Tag Archives: Dean Koontz

Innocence – Dean Koontz

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In Innocence, Dean Koontz revisits a common theme throughout his writing, that of people living in isolation among us. Alienated from those who should be there to give comfort and support but instead are reviled and abused. Addison is a monster, grossly deformed though he is not embittered by the cruel treatment he has been subjected to. After his mother’s death, 8 year old Addison finds himself alone in the city and in an unbelievable stroke of luck finds another like himself who shows him how to live in the vast network of beneath the city. His appearance is so horrific Addison dares not come out in the light of day on one such nocturnal adventure he comes upon a girl being pursued by an attacker ending his days of solitude and loneliness.

He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen. She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found. But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

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With elements of Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast, Innocence reads with a lyricism in keeping with its fairy tale like themes. Inspired by a dream featuring the now decreased Thomas Tryon, the author stated that Innocence sprang into his mind fully formed. Personally I found Innocence reminded me somewhat of his incredibly popular work Watchers only a more fully matured version with a credibility that the former lacked in my opinion.

The cozy yet fully functional subterranean refuge employed by Addison was also familiar to me. Though many of you wouldn’t remember the 1987 television series that featured Linda Hamilton of Terminator 2 fame and Ron Perlman, Beauty and the Beast, it was a favorite of mine. Seriously, don’t we all wish that we had a hidey hole tucked away deep in the bowels of the city with power and running water? Or is that just a side effect of mine having a preteen and precocious first grader? I am sure upon scrutiny the logistics of such a set up may not hold up but unlike Watchers, for me, the mental comparisons I made when reading Innocence were largely favorable despite his somewhat precious moniker. Truly, it was an uncommon feat not to hold a grudge after a mob tries to burn you to death then to name your character Goodheart was a bit heavy handed. Regardless of Addison’s surname, almost incongruous in its suitability, Innocence is a enjoyable read gently reminding us all to look deeper rather than accepting the first impression as gospel.

AUTHOR: Dean Koontz

RATING: 3 1/2 Stars

GENRE: Fiction

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.

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Watchers – Dean Koontz

watchers (1)I had grand plans for the month of October, and you know what they say about good intentions. My final destination notwithstanding, they have not come to pass, October is typically the month of all things scary and in tribute to that I revisited Dean Koontz. I had drifted away from the horror genre, a staple of my adolescence, with a few notable exceptions. Every bibliophile’s nightmare happened to me when vacationing in Jamaica more than a decade ago, I ran out of things to read and was reduced to the offerings on the carousel in the hotel gift-shop. I was drawn to the brightly colored chaotic cover of Intensity.

IntensityI am traumatized still, almost seventeen years later, by the raw terror I felt reading this novel as Chyna Sheppard becomes aware that there is a predator in the house she is visiting. Truly, I distinctly remember being home alone months afterward and repeatedly mentally chastising my inner scaredy cat that the Scarborough Bedroom rapist was not leaving the GTA to come for me! Not to mention that I will never again look at motor homes without extreme suspicion.

Intensity – A young woman staying as a guest in a Napa Valley farmhouse becomes trapped in a fight for survival with a self-proclaimed “homicidal adventurer”, and races to warn his next intended victim. Unrelentingly terrifying, this book lives up to its name.

the takingWatchers is only the third novel I have read by Dean Koontz, after the damage inflicted on my psyche by Intensity, I wasn’t sure I wanted revisit this talented yet terrifying author. When faced with disturbingly bare shelves in the audio-book section of the library I opted for another offering by Mr. Koontz, The Taking. I found The Taking unremarkable with the exception of one description that stayed with me, the unrelenting rain that smelled like semen, to which my thought was “Ewwww!” It seemed our association was over, I considered Odd Thomas but then decided it wasn’t right for me.

UnbecomingThen I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and rediscovered my love of horror, only the final book in the trilogy wasn’t out yet. Faced with the conundrum of what to read next I did what I always do when faced with a dilemma I turned to the internet. Unfortunately there are precious few suggestions when you type the query “horror/romance genre”, not that all of the listings were bad by any means as this is how I found my beloved Experiment in Terror series.

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Cross Lassie with E.T., add a touch of The Wolfen and a dash of The Godfather, and you get a sense of some of the ingredients in this supernatural thriller, which should move Koontz ( Strangers a notch closer to Stephen King’s high-rent district. When Travis Cornell, Koontz’s appealing hero, encounters a stray dog while hiking, he quickly realizes that the animal is most unusual and that something terrifying is stalking them both. The encounter with the dog is the beginning of a tightly woven plot involving genetic manipulation that has created two extraordinary animals; one is the dog, named Einstein, the other is a murderous hybrid called “The Outsider.” Hunted down by both the government and a professional killer who has learned the secret of the animals, Travis, Einstein and Nora Devon, a lonely woman befriended by man and canine, attempt to escape their pursuers all the while knowing that a confrontation with The Outsider is inevitable. Though the climax packs a little less wallop than it deserves, this is the sort of thoroughly frightening and entertaining tale that has its readers listening for noises in the night.

Watchers had good intentions but unfortunately the end result was contrived and preachy. What started out as a novel and inventive plot worthy of film adaptation rapidly declined into a dissertation on why you should love and vaccinate your pet and while you are at it don’t genetically engineer super soldiers using primate and crocodile DNA. Don’t get me wrong I am an animal lover. But I won’t sport with your sensibilities by posting pictures of our family feline on the blog, even if she is adorable when she is sleeping and if you could only see her little fangs!

Travis Cornell is a solitary man, in an attempt to stave off incipient loneliness he attempts a return to happier times by taking a trip to the mountains when he comes across a lone golden retriever. The dog is insistent that he not continue along a certain trail and Travis soon becomes convinced that he and the dog are not alone in the mountains. They flee, and Travis soon decides that he will keep the obviously homeless animal naming him Einstein after witnessing some of the dogs peculiar talents.

Nora Devon like Travis leads a cloistered life, a lifelong slave to her deceased hermit aunt, she is ill prepared for interactions with the outside world and finds herself targeted by a sexual predator. I found that the exploits of Einstein the Wonder Dog began to pale shortly after Travis and Nora’s initial meeting. Perhaps it is simply that the story is dated now copyrighted almost thirty years ago but I found Nora ridiculously and unrealistically naive and the interactions between Nora and Travis were not particularly compelling. Einstein’s feats of genius tested my ability to suspend disbelief.   

Al Gore is ManbearpigWorse yet was the descriptions of The Outsider, I couldn’t help but envisioning the evil monster as cross between Manbearpig and  Scuzzlebutt (with his celery hand and Patrick Duffy for a leg) from episodes of South Park in the mid 90s. Strangely enough neither character was the creation of the series’ mad geneticist Dr. Alphonse Mephesto. However, The Outsider’s self hatred was reminiscent of Stan Marsh’s clone gone bad and as I am sure you can see once that connection was made I am afraid any credible investment that I had in the plot was lost. Rather than scary I ultimately found Watchers rather humorous, which I somehow doubt was the intention of the author that aside it was an entertaining enough read but I would be surprised if it inspired anyone to keep the light on.

AUTHOR: Dean Koontz

RATING: 2 1/2 Stars

GENRE: Horror

The Last Victim (Dr. Charlotte Stone #1) – Karen Robards

The Last VictimOne part Dean Koontz’s Intensity and another M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense would be the closest approximation of Karen Robards‘ The Last VictimWhat appears to be just another textbook police procedural slash serial killer hunt is in fact a serial killer hunt cum ghost story. The opening scene takes us back to the most traumatic night of Charlotte Stone’s life. At a sleepover 16 year old Charlie Stone is in her friends basement casting up that night’s alcohol laced purple kool-aid, which ironically saves her life. Unbeknownst to Charlie and her friend Holly a predator has broken into the house.

A sought-after expert in criminal pathology, Dr. Charlotte Stone regularly sits face-to-face with madmen. At the age of sixteen, she herself survived a serial killer’s bloodbath. Because of the information she gave police, the Boardwalk Killer went underground, but Charlie kept her postmortem visions of the victims to herself. Years later, to protect her credibility as a psychological expert, she tells no one about these apparitions. Now a teenage girl is missing, her family slaughtered. The Boardwalk Killer—or a sick copycat with his M.O.—is back. This is the one case Charlie knows she shouldn’t go near. But she also knows that she may be the one person in the world who can stop this vicious killer, especially when she receives help from an unexpected source: The fiery spirit of a seductive bad boy who refuses to be ignored.

The Last Victim resumes more than a decade following the Boardwalk Killers’ killing spree that left her the as the only survivor. It could be argued that Dr. Charlotte Stone has not exactly put her violent past behind her, she is now a criminal psychologist specializing in serial killers. Her field of study has her in a prison placement studying an all too charming convicted killer Michael Garland. It is at this point that the plot diverges wildly from most of Ms Robards other work. She has touched on the supernatural before in novels like Superstition but never to the degree as The Last Victim. When their meeting is interrupted by the FBI, Garland is attacked by another prisoner and dies in Charlie’s arms if this wasn’t alarming enough the purpose of the visit from the Bureau would be. They are looking for Charlie’s help in apprehending a serial killer one whose M.O. is identical to that of the Boardwalk Killer.

Unfortunately Dr. Charlotte Stone is a somewhat unremarkable character but you are completely disarmed by the dead antihero who refuses to be vanquished. As the first of a series perhaps Ms Robards can be forgiven the somewhat one dimensional characters of Charlie and team lead Tony Bartoli and hope that with time they will catch up with the roguish Garland in The Last Kiss Goodbye. Reviews of this novel seem to fall into one of two camps, those who love First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones, which also features a heroine named Charley who sees ghosts, and hate The Last Victim and those like me who couldn’t finish FGOTR for the life of them and those who really enjoyed The Last Victim.

AUTHOR: Karen Robards

RATING: 3 1/2  Stars

GENRE: Fiction

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