“One Door Away From Heaven” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2001)

Dean Koontz is Waxing Repetition

One Door Away From Heavenstarstarstar

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.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on April 1st 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Everything’s Eventual” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2002)

Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual

Everything's Eventualstarstarstarstar

It has been almost a decade since Stephen King released a short story collection, with Nightmares & Dreamscapes, released in 1993; and while his latest novel, From a  Buick Eight, was slated for release this month, it was pushed back to September in lieu of a release of these fourteen dark tales entitled Everything’s Eventual.

What makes this collection different from any other by this bestselling author is that in the nine years since Nightmares & Dreamscapes King has made a lot of bold adventures in the publishing world.  He wrote a shot story that was only published in ebook form called “Riding the Bullet” which is included in this collection: a boy catches a ride with a dead person.  He released an audiobook collection of three short stories (which are all included in this collection): “Lunch at the Gotham Café, about a chef who goes shitfire (a Kingism) in a restaurant and starts cutting people up; “1408,” about a haunted hotel room that is visited by a ghost hunter who has yet to see a real ghost; and “In the Death Room,” about a reporter who is caught by a Columbian drug cartel and tortured in new and interesting ways.

In his introduction, King makes a pleat for readers to bring back to life short-story collections that are going the way of Dickens and James.  “The Little Sisters of Eluria” gives you Dark Tower fans a sidebar on one of Roland’s “tests” on his way to the infamous tower.  “L.T.’s Theory of Pets” was originally a short story published in audiobook form last September, but is now on paper for the first time.  Also included in Everything’s Eventual are three stories that King published in the New Yorker.  There is also the title story, which was originally only available on the Stephen King CD-ROM F13

“Autopsy Room Four” tells the unique story about a man who appears dead to the outside world, but on the inside is very much alive.  “The Road Virus Heads North” is about a picture bought by the main character on his trip home, but as he watches the painting along his travels, he notices that the picture is changing.  King also adds a bit of info on each story, telling of how he originally came up with the concept.

On a final note, while Stephen King has not officially announced to the world that he is turning in his pen and quitting the writing business, he has claimed that he will write five more books (including Everything’s Eventual) and then decide where to go from there.  What he has promised to the fans is the completion of the Dark Tower series, so all we can do in the meantime is wait for From a Buick Eight in September, and then for the fifth Dark Tower book – Wolves of the Calla – some time in 2003 and hope.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on March 18th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Quidditch Through Ages” & “Fantastic Beats & Where to Find Them” by J. K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine, 2002)

A Pair of Hogwarts Specials

Quidditch & Beastsstarstarstarstar

The most recent Harry Potter books to be released was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which came out during the summer of 2000.  The next book in the series of seven, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been slated for a summer/fall 2002 release.  The question remains to the many, man fans is what to read in the meantime?  Fortunately J. K. Rowling has produced two chapbooks, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, whose proceeds go towards Comic Relief.

“Comic Relief is one of Britain’s most famous and successful charities.  Begin in 1985, the organization has raised more than $250 million for such charities as the Red Cross, Oxfam, Sight Savers, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and Anti-Slavery International.  A special ‘Harry’s Books’ fund has been created where proceeds from the sale of Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them will go to support children’s causes throughout the world.  Every book sold counts!  Fifty cents will send a child to school for a week – and change his or her life forever” – A Note from J. K. Rowling.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (WhizzHard Books, 56 pages. 14 sickles 3 knuts): For the first time ever, a most unique book has been published and released into the muggle world.  In these pages you will find not only complete details on how to play the amazing wizard sport of Quidditch, but also a comprehensive history of the game, from its beginning stages to how it is currently played.  There is also a complete listing of all the Quidditch teams of Britain, as well as some of the major international teams, including America’s own Sweetwater All-Stars from Texas, and the Fitchburg Finches from Massachusetts.

In this book will also be found a history of the many brooms  that have been used in the world of Quidditch, as well as a full listing of the major moves that can be performed during the game.  Enough of baseball and football, Quidditch is the game of the future!

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (Obscurus Books, 42 pages, 14 sickles 3 knuts): Paired with the release of Quidditch Through the Ages, there is the concise compendium of monsters and beasts.  You know you’ve seen strange things, shapes and shadows you can’t explain; monsters you tell yourself don’t exist, especially not in any book!  Well, with Fantastic Beasts you will find out the truth: what the beast is called, how dangerous it is, what it exactly looks like, and how to beware it.  The book is arranged in alphabetical order, along with a special foreword by none other than Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Together with a Ministry of Magic (M.O.M.) Classification on how dangerous the beast is: XXXXX – Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate (like the Acromantula); XXXX – Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle (like the Demiguise); XXX – Competent wizard should cope (like the Fwooper); XX – Harmless/may be domesticated (like the Ramora); and X – Boring (like the Horklump).

This book is a must for all who wish to survive in this unusual world where you know everything that goes bump in the night.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing these books, click here.

Originally published on March 18th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

04/23 On the Bookshelf . . . “Reckless”


Andrew Gross is relatively new to the publishing world, with a couple of successful books under his belt.  While I’ve never read him, I’ve certainly noticed his books coming out, with the flamboyant covers of The Blue Zone and The Dark Tide:

Blue Zone Dark Tide

And with his new novel Reckless, due out April 27th, he takes on the tale of a giant conspiracy addressing the subject of our failing economy that apparently reaches all the way to the White House.  So for the first Andrew Gross book I’m going to read, Reckless certainly seems a good one.

And here’s Andrew imparting his thoughts on his new book: