Tag Archives: Dean Koontz

‘Innocence,’ by Dean Koontz

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.

Deeply Odd, by Dean Koontz

In such a short time, Mrs. Fischer and I had achieved a degree of friendship that allowed periods of silence without awkwardness. I felt comfortable with her. I was reasonably sure that she would never shoot me or stab me, or set me on fire, or throw acid in my face, or lock me in a room with a hungry crocodile, or dump me in a lake after chaining me to two dead men. Such confidence in a new acquaintance is more rare these days than it once was.

As I read Deeply Odd, Dean Koontz’ latest Odd Thomas adventure, I thought to myself, “This feeling, which I always get from the Odd Thomas books – and more than usual in this one – must be the feeling women get from those romance novels they love.” A story that satisfies a very deep emotional need. In the case of an Odd Thomas story, that emotional need is for a picture of a world in which real evil exists, but in which good is also potent, not to mention more fun.

This time out, Odd, who is traveling California with a ghost dog, an enigmatic pregnant woman, and a boy without a family, takes a walk downtown one day to buy some new clothes, but ends up stealing a Ford Explorer in order to follow a semi truck driver who’s carrying out some unknown – but certainly evil – task. As he follows the man, he learns that the trucker is connected to the kidnapping of four children marked for a cruel, sacrificial death. But he also finds friends to help him, including an old lady who never sleeps, driving a Mercedes limousine, the world’s best protected and wisest survivalists, and the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock.

For me, Deeply Odd was just a delight from front to back. It may be my favorite Odd Thomas book to date, which is saying a great deal. Cautions for very disturbing subject matter, but no obscene language (Odd is much too polite to use such words). My highest recommendation.

Kindle here. Hardback here.

The Oddity of Dean Koontz

Odd is self-consciously one of Burke’s good men: determined to do something rather than nothing in the face of evil. In Odd Hours, he contemplates Burke’s dictum and adds that it is essential “that good men and women not be propagandized into believing that real evil is a myth” and that all malevolent behavior is simply the result of poor socialization or bad economic theory. But this awareness of responsibility comes with a price. Again from Odd Hours: “to do what you feel sure is right and in the aid of justice, you sometimes have to do things that, when recalled on lonely nights, make you wonder if in fact you are the good man that you like to believe you are.”

Our friend Hunter Baker writes about Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas in the current issue of Touchstone.

Baker on Odd

Our friend Hunter Baker praises Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas books over at Touchstone Magazine:

Years of major market success gain an author freedom to do what he wants. In the last decade, Koontz has invested his considerable artistic capital in becoming a more intentional instructor of the soul. His device for moral and spiritual teaching is a young man named Odd. Odd, like Koontz, is a Catholic. He is bright, handsome, and athletic. His parents are divorced and both highly dysfunctional. Odd’s inattentive, playboy father comes from a family with a lot of money. His mother doesn’t deserve the name. Given his upbringing, Odd is a miracle. He is God’s child more than he is the child of two people who refuse to grow up.

77 Shadow Street, by Dean Koontz

One thing that can be said for Dean Koontz is that he likes to mix it up. His characters may tend to look similar (as what author’s don’t?), but he likes to experiment with his stories. 77 Shadow Street, I think, is unusual among his books in featuring quite a large cast of characters and constantly jumping the point of view from one to another. I wish I could say I thought the experiment was a great success, but I wouldn’t call it a total failure either.

77 Shadow Street is the address of an exclusive residential apartment building, something like the Dakota in Manhattan, home to a number of wealthy and/or famous people. They include a drunken ex-senator, a stock broker with military experience, a single mother who writes hit country songs, a female novelist raising an autistic daughter, a retired lawyer, a working hit man, a famous geneticist, and others. When they first begin to notice strange phenomena in their building—lights, vibrations, and strangers appearing and disappearing in antique clothing—they aren’t alarmed at first. Until the whole building is transported into a future time where the world is depopulated and strange life forms stalk the hallways, intent on turning them all into something other than human. Continue reading 77 Shadow Street, by Dean Koontz

Odd Apocalypse, by Dean Koontz

Guys who wear porkpie hats are always, in my experience, up to no good—and pleased about it. Whether that style of headwear turns previously benign men into sociopaths or whether men who are already sociopaths are drawn to that style is one of those mysteries that will never be solved, though the Department of Justice has probably funded a score of scientific studies of the issue.

Another Odd Thomas novel from Dean Koontz, another home run. I won’t say Odd Apocalypse is my favorite in the series—I won’t even say I’m sure I liked it better than the previous novella, Odd Interlude, which I reviewed recently. But all these books are so far superior to anything else being done in the genre (assuming I know what the genre is) that you know going in that you’re in for a delight. And you are not disappointed.

Odd Thomas is the simplest of men, with the simplest of desires. All he wants is a quiet life, and to love a girl who is gone. But he’s been entrusted with gifts—the ability to see the “undeparted dead,” and a sort of psychic GPS that helps him find people he’s looking for. Because he’s faithful to God, he employs these gifts for the good of others, which leads him into great danger time and time again. Continue reading Odd Apocalypse, by Dean Koontz

More Odd, Less Gore

Last night as I was getting ready to turn in, I turned on Dennis Miller’s talk show, which is delay-broadcast here. A married couple was sitting in for him (I forget their names), and they announced that their next guest would be their friend Dean Koontz, to talk about his new novel, Odd Apocalypse.

I listened to the interview and took the book’s release date, my birthday, as a sign from heaven that I was meant to buy it now, and not wait for a lower price when the paperback comes out.

I’ll review it soon.

In other literary news, Gore Vidal has died.

They say you should speak no ill of the dead.

I have nothing more to say.

Odd Interlude, 1, 2, and 3, by Dean Koontz

Such genuine trust, so sweetly expressed, bears witness to an innocence in the human heart that endures even in this broken world and that longs to ring the bell backward and undo the days of history until all such trust would be justified in a world started anew and as it always should have been.

There’s a large company of readers for whom a new Dean Koontz book is always cause for rejoicing. But more than that, a new Odd Thomas book is cause for double rejoicing. The wandering fry cook from Pico Mundo, California is Koontz’s greatest creation, one of the most perfect depictions of actual saintliness ever conceived by an author. Not the common conception of saintliness—stuffy and judgmental—but the actual, biblical kind—humble, gentle, and quietly courageous.

Odd Interlude is an “odd” entry in the series. It’s a novella, offered in three installments, One, Two, and Three, sold for Kindle at $1.99 each, partly to raise interest in Odd Apocalypse, a new novel coming later this year. As if we needed motivation. Continue reading Odd Interlude, 1, 2, and 3, by Dean Koontz

The Moonlit Mind, by Dean Koontz

Sanctuary can be found in that kind of church—whether Baptist or otherwise—in which, on Sundays, rollicking gospel songs are sung with gusto and booming piano. Churches in which Latin is sometimes spoken, candles are lit for the intention of the dead, incense is sometimes burned, and fonts of holy water stand at the entrances—those are also secure. Synagogues are good refuges too.

Here’s a nice little slice of pure Dean Koontz. The Moonlit Mind, a novella available cheap for your Kindle, has many elements that will be no surprise coming from Koontz—a precocious child on the run from an abusive situation (here occult ritual abuse), a dog possessing preternatural wisdom, and helpless innocence pitted against powerful evil.

The story is told in two narrative threads—the present, in which twelve-year-old Crispin lives in hiding in an unnamed city, his only friends his dog Harley (who finds him money to live on), and Amity, another person in hiding, a girl who lives inside a local department store.

The second thread is the back story, in which we slowly learn how Crispin, along with his younger brother and sister, was raised in great luxury in a mysterious mansion, and how his siblings disappeared one after the other, as Crispin gradually came to realize a horrible truth…

Good story. Excellent writing. Endearing (and horrifying) characters. Apparently The Moonlit Mind is a teaser for a longer book coming up, 77 Shadow Street, which will involve the same city.

Recommended for teens and older.

What the Night Knows, by Dean Koontz

I’m a fan of Dean Koontz, so when I say that I wasn’t entirely pleased with What the Night Knows, you must understand that I’m not saying it was a bad read, or that it bored me. It’s a professionally constructed story, with appealing characters and gripping terror. But there were things that disappointed me about it.

As in so many Koontz stories, the action is sparked by a bigger-than-life villain. This one is Alton Turner Blackwood, a gigantic, deformed sexual sadist who has an extra advantage—he’s dead. He can possess inanimate objects or people, and he uses them to commit horrific sex murders against entire families. He especially craves young, innocent females.

Years ago police detective John Calvino, then a teenaged boy, walked in on Blackwood just after he had murdered Calvino’s family. Calvino shot him to death. But somehow Blackwood’s evil spirit endures, and he is determined to recreate his last string of murders, on precisely the same timetable, finishing up with Calvino and his wife and three children. Continue reading What the Night Knows, by Dean Koontz

Frankenstein: The Dead Town, by Dean Koontz

“The pages [of the original Frankenstein] reek with your bottomless self-pity so poorly disguised as regret, with the phoniness of your verbose self-condemnation, with the insidious quality of your contrition, which is that of a materialist who cares not for God and is therefore not true contrition at all, but only despair at the consequences of your actions. For centuries, I have been the monster, and you the well-meaning idealist who claims he would have undone what he did if only given the chance. But your kind never undoes. You do the same wrong over and over, with ever greater fervency, causing ever more misery, because you are incapable of admitting error.”

“I’ve made no error,” Victor Immaculate confidently assures him, “and neither did your maker.”

Looming, the giant says, “You are my maker.”

Thus Frankenstein’s monster, now known as Deucalion, purified by suffering and made truly human, addresses Dr. Frankenstein, so corrupted by power and pride that he has ceased to be human at all, in Frankenstein: The Dead Town, the dramatic climax to Dean Koontz’ five-book deconstruction of Mary Shelley’s original narrative.

It should be clear to all regular readers that I’m pretty much in the bag for Dean Koontz. Not the greatest prose stylist around, he is nevertheless one of the few authors whose writing has gotten constantly better since he became a publishing superstar. He creates amusing and engaging characters who know how to talk to each other, and keeps them in escalating peril, mesmerizing the reader. He’s optimistic without being sappy, and can deal with tragedy without inducing despair.

In this book, all the main characters who first met in New Orleans, the detective couple Carson and Michael, the genetically-engineered Bride of Frankenstein, Erika, along with her adopted child, the troll-like Jocko, Deucalion the monster, and Victor Frankenstein (or rather his clone) all come to a final showdown in the town of Rainbow Falls, Montana. At the end of the previous installment, an army of Victor’s genetically engineered killers had cut the town off and begun murdering and “reprocessing” the inhabitants, as the start to a program to destroy all life on earth (Victor judges it messy and inefficient). Humanity’s only hope is Deucalion, who was endowed at his creation with powers over physical space. But he needs his human (and somewhat human) friends to help him. Victor Frankenstein has also failed to anticipate the difficulties involved in overcoming a population of God-fearing, gun-owning American westerners. Continue reading Frankenstein: The Dead Town, by Dean Koontz

Frankenstein: Lost Souls, by Dean Koontz

Frankenstein: Lost Souls

I was surprised at first to see Dean Koontz’ Frankenstein series continuing beyond the original trilogy. I’d come away from that series thinking the story was pretty well wrapped up, and wrapped up pretty well. Also, Koontz has generally resisted writing series in the past, though he’s made exceptions here and in the Odd Thomas books.

However, on reading Frankenstein: Lost Souls, I was reminded of loose threads from the previous books which had indeed set us up for a continuation. So it’s all fair and aboveboard.

The main characters are back, but the locations have changed. New Orleans detectives Carson O’Conner and Michael Maddison, now married, have moved to San Francisco, where they work as private investigators and dote on their new baby. “Deucalion,” the reformed Frankenstein monster, has retired to a monastery (the same one, as it happens, that Odd Thomas lived in for a while, in Brother Odd). And Erica Five, Dr. Frankenstein’s android bride, is living near Rainbow Falls, Montana, along with Jocko, the android gnome, who serves as an object for her maternal instincts.

Then Deucalion has an intuition—a sure conviction in his psychic sense, telling him that somehow Dr. Frankenstein, who was horribly killed at the end of the previous book, is nevertheless alive. Continue reading Frankenstein: Lost Souls, by Dean Koontz

Breathless, by Dean Koontz


Say what you like about Dean Koontz; he isn’t afraid to experiment and mix it up. Breathless is part spiritual thriller, part science fiction. It’s a book with a clear message, one many readers won’t like. It’s also a very sweet story, and I enjoyed it and was moved by it. For reference, the same spirit that animates the Odd Thomas books is at work here.

Koontz jumps between several characters and story lines, before bringing them together, if not in one place, at least around one theme. A wonderful thing has happened in our world. Each witness to that event responds for the good or the evil, depending on the capacities of their souls.

Because of the multiplicity of story lines, it’s hard to give a synopsis, but the central story involves a man named Grady Adams, who along with his dog Merlin (gratefully, the dog is not a supernatural being this time out) observes the Event while on an evening walk in the woods. Soon he notices strange creatures watching his house. Meanwhile, his friend Camillia Rivers, a veterinarian, is trying to find an explanation for a strange “seizure” experienced by a number of domestic animals, which not only doesn’t seem to have done them any harm, but has done them good.

And nearby a sociopathic murderer is preparing for the collapse of society by building himself a secure compound on a mountain farm.

It all comes together in the end.

If you’re a Koontz fan and a religious believer, you’ll probably enjoy Breathless. If you don’t get the whole religion thing, you may find it offputting.

I don’t recall any very rough language. No sex, and the violence happens early on and is not explicit.

Not Koontz’ best, but recommended, for those with eyes to see.

Relentless, by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz is a bold writer when it comes to experimenting with genres. In Relentless he gives us a comic horror science fiction thriller. It’s a very enjoyable and compelling book, but I’m not entirely sure all its parts work together.

I’ve said in other reviews that I admire Koontz’s general avoidance of the common (lazy) writer’s trick of telling stories about writers. But Relentless is about a writer (and his family). It could hardly have been otherwise, given the premise.

If horror means basing plots on our greatest fears, there can be no greater horror premise for a writer than a sociopathic critic. Negative critics are the enemies against whom there is no defense. Fighting a critic is a loser’s game. But how much worse if that critic wants you (and your family) dead? Continue reading Relentless, by Dean Koontz

Your Heart Belongs to Me, by Dean Koontz

Some people might not care for this book (the Amazon reviews support that contention), because it’s different from Dean Koontz’ other work. But if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that Koontz frequently changes genres, and mixes and matches genres within a story. He doesn’t like to do the same thing twice (with the exception of the Odd Thomas and Frankenstein books, which just prove that he refuses to be predictable even in his unpredictability). With Your Heart Belongs to Me he has (in my opinion), not only broken new genre ground, but produced his best writing to date.

This book sings. Again and again, I paused in my reading just to savor how beautifully the author had expressed himself. The usual pattern for a popular writer, as far as I’ve observed, is to start out really good, with a book he’s probably labored over for years, and then to become increasingly sloppy, as his publisher’s demands for several books a year force him to churn stuff out and send it away in the rough. But Koontz is an infinitely better writer today than he was when he started, and the best of his recent work reaches (I think) the level of literary fiction. That’s certainly true of Your Heart Belongs to Me.

The blurb on the back told me that this was the story of Ryan Perry, an internet social networking billionaire who’s had a heart transplant and starts getting threatening messages from someone telling him, “You’re heart belongs to me.”

But in fact, Koontz takes more than half of the book to set that situation up. We see Ryan as a rich, healthy, happy young man who lives the American dream. He has an enormous house, surfs whenever he wants to, and is dating a gorgeous young woman. Then he starts experiencing physical symptoms which turn out to indicate, not a heart attack, but a congenital cardiac enlargement condition. He begins to be suspicious (the condition might have been caused by poisoning). He employs a security company to investigate various people who might want him dead. On a whim, he takes his business from the cardiologist he’s been seeing, and switches to a more famous, more expensive specialist. And along the way he has occasional visions—or hallucinations—that seem to be communicating a message. But it’s a message he can’t understand.

Finally his name comes up on the international transplant waiting list he’s on, and he gets his surgery. His recovery is good. But his girlfriend breaks up with him. (She says he knows why, but he can’t figure it out.) Then the messages start appearing—a bag of candy hearts, all with the same message, left on his pillow in a room that ought to be locked and secure. A heart-shaped pendant left on his pillow. A sudden knife attack, accompanied by a whispered threat.

It isn’t until he’s kidnapped and threatened with death that Ryan begins to acknowledge the things he’s been purposely overlooking, and to understand the meaning of the warnings he’s had. “It’s all about the subtext,” his girlfriend, a writer, once told him.

The ending is different from that of any Koontz novel I recall. But it was a good ending, entirely satisfying in its way.

I recommend Your Heart Belongs to Me highly. You’ll find yourself searching your own heart.