Thursday, January 26, 2006

Literary Review: The Selected Works Of Dean Koontz


I'd just like to start off by saying that I do not advocate the reading of all or indeed any of Dean Koontz's books. As with any potentially harmful substance, research and careful application must be used, and even then it is best not to do it alone. If you have any doubts, please leave it to the professionals, as permanent damage may result. The following reviews have been compiled after the experiences of reading actual Dean Koontz books with my own eyes, without the proper precautions being taken. You have been warned. The books are being reviewed roughly in the order that I read them.


I bought this book for a buck at a thrift store when I was young, maybe 14 or 15. It had a brightly colored title, and big jagged letters, and talked about murderers, so I figured I'd give it a try. I was hooked pretty much right away, because at the time, the breathless writing and harried pace seemed perfectly suited to the plot. However, I now understand that this is exactly how he writes everything. However, this is one of his earlier books, and the writing is not noticed as sharply as his later work. I'll stick to the strict book review for now. This is a fairly good book, with a moderately believable heroine, and an awesomely portrayed psycho (ably played by John C "Dr Cox" McGinley in the TV movie!) I recommend this book for young readers who are looking for something that won't make them think too hard, and who want advice on how to accurately write someone with a vastly different personality to your own. Rating... 7.3 out of 10

Mr. Murder

I bought this book for a few dollars right after readong Intensity, my first Koontzian experience. The back of it made it look promising, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. The writing was excellently controlled, and Koontz's zealous overuse of plot anvils and synonyms in rapid staccato was reigned in and replaced with a hushed, suspenseful prose. Although the plot was largely lifted from Stephen King's "The Dark Half", the mysticism was replaced with science fiction remarkably well. The repeated encounters, the chase, the villains, the main antagonist, and the protagonists are all remarkably well-written, and considering this is not a science-fiction writer, it did not devolve into pointless technological ramblings. He stuck to what he knew, and it worked out very well. To this day, my favorite Koontz book. I actually recommend this one. 8.9 out of 10


Space Nazis! Wait, wait... sorry... getting ahead of myself here. Let me start over. I got this book from my mom, who at the time was rebuilding a sizeable murder-mystery collection again. Dipping again into science fiction slightly, Koontz actually comes up with a little-used plot twist, and places it well in the book. At the time, I was shocked by it, although I've seen it used a few more times since then. Another tough, self-sufficient female lead with a tragic past overcomes her fears and kicks some ass, despite the craziness of the world around her (Koontz will use this 512 more times before the decade is out, so keep reading!) Space Nazi and All-American Hero alternately try to kill her and save her, in order to either destroy the world, or.... do absolutely nothing to it. The ending is fairly unsatisfactory, but the middle is pretty good. The writing is also reigned in, although I can see he busted out his new "Super-Duper Thesaurus" to come up with as many synonyms as possible for 'loud', 'dark', 'night', and 'scared'. Congratulations. 5.1 out of 10

Dragon Tears

Disclaimer: Avoid this book at all costs. Don't even try to pick it up. Back away. Mr Koontz was writing three books at the same time, and somehow all the words fell out of his computer and got jumbled on the floor. The result was this painfully overwrought muder-mystery-psychobabble with a strong female character who overcomes her tragic past to trimph over evil, or some shit, along with a grizzled but kind-hearted police officer who abhors the use of violence to defeat some evil little kid. I don't know why they published this, it clearly wasn't finished. 2.5 out of 10, just for the macabre thrill of reading something this startlingly bad.


With a plot lifted largely from Stephen King's 'Cujo', a good super-dog and a bad super-dog square off in a battle for global supremacy at a secluded farmhouse, where a strong male lead overcomes his tragic past to trimph over adversity. There's really not much more I can say about this. A military experiment gone bad results in a good super-dog, a bad super-dog.... and.... stuff happens. This book was my first introduction to just how bad Mr Koontz can write. It's written with the same breathless desire to express how COOL something is that my three-year old son uses, and it takes about the same amount of time to get through a single run-on sentence. Put down the Thesaurus, Mr Koontz. Down... downn..... good boy. 2.1 out of 10

I must admit that I saw the movie first, and this movie has become one of my all-time favorites. Not because of the plot, which is fairly hackneyed (like everything is these days) but because of the cast, and the cinematography, and the acting... all actually first-rate. The monster is fairly creative, Peter O'Toole is awesome, especially when he yells "It's a pretty tough FUCKING customer!" I read the book after, and my experience may have been colored by the movie. The book is fairly good, although the over-wrought writing and the almost laughable use of synonyms can grate after a while. For a better experience, I recommend watching the movie first, to make the book easier to swallow (although, really, why eat a really good steak just before eating a really bad steak?) Even so, see the movie. It's worth it. The movie gets an 8.8 out of 10, and the book gets a 4 out of 10, if only for inspiring the movie.

Winter Moon

An evil presense squeezes through a time-space hole for some reason, and a family nearby in a secluded farmhouse overcome their tragic past to trimph over evil, with their psychic-for-no-real-reason son. I've just given you the whole book. Walk away. Just walk away. 1 out of 10

Odd Thomas

There was probably a three-year gap between reading Winter Moon, and reading Odd Thomas. I got it for a buck at Value Village, because the cover art looked intriguing, and it was getting pretty rave reviews from publications I normally respect. I read a few pages at the front, and was impressed with the writing, and the skill, and the pace, so I bought it, along with the book in the following review. I was hooked after a few pages, and I was wholly impressed with the first half of the novel. Although lifted largely from 'The Sixth Sense', the basic premise was pretty good, and the characterization was first-rate. The plot took a bit to get going, but once it did... it stopped again. This, and the next two books I review, among Koontz's three most recent, all have the exact same problems going for them (at least, they all share these): Mr Koontz can't end a book. The plot vanished, the pacing died a horrible death, nothing was explained, fate was questioned and blamed, and then the words just sort of petered out, and I was left sitting on the couch, holding the closed book, thinking "Well, he could have at least finished the book before publishing it." For starting off as awesomely impressive, he gets a couple kudos, but for the ending, his final score works out to a 6.1 out of 10. Read if you have nothing better to do.

From The Corner Of His Eye

This book started off just like Odd Thomas. The writing was, for the first few pages, reigned in and subtle. Pretty soon, it became the absolute worst example of his inability to control the "Word Search" function on his computer. Although Enoch Cain quickly became one of my favorite literary psychos, the writing and the utterly staggering number of main characters combined to give me a pounding headache and a profound sense of joy everytime someone got killed off. Although the entire novel centers around the idea that "If you do good, good things will come back to you, and if you do bad, bad things will come back to you", the only consistent message is that "You can get your head blown off at any time, or maybe die of sudden cancer, so being good doesn't really mean squat". In the end, it all comes down to magic children poking holes in the Universe, and the original message was lost forever in one of these paralell realities. With luck, there is a universe where this book never saw the light of day. The ending was staggeringly bad, and so disjointed that I skipped the last few pages out of sheer boredom. Right after I finished this book I got sick, and I'm not entirely sure it was the fault of the germs. 1.7 out of 10

The Taking
This was it. This was the last Koontz book I will ever read (unless I re-read Mr Murder, or Phantoms). This one actually started off bad, and went quite quickly downhill. Setting new records for obfuscating the plot, not answering questions, leaving giant plot holes, and just generally having no purpose whatsoever, The Taking ranks up there with The Eye Of Argon for disjointed language, scatter-brained messages, and purebred stupidity. There's no way I can finish this review with family-friendly language, so I'll sum it up with a 0.1 out of 10

I need to go lay down.


Post a Comment

<< Home