A few days ago, The Dark at the End, the latest and penultimate novel in the “Repairman Jack” series by F. Paul Wilson, arrived from Amazon. There are a couple dozen Repairman Jacks, depending on how you count (the same characters turn up in novels and short stories that are not strictly part of the series). The final one, Nightworld, is due in the spring, and I’ll pre-order it as soon as it is offered. Repairman Jack is an urban mercenary of sorts, though very selective about his clients. Rather against his will, he finds himself working for an otherworldly client; over the course of the series he discovers there is a larger reality “behind the veil” of the everyday apparent one, and some of it is terrifying. Jack’s trans-dimensional universe is very reminiscent of that of H.P. Lovecraft. F. Paul Wilson sports a much more readable writing style, though, and he winks at the reader with dry humor. Even if horror/scifi isn’t normally your brand, I recommend picking up The Tomb, the first book of the series; you might find yourself addicted.
One appeal of the series to many readers, I think, is the “behind the veil” postulate, even though Mr. Wilson himself seems quite the skeptical sort in his nonfiction writings. “People will accept any how, provided they have a why,” Friedrich Nietzsche once remarked, while discussing the problem of value and meaning in a secular era. (I went through a Nietzsche phase back in the 70s. I think a lot of young men go through a Nietzsche phase despite some of his embarrassing shortcomings – Fred generally swam in such a deep pool of wisdom that he really didn’t have a right to wade through shallows as he did in some places.) He had a point, and it may explain why so many folks eagerly glom onto the most amazing conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassinations, Princess Di’s death, the Illuminati, the World Trade Center, flying saucers in Area 51, and what have you. The thought that there is some purpose behind it all, even if it’s a malevolent purpose, is less disturbing than the proposition that events, life, and nature are randomness and chaos, with no real purpose at all – that, for all the petty and conflicting schemes of individuals, no one is really in charge. My personal favorite conspiracy theory (see video below) is David Icke’s dead serious argument that alien reptiles are running everything behind the scenes. Repairman Jack’s universe, with its largely unseen motivators with secret purposes of cosmic proportions, is an enjoyable one into which to escape.
I’m a chaos man, as you might have guessed. While there are plenty of real conspiracies in the world, few of them are very secret and even fewer succeed at much of anything. I don’t think alien reptiles or other unseen forces are manipulating us behind the scenes. As for human schemers and motivators, secret or otherwise, even the most powerful would-be puppet-masters are more often pulled by the strings they hold than the other way around. Just ask, for example, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve whether they whelm more often than they are overwhelmed. The problem they face isn’t the Illuminati undermining their plans either – it’s simply a universe where, just by the odds, there are far more ways for things to go awry than to go right.
Fred’s answer to “why,” by the way (later taken up by the Existentialists), is that, if you don’t believe the universe has an inherent meaning, you have to make your own purposes. If this is unsatisfying to some readers, there is another answer available from science. According to Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll, "The purpose of life is to hydrogenate carbon dioxide.” Well, there you go then.
The Reptilian Conspiracy