Audiobook Review: Cold City by F. Paul Wilson

4 03 2013

Cold City by F. Paul Wilson (Repairman Jack: The Early Years, Book 1)

Read by Alexander Cendese

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

Grade: B+

A few years ago, when I was a relative newcomer to the world of Urban Fantasy, a friend of mine recommended two series to me, The Dresden Files and Repairman Jack. At first, I was planning on starting the Repairman Jack series, because, well, I thought the name was pretty cool. Honestly, that’s the kind of well informed decisions I tend to make. You know that whole book/cover judging conundrum, well, throw some robot monkeys or hybrid Gorillaroos on your cover, and I’ll probably buy it even if it’s just a repackaging of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Yet, here comes the problem. While I am often arbitrary about my book purchases based on cover, cool author name or impressing the ladies, as an audiobook consumer, I do my research. I was a bit confused about the order of the Repairman Jack books, yet I came to discover the audiobook releases were sporadic, with some holes and inconsistent narrators. I am one of those weird guys who like to read a series in order, even if an author declares that each book can be read independently. It’s a strange quirk of mine. Also, I do prefer consistent narrators for a series, but am willing to deal with a narrator change, because that’s the business. Yet, when I discovered that Dresden had a consistent narrator, and that it was James Marsters, I went with Dresden. Yet, I still couldn’t get past the cool name. Repairman Jack. I’ve always thought the name Jack was pretty badass. Jack Bauer, Jack Bristow, Jack Reacher, heck, even Jack Ryan had his moments, and this particular Jack was a Repairman. I’m not so handy around the house, so, yeah, that had to be cool. So, upon learning that F. Paul Wilson was releasing a prequel Trilogy to this series that solved some problems. I knew I could listen without too many chances of spoilers, nor the need to learn the mythology, plus, I imagined the trilogy would use the same narrator. So, I was totally in, my maiden Repairman Jack journey, if you will.

Cold City starts in New York, as a young man named Jack, fresh off a family tragedy, is trying to disappear into a new life. At first I was a bit taken aback. As the story started, I did feel I was missing some back story on the character. I did some research and discovered that Wilson had written a YA series based on this character. Luckily, Wilson does a good job filling in enough details to give you a sense of where the character is, without forcing you to go through a big bout of exposition. The novel starts off with Jack in a bit of trouble, with some machete wielding former coworkers looking to resolve some personal issues. This leads Jack into looking to get a weapon of his own, which in turns leads to some interesting contacts, and a new opportunity. This is the interesting thing about Cold City, while the plotting is consistent, and the story compelling, it is more a series of events, where Jack meets some interesting people and gets mixed up in the machinations of some bad people. The driving force seems to be more luck, whether good or bad. Without actually knowing much of the mythology of The Repairman Jack, I can see why Wilson took this approach. I imagine many of the characters and organizations at play in Cold City, become significant later in the series, and for fans of the series, seeing just how Jack got mixed up in these things had to be cool. For someone new to the series, it works as well, because it wasn’t dependent on knowing what has already been written. Sure, there were probably little nuggets that a new reader will miss along the way, sort of Easter Eggs for the regular reader. Cold City wasn’t what I had been expecting. It was more of a straight thriller than an Urban Fantasy or Paranormal tale, but it was quite effective at what it was. I really liked Jack as a character. He had the right blending of grit and naiveté, a cool customer, with room to grow. Wilson put him up against some real badies, and while Jack was able to work around them, he wasn’t any superman, but someone dealing with evil in a human way. Cold City is full of colorful characters who add a lot to the tale. My only warning is that this novel has to be looked at as the first of a series. There are many ends that aren’t tied up as the book comes to a close. If you need a clean ending, you won’t get it, but in my opinion, it’s worth it for the potential I can see in the series as a whole. Cold City is a fun thriller that tells the story of a young hero finding his place in the world. It’s a good blend of fast paced shoot ’em up action and cerebral plotting that manages to keep a strong flow. The characters are full of color, and the humor jumps off the page despite some dark situations. This is my first experience with Repairman Jack, but I am sure it won’t be my last.

This was also my first experience with Alexander Cendese as a narrator, and I was quite impressed. In fact, his style reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite narrators, MacLeod Andrews. He has a young voice, perfect for a 21 year old protagonist, but also with a bit of gravel that gave Jack a definite edginess. He managed to capture the tragic nature of the character as well as his naiveté while also giving him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  I also think he made a conscience effort to give some of the other characters recognizable voices, the mafia goombah, the old Yiddish gent, while still filling their characters out as more becomes revealed about them. He captured the humor just right without it ever becoming cartoonish. The action scenes were well paced and visual, allowing the listener to picture exactly what was going on. There are a few other titles that have been narrated by Cendese that I had been on the fence about, but listening to Cold City makes me much more confident about giving them a shot.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. 

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