Double Threat by F. Paul Wilson
Published: June 29, 2021
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Horror
Length: 10 hours and 59 minutes
In F. Paul Wilson’s Double Threat, the main character, Stanka Daley, is a con artist who makes the fateful, life-changing decision to hide out in a desert cave while on the run from some angry housewives she scammed with a fake car contest.
While Daley, as she prefers to be known, hides in that cave, a strange slug-like creature drops on her head and knocks her out. When she comes to, she stumbles to the house of Juana, a local who watches over the cave and who informs her that surviving an interaction with the alaret, as the creature is known, is a vanishingly rare occurrence, and that she will now serve as Daley’s guide.
Daley isn’t sure what to think when Juana tells her that her life will change forever, but she soon finds out what she means when she starts seeing a man following her and hears his voice in her head. Is she going insane, or did something far stranger happen to her because of the alaret?
The man eventually resolves into Pard, a symbiotic entity now sharing space in Daley’s mind. At first, she wants to do anything she can to get him out of her head, assuming he is figment of her imagination, a symptom of insanity, but she eventually warms to his presence, especially after she learns about the abilities he has to heal herself and others.
Meanwhile, members of a cult who use their scrolls to predict good investment opportunities learn that “a pairing has occurred” and that the “duad” is on its way to ruin their plans. It isn’t long before Daley and Rhys, the son of the cult’s leader, are on a collision course in a small California desert town called Nespodee Springs.
This is the first F. Paul Wilson book I’ve read, although I’ve been interested in his work for a while, and have the first Repairman Jack book somewhere on my shelves. My impression of his work is that he has a lot of interlocking series that build to some kind of apocalyptic conclusion, sort of like how nearly all of Stephen King’s books tie back into the Dark Tower in some way but still work as standalone stories.
According to Wilson’s website, Double Threat is part of his overarching Secret History of the World, but it definitely works on its own without any knowledge of his other work. That said, this book is the first part of a duology, and it definitely ends with most of its major threads unresolved. I’ve waited long enough to read this first part that I was able to pick up the second, Double Dose, immediately after I finished, and I would argue that the two books feel more like one long novel split in two.
Double Threat is definitely an engaging read. It hits the ground running, throwing Daley in the middle of a bizarre situation while she is still trying to clean up the mess of her normal life. Daley is a sympathetic rascal, pulling petty scams just to get by without ever really harming anyone (or, at least, that’s how she justifies it to herself). Giving a con artist the ability to actually heal people is a fantastic hook, and the way she navigates her growing moral compass as the extent of Pard’s power reveals itself to her is incredibly compelling.
The book ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, so it’s likely you’ll want to continue on to the next as soon as possible. Double Dose piles on more epic, not to mention cosmic, complications as Daley learns more about the true goals of the cult so obsessed with her existence as the “duad”. I will say that the second book didn’t quite stick the landing for me, but I’d happily read more books about Daley and Pard, and will definitely pick up more by F. Paul Wilson.
Overall, Double Threat feels like an excellent introduction to F. Paul Wilson without diving deep into his presumably more complex series. It has humor, fun characters, a little bit of romance, and some occasionally shocking moments of danger. I recommend checking it out, but only if you can pick up both books in the series at the same time to make sure you aren’t stuck on a cliffhanger ending.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.