Dean Koontz is Waxing Repetition
It is kind of strange that two of the bestselling authors of our time, Dean Koontz and Stephen King, have both come out with a horror/thriller novel about aliens within the same year. Maybe there was a rash of abductions and sighting a few years before as these two eminent authors were laying their expensive words on the page or screen; or maybe it was all scheduled for some spectacular 2001 extraterrestrial event. If that was the case, what was it? Nevertheless, while King with Dreamcatcher used a more frightening and doomed aspect to his novel, Koontz’s One Door Away From Heaven has some bad aliens in it, but we only really see them in one or two scenes, while the really bad guy is naturally a human male.
As with a lot of Koontz’s novels, there is a good handful of characters. One of our main characters is a boy who is not all he appears at first, constantly on the run from these people who are apparently worse than the U.S. government, worse than the NSA, FBI, and CSI all rolled into one. His significance does not get explained until half way through the book. Then we have Michelina Bellsong, a single thirty-something woman who has a dark past, living with her estranged aunt in a trailer, and is trying to keep a job. She is soon pulled into the quixotic web of her trailer neighbors.
In this other trailer reside two main characters with very different values, and yet one is the stepfather and the other the stepdaughter. He is Preston Maddoc, a bioethicist who believes that all old people should just be killed off for the betterment of society; he has also apparently killed eight people, and has a penchant for chasing UFOs across the country. Dragged with him is nine-year-old Leilani Klonk (named by her mother who takes as many different drugs as there are colors of crayons in the world). She has a brace on one leg and a deformed hand; it is Maddoc’s belief that she will be scooped away by the aliens, healed and returned in perfect condition. Of course, this was what was supposed to have happened to her brother, who was taken years before, but Leilani knows otherwise.
And so the skillful hand of Koontz takes the reader on a most unique journey, with the addition of a few more characters along the way (like a pair of buxom blond twins), bringing them all together in a most incomprehensible way with the conclusion of the novel. Sadly, it is written in the identical format of his last novel, which came out around this time in 2001, From the Corner of His Eye. And in my review of that book, I demanded a sequel, except I got the same story told differently instead, with some different characters, a tweaked plot, but with the same template. Everything is wrapped up to some degree in the last twenty odd pages, and the reader is left wanting more, just as with From the Corner of His Eye.
Unlike his last novel, One Door Away From Heaven (taken from the Book of Counted Sorrows which was interestingly also used by Stephen King in one of his novels) does take a couple of hundred pages to get to full steam, which explains why it hasn’t been getting the reviews of his other novels. Nevertheless, if you stick with it, once the train gets rolling, the pages begin turning, and it soon roars along to a climax. Let us just hope that Koontz has something fresh up his sleeve, otherwise his career may well be finite.
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Originally published on April 1st 2002.
Originally published in the Long Beach Union.