By F. Paul Wilson
Jove Books, 323 pp, 1992
Finally, F. Paul Wilson has written a
worthy sequel to The Keep, his 1981 masterpiece of vampire fiction.
Reborn was the first sequel, but that was
disappointing. Reprisal is the next book in the series, the
sequel to Reborn, and it's about one hundred times better than its
predecessor. The Keep still stands alone.
The novel opens in a promising manner, with
our old friend Mr. Veilleur sitting alone in a small cemetery in Queens.
He ruminates next to an unmarked, four-foot grave, whose occupant, Mr.
Veilleur believes, was touched by The Enemy.
Shift the scene to Darnell University in
Pendleton, North Carolina. Lisl Whitman is a frumpy assistant math
professor, 32 years old, lonely, and lacking confidence. Will Ryerson is a
groundskeeper at the university, mid-forties, with a strange but
understandable aversion to telephones. Whenever he is around one, it lets
out an uninterrupted ring, and whoever answers listens to a horrifying
message by a terrified little boy.
We also meet Everett Sanders, Lisl's
colleague, also lonely, a math nerd, lives a very regimented lifestyle for
a very good reason, and loves Lisl. That last part is only implied by the
author, but I think it's clear.
Lisl meets a 23-year-old graduate student
named Rafe Losmara at a cocktail party. They hit it off, go on a few
dates, and end up in bed. She's infatuated with him. But Rafe is not what
he seems, which Wilson gives away very early.
Rafe and Lisl see each other constantly,
and Rafe slowly bends Lisl to his will. He's charming, seductive, dotes on
her, and she can't refuse him, even when he asks her to do something she
knows is wrong, like shoplift. Rafe says that's not stealing because Rafe
and Lisl are Primes, people who produce and invent and create things that
people who are not Primes consume. Non-Primes are nothing but leeches and
laggards, and deserve no consideration. Primes can do what they please
with them. Lisl is a Prime, though she doesn't know it, and she must not
let non-Primes hold her back and prevent her from realizing her true
It's a seductive philosophy and inherently
evil. But Lisl buys into it and is soon shoplifting all the time. She even
commits an ungodly act against Everett. But that's not until the end.
To this point, there are many unanswered
questions. Who is Rafe? Why is Will plagued by the terrifying phone calls?
Why is a New York detective tracking these phone calls? Who's in that
grave Mr. Veilleur is so concerned about?
To answer these, Wilson goes back five
years ago, and we reacquaint ourselves with Father Bill Ryan, from Reborn.
He's still runs the St. Francis orphanage. A five-year-old boy goes home
with a loving couple and ends up crucified and gutted, but still alive. In
fact, poor Danny Gordon has no blood or pulse, can't sleep (anesthesia
does not work), and endures unspeakable agony. This forces Father Bill to
make an ungodly choice, one that haunts him to this day.
That's all I can relate without giving
anything away. You'll have to read it to find out what happens next.
What I liked best about this novel was
Wilson's portrayal of evil. Rafe slowly corrupts Lisl by preying on her
vulnerability and innocence. His philosophy very closely matches the
biblical definition of evil - self-centered and atheistic. It's a
Beyond that, it has its chills and scary
moments, and a super ending. It also promises yet another sequel, which
I'm sure Wilson has since written. I need to track it down.