feel they need to for the greater good. Kusum, the main antagonist of the novel, sums up that thought perfectly. A religious zealot who polluted his own karma, Kusum is trying to "save" both himself and his beloved India, but the means he uses is both extreme and terrifying. It's also very much an extreme we as people living in the world today can both understand and abhor for it goes on all the time. We see it in the news and maybe even in our daily lives.

I don't remember reading the book last time and feeling such sadness for Kusum and such loathing for his sister, Kolobati. In the book it's pointed out many times that there is a sincerity and will in Kusum that makes him almost a hero, just on the wrong side of the protagonist. Kolobati though seems both spoiled and sickening, a twisted soul whose long life has etched a selfish and self-centered attitude within her. The rakoshi are removed from these judgments, being both animalistic and following orders. Less evil and more Other. But I guess this isn't the book to go into that yet.

Again, the plot is a simple mystery. Jack and his ex-girlfriend, Gia, are on the outs. She found out that he was stockpiling weapons in his apartment, confronted him, and lost it when she learned the truth. Most of Jack's motivation throughout the book is trying to win her back through trying to help her with finding her daughter, Vicky's, missing great-aunt. Jack does eventually discover what happened to the great-aunt, Grace, and then later to her sister, Nellie, but he cannot save them. He arrives too late and they are already dead, eaten by the rakoshi, demons from a different era.

The complaints I have are few, but the amount of sex in the book is kind of ridiculous. It worked well in the original novel, written and feeling very much like a product of the 1980s. But for a more modern retelling, it just doesn't feel right. Maybe that explanation is flimsy, coming down to the years between when I read the original and when I've read this revised edition. Maybe I've changed or my tastes have, but I doubt that. I think there is much less motivation there for Jack to be having sex with another woman when he claims to still love the one who won't take him back. Then again, perhaps I've been in a committed relationship too long and have forgotten what it feels like to be alone and longing for a connection. My point is that it felt a bit gratuitous, and F. Paul Wilson always seems to fall into the same trap or telling us how long the sex happened for. I don't need to know that, and it really doesn't matter to me. But there's always, when sex is mentioned, a time period attached. And those moments when the time is all night long or something- well, that just seems mildly ridiculous. It's an issue in the back of my head at least, and something that would repeatedly take me out of the book itself. This seems to fix itself, mostly, in subsequent novels, but feels wholly insane here, with no less than five or six circumstances of sex being described, timed, and spoken about in detail, in a novel where I mostly wanted to read about Jack killing monsters and fighting a one-armed Indian.

Beyond that, the revised edition doesn't have all that many changes that I noticed. There are DVDs mentioned instead of Betamax, and I believe a few more updates besides, but cell phones don't come into the plot, neither do computers, or really any technology used past the 1980s. I understand why this book was revised: so that it could fit into the mythology of the overarching series and fit in a modern world for ease of writing, but glaring omissions of use (but not mention) of technology seems to place this novel absolutely in the 1980s even if it were updated for a more modern consumption. It reads like a 1980s novel, being comparable to Stephen King's second Dark Tower novel which is heavily '80s: The Drawing of the Three. Both are set so fully in that decade that removing either of them from it would only make the change that much more obvious.

Maybe if I had never read the original before the change wouldn't feel so jarring, but it did. I still love the novel, but I think if I read it again, I'll stick with the original and just get over the continuity errors between this book and Legacies, the second Repairman Jack novel.

As for everything else, the book starts off as a slow-burning mystery, turning both historical and a bit mythical as the story goes on, and then turning into a full action-adventure story with an action hero as the lead for the end. I've called this story a modern male fantasy story before, and now I'll do it officially here. I think this is a perfect story for a man to read and put himself into the underdeveloped and closed off Jack. Much like Indiana Jones and that franchise, this one is also all about both magic and what a typical man might look for if he were wanting a more exciting and heroic life. Maybe that's just me though, but with all the sex and Jack always winning and coming out ahead, even just a little, it seems very plausible.

Anyway, that's about it. I recommend it a ton as well as the series as a whole. The climax on the ship is incredibly well played out, and I certainly enjoyed the ride.

As for upcoming reviews, I have a bunch planned. I have more of this series to talk about as I read through it for example, and some movies I've put aside to watch as well. It's only a matter of time and with the summer in full swing, I should have more time to write and review, even if that's less time of me working my official job. Anyway, I'll be back in not too long!

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