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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


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 potential. 

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 fascinating dissertation.

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.

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