Category Archives: Fiction

From the Corner of His Eye, by Dean Koontz

Be easy in your ceaseless care for me. I got my walk in tonight. It looks to be the only one I’ll get this week, but it’s something. The temperature was tolerable, if I bundled up, and enough sun filtered through the light clouds to give me a diaphanous shadow.

Tomorrow night it’s supposed to rain. In any case, I’ll be running to the airport to pick up Moloch and his wife, back from China.

Which means that it’s just possible, if I hear that traffic’s bad, that I’ll skip posting altogether.

Steel yourselves. I know you can survive it.

I promise I’m not going to review every Dean Koontz novel I read, as I go through them alphabetically.

But I’m going to review the really outstanding ones. And From the Corner of His Eye definitely qualifies.

I suppose it’s possible that Koontz could produce a better novel than this. I haven’t read them all yet. But at this point I can’t imagine a better one.

This is a big, sprawling book that covers a long period of time, kind of like those Victorian novels I’ve never read, by Thackeray and Trollope.

And it’s populated by a remarkable cast of quirky, fascinating characters worthy of Charles Dickens.

And it’s built on a Sci Fi/Supernatural premise, like… well, like a Dean Koontz book.

The blurb on the inside page of the paperback is misleading. It makes it sound as if this is the story of Bartholomew Lampion. Bartholomew is certainly a central character, but he’s a baby for half the book. The story is actually about a whole network of people, all bound together by the strange effects of a radio sermon called, “This Momentous Day.”

The story begins in January, 1965. First of all (though not first in the narrative), in Oregon, a narcissistic sociopath named Enoch Cain murders his beautiful, loving wife. The next day, in two places in California, two babies are born—a boy and a girl—in circumstances of extreme family tragedy. Nevertheless each child finds a loving home and shows early signs of being a prodigy.

But Enoch Cain is out there, and he has become aware that there’s a child who he believes is a danger to him. He grows obsessed with finding that child and killing him.

Cain is an interesting character. He’s evil and does horrible things that cause great pain to people the reader has come to care for. Nevertheless, Koontz treats him to a large degree as a comic figure (he explains his rationale for this through one of his characters in the course of the book). Cain thinks he’s a genius, a connoisseur, and God’s gift to women, but in fact he’s not particularly bright, likes only the things critics tell him to like, and most people who meet him find him rather creepy. He’s blissfully unaware of this. Also his suppressed conscience expresses itself forcefully in some painful and embarrassing physical reaction, every time he commits a murder.

As the plot works itself out, and all the characters come to know one another, we observe the working out of Koontz’ premise, that just as quantum physics and string theory tell us that every point in the universe is connected, so all people are connected, and all our actions have infinite consequences—and not only in our own universe.

I loved every page of this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel this long (over 700 pages) before and wanted it to be longer. As the saying goes, I laughed; I cried.

There are strong Christian elements (along with some speculation which could serve as fodder for late night discussions).

From the Corner of His Eye gets my highest recommendation.

Update: Scratch tomorrow’s rain. We’re going to get snow.

If Nature is our Mother, our family is dysfunctional.

How Novels Work

John Mullan, senior lecturer in English at University College London and using material from his “Elements of Fiction” column in The Guardian, has a book on novel called How Novels Work, from Oxford UP.

How Novels Work explains how the pleasures of novel reading often come from the formal ingenuity of the novelist, making visible techniques and effects we are often only half-aware of as we read. It is an entertaining and stimulating volume that will captivate anyone who is interested in the contemporary or the classical novel.

Narnia Book Contest: Favorite Lines

I think my favorite scene from The Chronicles of Narnia, at least the one I repeat to myself most often, is one from The Horse and His Boy. Aslan says, “Have a care, Rabadash. The doom is nearer now: it is at the door: it has lifted the latch.”

But Rabadash replies, “Let the skies fall! Let the earth gape! Let blood and fire obliterate the world! But be sure I will never desist till I have dragged to my palace by her hair the barbarian queen, the daughter of dogs, the–”

“‘The hour has struck,'” said Aslan: and Rabadash saw, to his supreme horror, that everyone had begun to laugh.” They laugh because the evil prince has begun to morph into a donkey.

I’m often on the watch for a chance to say “Have a care, Rabadash,” to someone overzealous. It’s probably my prideful heart.

But what are your favorite lines from the Narnia stories? Let us know in the comments, and by doing so you may enter our giveaway drawing for one of two movie themed books. The larger of the two is seen below.

The Chronicles of Narnia with Prince Caspian cover This is a Prince Caspian movie cover on a large paperback of all seven books plus a newly designed Narnia Timeline fold-out. I wonder if the fold came from the illustration work done in Narnia Chronology. Of course, Narnia Chronology is a full book of Narnia trivia and details. The fold-out in this edition of The Chronicles of Narnia is a simple, illustrated timeline–a nice perk. We are giving away a paperback of this edition and a small paperback of the Prince Caspian novel with an insert of movie photos.

Commenting on this post will enter you in our contest unless you exempt yourself (Lars, you’re exempt). Multiple comments will not increase your chances. I’ll just make a list of everyone’s name and use a random number generator to pick who wins. You must include your email address with your comment so I can write you to ask for your mailing address.

I’ll announce a winner for Prince Caspian next Thursday, April 3. I’ll announce a winner for The Chronicles of Narnia paperback next Friday, April 4.

So what’s your favorite lines from Narnia? Something about Turkish Delight? “Beards and Bedsteads”? “And they call it a mine, heh, a mine!” I can’t remember what book that last one is from . . .

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Rosenberg’s Next Novel is Dead Heat

I just heard about Joel Rosenberg’s latest: Dead Heat.

In his new political thriller DEAD HEAT, New York Times best-selling author and Middle East expert Joel C. Rosenberg depicts a worst case scenario for the United States: a nation that has fallen asleep and allowed terrorists to attack during a campaign season.

Rosenberg writes solid political thrillers about headline events, so you may want to check out this one in the next few months.

Prince Caspian

Who among us has not read Prince Caspian, the second of the Narnia books (unless you are devoted to the new numbering system on some editions)? Well, HarperCollins is talking to other people when they encourage young and old alike to read the book before seeing the movie. The publisher’s webpage has information about the book, book-related games, and a contest for a trip to the movie premiere in New York (opening in less than two months). Facebook users can catch a bit of buzz over here.

The publisher has added something new to The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Movie Tie-in Edition, “an 8-page, fold-out insert based on C. S. Lewis’s own timeline conceived for Narnia.” This is a hard-bound edition of all seven books and a “special full-color timeline, recreated from C. S. Lewis’s original and paired with Pauline Baynes’ classic full-color illustrations for the first time. [It offers] the key to the passage of time in Narnia and Earth by laying the two worlds side by side. Never before has C. S. Lewis’s timeline been included in a complete edition of all seven books of Narnia.”

If that isn’t cool enough, Brandywine Books will have being hosting a Narnia book giveaway someday soon, so tell your friends. I’ll let you know when I can.

Person’s a Person or Something Like That

Last weekend, the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who opened. It looks like a fun my girls will enjoy.

You might think the essence of the story affirms life at all stages, but I’ve read that Dr. Seuss and his widow always disapproved of the signature phrase, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” being used as a pro-life message. A few years ago, a biographer discussed the matter on a book show in Australia:

Amanda Smith (of Book Talk): And then, also, the anti-abortion lobby in the United States has used a line from Horton Hears a Who, the line that says, ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’ Would that have been in accord with Seuss’s intended meaning?

Philip Nel (author of Dr Seuss – American Icon): Absolutely not. In fact, during his lifetime Seuss threatened to sue an anti-abortion group unless they took that off their stationery and they did take it off their stationery but it’s still used. I’ve still seen propaganda in recent years from pro-life groups that have adopted Horton’s line, ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’ It’s one of the ways in which Seuss has been misappropriated. He would not agree with that.

I don’t remember the book clearly, but I wonder if this story is larger or beyond Dr. Seuss’ intentions. Once a story is published, it’s out of the author’s hands, is it not? An author may have written something with themes he doesn’t fully agree with, stumbling on truths he does not recognize.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight–The Short Version!

Chestertonian Rambler has edited and modernized the story of everyone’s favorite medieval giant.

Gawain: I’m not good at anything but talking. I’ll take the honors.

Arthur: Helpful tip: Beheaded Enemies rarely have the ability to return the blow.

Gawain: Sure thing. *cuts off Green Knight’s head in a single stroke*

Green Knight’s head: Jolly good times! See you next year, at the green chapel!

We Mourn the Death of . . Wait! He’s Back!

Marvel Comics revives Captain America. No, the original man did not come back to life, but another character has taken up his mantle.

. . . killing off Captain America last year seemed to give him new life with readers. The editor was taken aback when newspapers even carried obituaries on the character. “Not since the 1940s have we seen Cap being this popular,” he said.

Why doesn’t Captain America have a good–I mean, good–movie yet? Maybe there will be one in 2009.

Aliens, Wormholes, and the Really Big Questions

“If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas,” writes Clive Thompson in Wired. (via Books, Inq.)

I’m not sure Thompson is right, because crime fiction or mystery explores some deep ideas about humanity, community, God, and life. I think science fiction may be the best label for this kind of praise because it can include almost any story with unreal elements, even overriding other genres or labels. When Thompson starts throwing out examples to support his argument, he picks three fantasy series first.

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You

Buzz Girl has news on a few new books coming out this year. Here are ones I found interesting.

  • The U.S. Poet Laureate has a book of poems coming in April.
  • Buzz Girl writes about Ursula K. Le Guin’s new novel, “Unlike anything Le Guin has done before, this is an imagining of Lavinia, the king’s daughter in Vergil’s Aeneid, with whom Aeneas was destined to found an empire.”
  • She says there will be a marketing splash made by Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook, a “literary mystery by a writer’s writer.” I haven’t heard of Cook, but I’m interested in literary mysteries and strong writing.
  • She reports “HarperOne is the new identity for HarperSanFrancisco, publishing books on religion, spirituality and personal growth.” They have a couple books on politics and faith or religion coming soon. First, Jim Wallis thinks he’s gotten something to say in The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. I don’t care if the “religious right” label goes the way of the world, but if Wallis thinks the country has rejected conservative faith as exercised in government, he needs to get around more.
  • Second from HarperOne is God in the White House: A History–1960-2004: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush by Randall Balmer. Could be interesting.
  • Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus, continues to criticize his Creator and display his twisted faith in secondary sources with a new book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer. Perhaps this one will inspire several response books too, just as his other one did.

In other news, Andrew Kalvan’s next book is coming this summer. Empire of Lies deals with a man with strong faith and a solid family who came from a violent life which comes back to haunt him. He is thrown into “a murderous conspiracy only he can see and only he can stop—a plot that bizarrely links his private passions to the turmoil of a world at war.”

Shorter Classics

Frank Wilson writes about a publishing company who have abridged some of the great works of the past. He begins:

The last commandment in Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing (Morrow, $14.95) declares that an author should “try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” The people at Phoenix Press think a number of classic authors were negligent in observing this rule. Anna Karenina, for instance, weighs in at a whopping 800-plus pages. Who can possibly hope to read that and still have time to watch Dancing With the Stars? . . . And there’s the rub, as Hamlet might not say, if a Phoenix editor thought better of it. There is nothing inherently wrong with what Somerset Maugham called “the useful art of skipping.” Maugham himself in fact helped produce a series of abridged classics in 1948 called “Great Novelists and Their Novels.”

How much skipping do you do in your reading? I have a hard time with it, but I have done it. I remember skipping chapter 13 of The Silmarillion.