Tag Archives: Dean Koontz

‘Dragon Tears,’ by Dean Koontz

Dragon Tears

Another Dean Koontz book downloaded to my Kindle because it didn’t seem familiar. I had read it before, of course, but I’d forgotten so much that all the surprises were still surprising (one of the side benefits of growing old, I guess).

Dragon Tears is both terrifying and sweet. The protagonists, a small group of people led by a male-female police team (who fall in love as we watch), are menaced by a truly horrifying villain – a man of no maturity at all who has nevertheless developed god-like powers, powers that grow every day. His ultimate goal is to make all humanity his slaves (he will reduce their numbers for environmental purposes). But for today he’s selected a small group – a mother and son living in their car, a homeless alcoholic, and the aforementioned pair of cops. The villain confronts them by means of avatars constructed of animated soil, warning them that he will kill them all – horribly – by dawn the next day. The cops take the initiative in trying to find a way to stop this guy, and they find assistance where they never looked for it.

Scary, charming, and a lot of fun, Dragon Tears is excellent entertainment. Cautions for intense situations and some rough language.

‘The Silent Corner,’ by Dean Koontz

The Silent Corner

There had been corruption in every civilization since time immemorial. If the corruption was of the heart, the culture could think its way to health with great effort. If the corruption was of the mind, it was more difficult to feel a way toward recovery, for the heart was a deceiver. If both mind and heart were riddled with malignancies—what then?

One of my few gripes with Dean Koontz is that he has bought 100% into the “butt-kicking female heroine” meme, in which tiny little women who look like models serve as action characters. The Silent Corner is premised on a character of this kind, but I must say Koontz makes it work here.

Jane Hawk, the heroine, is an FBI agent on leave following the suicide of her beloved husband. He was a happy, successful military officer, bound for a political career, when she found him dead in his bathtub one day, having left behind a note that made no sense.

Partly to relieve her pain, Jane started doing research on suicide. She discovered that suicide rates have been rising steadily for the past few years, and that a surprising number of promising, idealistic, and apparently happy people have stunned their families by killing themselves. One day she got a visit from a strange man – she thinks of it as a “courtesy call” – who told her that if she didn’t lay off, “they” would kill her and do worse than killing to her young son.

Jane doesn’t have it in her to quit. She hides her son with people she trusts, who have no traceable link to her, and embarks on a dangerous investigation. She doesn’t have much hope of success as she gradually learns the wealth and power she’s going up against, as well as the horrific plans these people have for all of humanity. But better to die trying than do nothing. These people will eventually kill her and her boy, she calculates, even if she leaves them alone.

One generally expects a supernatural element in a Dean Koontz novel, but The Silent Corner is pure dystopian science fiction. It’s fast and sharp and scary and touching, written with grace. It’s the first book in a series, and I look forward to the next one, The Whispering Room.

Recommended, with mild cautions.

‘From the Corner of His Eye,’ by Dean Koontz

Out of the Corner of His Eye

“The problem with movies and books is they make evil look glamorous, exciting, when it’s no such thing. It’s boring and it’s depressing and it’s stupid. Criminals are all after cheap thrills and easy money, and when they get them, all they want is more of the same, over and over. They’re shallow, empty, boring people who couldn’t give you five minutes of interesting conversation if you had the piss-poor luck to be at a party full of them….”

I did it again. Bought a Dean Koontz book I thought I hadn’t read, but I had. However, it’s such a sprawling, multi-threaded epic work that I’d forgotten most of it and didn’t tip to my mistake until I was a long way in.

From the Corner of His Eye is ostensibly about a remarkable, gifted boy who goes blind. But that boy, Bartholomew Lampier, actually occupies the stage for a small portion of the book, and much of that while he’s a baby. The real central character might be his mother Agnes, “the pie lady,” who has devoted her life to baking delicious pies, which she delivers to disadvantaged neighbors, along with groceries. Or it might be Detective Thomas Vanadium, former Jesuit priest and amateur physicist, who devotes his life to hunting down murderers, sometimes employing magic to apply psychological pressure.

One day in the early 1960s, a pastor in a small Oregon church delivered a radio sermon called, “This Momentous Day.” It focused on the career of the obscure apostle Bartholomew as an example of an individual who seemed undistinguished, but who in fact had eternal and world-spanning influence. Junior Cain, a murderer and a rapist, happened to hear that sermon. Somehow, within the foul fistula that made up his mind and soul, he came to believe that there was a man named Bartholomew – somewhere out there – who was bent on destroying him. So Junior makes it the obsession of his life to find this Bartholomew and kill him. Continue reading ‘From the Corner of His Eye,’ by Dean Koontz

‘By the Light of the Moon,’ by Dean Koontz

By the Light of the Moon

I bought this book by mistake. I knew a new Dean Koontz was coming out (I’ll review it soon), and somehow I got the idea that By the Light of the Moon was it. Once I had it on my Kindle I realized I’d read it before, and I expect I’ve reviewed it here before. But Koontz will bear a reprise, so I read it again.

Koontz isn’t a repetitive writer, but he does tend to give us recognizable types and situations. The setup in this story is classic Koontz. A mad scientist, Lincoln Procter, on the run from merciless killers, waylays three innocent people in an Arizona motel and injects them with a formula he’s developed. He’s not sure what the results will be, he explains, but they could be positive.

The three victims are Jilly Jackson, a female stand-up comic, and Dylan O’Connor, a traveling artist who is sole custodian of his autistic brother. Procter warns them that the men pursuing him will soon pursue them, to destroy the formula that now flows in their veins. Dylan, Shep, and Jilly set out on a breakneck race to save their lives, but are constantly waylaid, not by the bad guys, but by strange compulsions that start to come over Dylan, causing him to take action to prevent horrible crimes. Shep begins to exhibit a power of his own, a valuable one, but the difficulties of communicating with an autistic person add considerable dramatic tension.

Lots of fun, lots of excitement, some romance, and a measure of wisdom. Good book. I particularly liked the villain, Lincoln Procter (whose name, I think, is intended to echo Hannibal Lector). He’s an original kind of antagonist – a thoroughly bad and selfish man who thinks he can justify himself through constant self-criticism. I know people kind of like that (I’m one of them myself. There! I just did it again!).

Recommended. Cautions for language and intense situations.

‘Ashley Bell,’ by Dean Koontz

A relaxing massage, and then chardonnay and a silly-fun session of divination, and the next thing you know, you’ve attracted the attention of an incarnation of Hitler, and you’ve invited occult forces into your life, and you’ve been spared from cancer only so that some lunatic can stab you to death with a thousand pencils.

One of the joys of being a Dean Koontz fan is the many surprises he offers. Not for him the comfortable formulas that endear us to other authors (often providing considerable legitimate pleasures). Koontz keeps trying new things. With the exception of a very few series books, such as the Odd Thomas adventures, Koontz keeps tricking us – except that you can almost count on some kind of supernatural dog somewhere in his recent works.

The heroine of Ashley Bell is not the titular character, but a young California woman named Bibi Blair. Beautiful, a superior surfer, engaged to a military hero, her career goal is to be a famous author, and she’s made fair progress in that direction.

And then one day her arm starts feeling funny, and the doctor informs her she has a rare brain cancer. Inoperable and 100% fatal.

Bibi is a fighter. She refuses to give up. She announces that she will fight this thing and win.

That very night, she has a vision, and is healed.

The next day, to celebrate, her hippie parents give her the gift of a massage and a psychic reading. The psychic tells her her life has been spared for a reason. The reason, she divines, is to save the life of a young girl. The girl’s name is Ashley Bell.

Bibi takes the message seriously. She sets out to find Ashley Bell, and finds herself the target of a sinister cult devoted to human sacrifice.

The story starts strange, and gets stranger and stranger. Then, around the half-way point, Koontz blindsides the reader, and it becomes a very different kind of story. I won’t spoil the twist for you, but it’s pretty neat.

I’m not sure that the ending of Ashley Bell is quite worthy of the skillful storytelling that kept me riveted up to that point. But I’m not sure it’s not, either.

I do know it was like no other book I’ve read, and I wouldn’t have missed it.

Highly recommended. Mild cautions for adult themes.

‘Final Hour,’ by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz has a new novel, Ashley Bell, coming out next month. In the run-up, he’s releasing two related novellas which share a character with that book.

The first one was Last Light, which I read and enjoyed, but didn’t review. But I’m reviewing Final Hour. I liked them both.

The main character of each book is a beautiful young woman, Makani Hisoka-O’Brien. She’s a native of Hawaii, but lives in southern California where she restores classic cars and surfs at the expert level. She loves her island home and her family, but has left them to save her relationship with both. This is because she’s cursed with a supernatural gift – she can tell, through touch, any person’s darkest secrets. This makes it impossible for her to have close relationships, except with her black Labrador, Bob, and her boyfriend, “Pogo,” who is (apparently) pure of heart.

The simple premise of this story is that one day Makani brushes the arm of a jogger, another beautiful young woman. She realizes in an instant that this woman has a twin, and that she is holding that twin prisoner in a secret place and starving her to death.

There’s no question what Makani has to do. With the help of Bob and Pogo, she sets out to rescue the captive.

It’s a great story, with some excellent writing – I especially liked one chapter title: “She Walks in Beauty Like a Polyester Resin.”

There’s a very neat twist at the end.

Recommended. I’m looking forward to Ashley Bell.

‘The City,’ by Dean Koontz

After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with a minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.

One of the many things I love about Dean Koontz is the breadth of his artistic pallet. Your average bestselling writer (and I do the same though I’m not a bestseller) will keep doing the thing that made him famous, over and over. And the public likes it most of the time.

Koontz improvises. He tries stuff. He can write horror or fantasy or mystery. He can be funny, or heartbreaking, or profound, or terrifying. The City, his latest, is mostly a fusion of the lyrical and the tragic.

Jonah Kirk, his narrator and hero, tells us of his childhood in the 1960s, first of all in an apartment house in a poor black neighborhood, his father mostly absent. That’s the downside. The upside is that he’s part of a big, loving, extended family. His grandfather is a legendary jazz pianist, his mother a gifted vocalist. And Jonah himself soon finds he has the makings of a great piano man. He also finds a friend in a neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka, a survivor of the Manzanar internment camp.

Moving with his mother out of the apartment and to his grandparents’ house, he soon meets two neighbor kids – Malcolm Pomerantz, an archetypal geek who is nevertheless a talented saxophonist, and his beautiful sister Alathea. They’re all gifted dreamers, and their dreams are large…

But there’s a destiny hanging over Jonah. He once had a dream of a beautiful woman strangled to death, and the next day he met that woman on the apartment building stairway. That touch of premonition in his life kicks off a series of visions and revelations.

And visions and revelations, the author makes it clear, come at a price.

I loved The City. It was a beautiful story, beautifully written. It broke my heart. I read it with fascination, but could only take it in small chunks, because of the sadness.

Highly recommended. But keep a hanky handy.

‘Odd Thomas’ (the Film)

Some of us were looking forward to the Odd Thomas movie, due in 2013, but it only happened in a marginal way. Legal problems prevented a conventional theater release, as I understand it. It’s now available on disk and on Netflix, where I viewed it.

Apparently a lot of people who’ve seen it didn’t like it. Well I liked it fine. I have quibbles, but I enjoyed immensely.

A very faithful adaptation of Dean Koontz’s first novel in the Odd Thomas series, this film stars Anton Yelchin, who’s appropriately charming in the role. Addison Timlin plays his beloved Stormy Llewellyn, and Willem Dafoe is Sheriff Wyatt Porter. Odd is a simple fry cook in a small town, but he has the supernatural power to see dead people who, though they can’t speak to him, appeal for his help in identifying their murderers or helping them “cross over” into the next world. He also sees demons he calls “bodachs” whose appearance inevitably portends some major act of mass violence. An unprecedented number of bodachs have been prowling the town recently, and Odd is compelled to do all he can to discover who’s planning mass murder, and stop them.

The cast is almost uniformly excellent, especially Yelchin, who seems to have the spirit of the character down, which is the really important matter for any lover of the books.

I have only a couple quibbles. One is that Odd is hyped a bit, presented as having Benihana skills with spatulas, and being a sort of martial arts master. That’s not a big deal. Worse is the casting of Patton Oswalt as Odd’s friend Boone, perhaps the worst miscasting since Whoopie Goldberg played Bernie Rodenbahr in Burglar. Fortunately his scene is very short.

All in all, perhaps the most faithful adaptation of a novel I’ve ever seen, and well worth viewing or even buying.

And yes, if you must know, I cried.

Dean Koontz on Self-Doubt, Story, and Abuse

Here are some questions Dean Koontz has answered in various forums:

You had an agent in your early years tell you that you’d never be a best-selling writer. Did that discourage you or make you more determined to succeed?

Koontz: I have more self-doubt than any writer I’ve ever known. That is one reason I revise every page to the point of absurdity! The positive aspect of self-doubt – if you can channel it into useful activity instead of being paralyzed by it – is that by the time you reach the end of a novel, you know precisely why you made every decision in the narrative, the multiple purposes of every metaphor and image. Having been your own hardest critic you still have dreams but not illusions. Consequently, thoughtless criticism or advice can’t long derail you. You become disappointed in an agent, in an editor, in a publisher, but never discouraged. If anyone in your publishing life were to argue against a particular book or a career aspiration for reasons you had not already pondered and rejected after careful analysis, if they dazzled you with brilliant new considerations, then you’d have to back off and revisit your decisions. But what I was told never dazzled me. For example, I was often advised, by different people, that my work would never gain a big audience because my vocabulary was too large.

Continue reading Dean Koontz on Self-Doubt, Story, and Abuse

‘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