Hosts (Repairman Jack #5) By F.Paul Wilson
**** 512 pages Tor
I have written at length by now about Wilson’s combining of two series together and from now on I am going to assume anyone reading these reviews has read the first four novels, or at least my reviews. At this point in the Repairman Jack series you are better off reading them and the Adversary cycle in as close an order as possible. Hosts is the fifth book in the RMJ series so it has several plot threads that are carried forward from other books but at this point it is still possible to drop in and read this one stand alone.
Reading and reviewing so many Wilson books in a short time it is near impossible to not to sound like a broken record saying things like “Master of plotting,” “ many plot threads coming together,” “Great characterization.”
This book starts with a random subway shooting, In a stroke of good luck for the innocent people on the train Jack is there. Yeah, super bad luck for the low key off the radar anarchist hero like Repairman Jack. He doesn’t want to get involved as it risks his cover but Jack ends up killing the shooter. This is all seen through the eyes of flawed, but interesting character Sandy Palmer who is a journalist for the coast to coast like tabloid called “The Light.” (The Light played a big role in the Adversary novel –The Touch) Sandy is on the train watches as Jack escapes the seen. Sandy is an interesting character and in his zeal to become a famous journalist he decides to track down the unknown “subway savior.” He assumes that the savior wants to be found and slowly starts to find Jack, happening upon more by accident than skill.
At the same time Jack is contacted by his estranged Sister Kate. At this point in the series Jack’s family is mostly a mystery. Kate is given Jack’s number by a mysterious Russian man. She is desperate for help as her girlfriend’s behavior gets weird, cult like after the experimental cure for her cancer saves and changes her. She is acting strange and doing even more strange things. Can Jack find out what is happening to her? Is it something more monstrous than he can imagine?
With Jack back in her life, Kate and her brother learn about each other and how they have changed. For Kate she comes out to Jack as a closeted lesbian. It might seem strange how Kate’s problems relate to the larger story but it is fun watching Wilson weave these elements together.
Unlike the last book in the series, the suspense in Hosts is the books strength. This is very much a horror novel that has a very tense ending. I would say it is a slightly better novel than All The Rage(#4). Hosts touches on some themes of experimental medicine which puts Wilson in a unique position to write this one. The family connection is an important a vital aspect of this novel. An important step for taking the Jack novels up a notch.
The characters invented for this novel from Kate to Sandy Palmer are interesting and put through a ringer. It’s clear that while we know Jack will survive novel to novel, and that makes a situation where the novels would get boring. It is hard to make tension if you know the main character is safe. Wilson’s solution, he creates lots of interesting and likable characters into the series that are far from safe. It is a huge step for the character to spend time with his sister, adds depth and history and makes the death of his sister to be heart breaking. Poor Sandy Palmer, he was kinda of jerk but I was hoping he would be a problem for Jack for a while to come. That said Wilson created a surprise by killing off this character.