Books: The City

October 30, 2014

I didn’t even know Dean Koontz had written another novel until I found The City on the “new books” shelves at the library. Naturally I grabbed it, knowing it might be a while before it showed up on the shelves again. Besides, I wanted a good book to take along to the Wee Kirk conference my husband and I go to each October.

It’s a good book, and I enjoyed reading it – Koontz is a good storyteller. But I didn’t find it engrossing like other novels I have read by Koontz. I would read it for a while, then lay it aside and pick up another book. Then after a while I’d go back to it.

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Movies: Odd Thomas

June 11, 2014

Dean Koontz is one of my favorite authors, and Odd Thomas is one of my favorite books by Koontz. I was surprised, however, to discover that it had been made into a movie. Part of what appeals to me so much about the character of Odd Thomas is his “voice” – the way he tells his story and how he talks about himself and about life. That didn’t seem like it would translate well onto the screen.

But it does, surprisingly well, because the movie allows Odd to narrate the story, rather than just trying to display it through images and action. It’s not the same as the book, of course – a movie adaptation always has to pick and choose and leave out a great deal. But on the whole I think it is very faithful to the book – and I ended up choked up at the end of the movie just as I did at the end of the book.

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Books: Innocence

April 3, 2014

Since I had a gift card for Books-A-Million, I decided to get Dean Koontz’ newest novel, Innocence, for my birthday. Mostly I wait for books I want to be available at the library, but some books I buy, such as his Odd Thomas series. When I read that Innocence was one of his favorite books that he’d written, I thought that was a good enough reason to buy it.

I disagree with this review, which claims that “readers will either love this story or despise it.” It’s a reasonably well-told story, and thought-provoking once you finally learn the secret of what makes people hate Addison Goodheart and those like him. But I don’t know how likely I am to reread it. Now that I know the nature of Addison’s “deformity” what little suspense was there is gone, and the writing is not so impressive that I want to read it just for the way Koontz writes (as I have others of his books).

What is most interesting about the book is Koontz’ idea of people, like Addison, to whom others react with fear, then violent hatred. Even his own mother found it difficult to have him present, and the one person in the city who is his father’s friend can only bear to see him once a year. I wondered what it could be in their faces, especially their eyes, that provoked such a reaction, but the answer turned out to be very different from what the reader expects.

Please note that the rest of this post will be about what Koontz reveals at the end of the novel, so stop here if you haven’t read it and want to without knowing the explanation ahead of time.

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Books: Odd Apocalypse

December 6, 2012

I like Odd Thomas, but Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels are getting odder and odder. In the first book, it was just Odd Thomas who was odd – the events happening around him were perhaps unusual but not truly odd. I enjoyed his common sense approach to life, and his particular sort of humor.

In Odd Apocalypse, it is the situation in which Odd Thomas finds himself that is truly odd, more so than he is. His ability to see the “lingering dead” (spirits who have not yet crossed over) plays a role in the book, but it is almost peripheral – just enough to get him on the right track to solving the mystery. His new companion, Annamaria (“the Lady of the Bell”) is in some ways even more odd than he is, though her role in the novel is also minimal.

The series has gotten progressively darker, and including more elements of fantasy/science fiction outside of Odd’s odd abilities. This seems to be common in series (not just those by Koontz) that are character-based, where readers want to see more of a well-loved character but the author seems to feel obliged to “raise the ante” in each successive installment, perhaps to justify adding another book to the series. I don’t know if the first book seems best because it was less dark, or because the character was fresh and seemed more vibrant, but I don’t care as much for the later entries, and this is no exception.

Koontz tries to keep the tone from getting too dark by throwing lots of humorous lines (thoughts, usually, rather than dialog) by Odd Thomas, but these are starting to get tiresome. In the first novel I loved his use of humorous understatement, delivered with what I am sure is a deadpan expression. The first few in this book also charmed me, but after that they seemed forced – included because that’s what Odd is supposed to do, rather than because it really fits.

I suppose I should like the fact that this book includes time travel, since I generally do find such stories interesting. But the context in which time travel takes place makes it just more weirdness rather than the interesting plot device that it often is. There is some interesting information about Nikola Tesla, but much of it is myth rather than history. I enjoy science fiction, but I don’t think it mixes well with Koontz’s particular brand of speculative fiction.

Odd Thomas does have valuable things to say about life, and about good and evil.

We are all the walking wounded in a world that is a war zone. … Yet everywhere I look, I find great beauty in this battlefield, and grace and the promise of joy.

The devil and all his minions are dull and predictable because of their single-minded rebellion against truth. … Virtue is imaginative, evil repetitive.

Evil does not relent; it must be defeated.

And that’s part of why I’m sure I’ll be reading the next Odd Thomas novel when it comes out.

Books: Breathless

October 27, 2012

Can you like a book while being completely disappointed in the ending? Dean Koontz’s endings often seem weak, but on the whole I enjoy his books. The characters and their stories are worth reading, even if the overall plot resolution is less than satisfying.

Breathless, however, seems to need a better ending in order for the whole book to make sense. The suspense was hardly such that I was breathless as I read it. But each of the several subplots not only leads one to expect an explanation to the central mystery, but also demands one in order to make sense of what has gone before.

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Books: Dead and Alive

July 18, 2011

Dead and Alive is another book (see yesterday’s post on The Avenger) that I already knew the outcome of from having read a later book. Unlike with The Avenger, I wasn’t fascinated by the way the author developed the plot to reach the expected conclusion.

The only characters I really enjoyed were Erika Five and Jocko, Victor (Frankenstein) Helios’ tank-produced wife and the troll-like creature that grew in and burst out of another of Victor’s New Race people who was masquerading as a police detective. (All that is told in the first two books of the series.) I knew them as characters from the later book, but in that book they already knew each other well. Here I could see their relationship develop as their own characters develop – both having been independently alive (i.e. out of the tank and out of the detective’s body) only a day or two.

The rest of the book is pretty much showing numerous New Race people going off the rails in one way or another. The replicants of the District Attorney and his wife discover that the most pleasure they’ve ever had is killing members of the Old Race (i.e. human beings) – while running around stark naked. Victor’s housekeeper thinks she’s a character from a movie she watched (she happens to look just like the actress who played that character). Another of Victor’s servants thinks a cantaloupe is a crystal ball telling him the way to happiness.

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Books: Lightning

July 9, 2011

As much as I enjoy reading Dean Koontz’s novels, I haven’t read several of his older books. Those are the ones that gave him his reputation as a writer of horror novels, and I don’t like horror. Suspense is fine, eerie is fine, but I simply don’t find it entertaining to dread what’s coming next.

Lightning was one of those that I had avoided up until this week, based primarily on the title. What word could more perfectly convey the fear that some terrible fate is always waiting to strike, and impossible to avoid? The back cover calls it “Adventure Suspense” (rather than Horror) and gives an idea of the plot, but it wasn’t enough to convince me that I wouldn’t find my stomach tied in knots reading it. One or two of the other Koontz novels have been pretty gruesome, and I don’t like gruesome either.

But I do like Large Print, and I did want another Koontz novel to read. I decided to give Lightning a chance. It has enough chilling moments, especially in the first half, that I chose not to read it close to bedtime. I finally finished it today (avoiding late evening reading meant it took a whole week to finish), and while I wouldn’t call it my favorite Koontz book, it’s up there near the top.

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