By the time we heard the sirens, we were two blocks from the mall, in a cobbled backstreet as dark as a deer path in the woods under a half-moon. A sudden wind broomed the stillness of the night as the man I would eventually call Father hooked the disc of iron, lifted it, and set it aside. Piping across the hole where the iron had been, the wind played an oboe note, and I went down into that sound and into a world that I could never have imagined, where I would make a better life for myself.
One of the great problems in writing fiction – and I’ve written about this before – is the problem of the Good Character. Good characters in fiction, C. S. Lewis said somewhere (The Four Loves, I’m guessing offhand) “are the very devil.” They tend to be kind of dull, and they pale particularly in comparison to the villains. This is probably, I suspect, because most of us know evil better than we know good.
In his latest novel, Innocence, Dean Koontz approaches that problem in what I think is an entirely fresh way, and the result – in my opinion – is gloriously successful. Koontz just keeps getting better and better as a writer, both thematically and stylistically. He has his misfires, but when he succeeds the results are wondrous. And so it is with Innocence.
Addison Goodheart is a monster. All his life, anyone he has allowed to see his face has been overcome, not only with fear, but with hatred and a desire to do him harm. After his mother sent him out into the world alone, he found his way to an unnamed city, where a man he called Father gave him a home in the city’s tunnels, and taught him how to survive – because Father was another monster like Addison. After Father’s death, Addison survives alone until one night, wandering the city’s central library (which he knows how to enter secretly after hours) he sees a beautiful girl in Goth makeup being pursued by an attacker. After helping her escape, Addison makes the girl, Gwyneth, his friend, and they form an odd alliance. She suffers from a social phobia and won’t let him come near her, while he must keep his face covered. It works for them. She draws him into her struggle to save the life of a comatose little girl whom evil men are trying to kill. But, as they come to learn, that’s only a part of their challenge. Very big changes are coming about in the world, and Addison and Gwyneth are at the center of the greatest storm in history.
Innocence is, in my opinion, a masterpiece, one of Koontz’ best books. Right up there with the Odd Thomas stories. Beautiful, profound, moving, and (although not an explicitly Christian book) deeply informed by Christian truth. I give it my highest recommendation.