“By the Light of the Moon” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2003)

By the Light of the Moon

It’s quite interesting to discover that with the publication of each of Dean Koontz’s books, there is a formula at work: each year the stories improve, while the writing suffers.  By the Light of the Moon is no exception, with a writing style that often annoys, with its stupidly open manner and constantly inane similes that force the reader to question why bother?  The trick is to stick with it to the end, and By the Light of the Moon eventually pays off.

The story is an average one that seems to be all the rage at the moment: three characters (one an autistic man of twenty) are injected with an unknown golden liquid by a mad scientist subdues them, ties them up, and then sticks in the big needle.  There is the warning from the doctor that the effects of this liquid can be both good and bad, and then he flees.

So the three characters are irrevocably brought together to fight for their survival.  Fortunately, it turns out that the mysterious liquid does good for all of them: one gains the ability, by touching objects, to know who last touched it and if they are evil, and is unable to stop himself from ending that evil.  Another has visions of the future that actually will happen somewhere at some time.  While the autistic man has the great ability to be able to fold time and space, transporting him and anyone else to anywhere and at any time, whether it be the past, present, or future, presumably.

One would think this a great story, but the simplistic and annoying writing keeps getting in the way, as well as the plot that has very little depth.  But ultimately, By the Light of the Moon is worth working through for the amusing ending.

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Originally published on May 12th, 2003.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Paper Doorway: Funny Verse and Nothing Worse” by Dean Koontz, Illustrated by Phil Parks (HarperCollins, 2001)

The Paper Doorwaystarstarstar

When I heard about The Paper Doorway I thought Dean Koontz had had a midlife crisis or something and decided to start writing children’s books, but apparently this is his second delving into the world of the littleluns, having published another children’s book, Santa’s Twin.  And now he brings us this ditty, wonderfully illustrated by Phil Sparks, as you are taken into a world that has a different dimension on every page, approaching the scary and horrific in places, but then jumping back to the humorous and plain zany!

The Monstrous Broccoli Excuse

You see, I don’t like broccoli.
And broccoli does not like me.
It crawls into my room at night
Giving me a monstrous fright.

It scratches at the closet door,
Slithers-rustles across the floor.
This vegetable terminator
Has escaped the refrigerator.

This isn’t merely in my head.
It is really there under my bed.
Oh, Mom, how can I eat, you see,
A fearsome food that would eat me?

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Originally published on April 1st 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“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.

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Originally published on April 1st 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“From the Corner of His Eye” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2000)

Koontz’s Brave New World

From the Corner of His Eyestarstarstar

“Like the cold and fragile ectoplasm of summoned spirits, the gossamer architecture pressed against their faces, and much of it clung tenaciously to their clothes that even in the gloom, they began to look like the risen dead in tattered gravecloth.”

Thus begins the latest novel from bestselling author Dean Koontz, who has brought us such great tales as Fear Nothing, Watchers, Intensity, and Dark Rivers of the Heart.  In From the Corner of His Eye Koontz transcends his revered storytelling, reaching a new and higher plateau, both in narrative style and plot.  From the Corner of His Eye becomes a story that one wants to keep, both in their hears and on their shelf, to return to often.

The novel uses a casts of fantastically strong characters, each with their own unique and complex lives that the reader learns about in turn.  The main character, Bartholomew Lampton, is a young boy who is almost a miracle birth, the mother having suffered a near-death accident on the way to the hospital.  Early on, Barty appears to be a prodigy of a new dimensions, excelling in all fields to a shocking degree.  Approaching the age of four, he develops a rare form of retinal cancer; the only solution is to have the retinas removed.  For the next ten years of his life, Barty is blind, dealing with this deformity and coping just fine.  Then one day, through powers both mystical and supernatural, Barty gains his sight.

Each of the other characters forms part of a beautiful circular puzzle, where Barty is at the cent, the rest accompanying pieces.  The reader is taken on journeys into the minds and lives of these characters, orchestrated by the great puppet master, Mr. Koontz, from one character to the next, from this chapter to that.

Koontz lays such a solid groundwork with From the Corner of His Eye that one is left hoping for possible sequels with this wonderful setting.  The book concludes with a satisfying end, opening up the reader’s narrow mind to a world of impossibilities made possible and events – ruled not empirically possible by scientists – to reality and fruition.

“Through the mind, odd and disconnected thoughts rolled like slow, greasy eye-of-the-hurricane waves on an ominous sea.”  Koontz’s words broach the realm of poetry with their imagery, making the story not only compelling and spellbinding but outright charming and exquisite.  When one begins reading From the Corner of His Eye, it will be unlike any book ever read by anyone.  The tale is magnificent, the pace strong and continuous, the characters unique and incomparable to any others.  The power is like a charging, one-manned train, where Mr. Koontz is the driver and the reader is the only passenger, where he or she will remain belted into the sea, reading paragraphs and turning pages, until the very last, collapsing in an exhausted heap; then rising after recuperation, hoping for a sequel.

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Originally published on March 26, 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein Book 3: Dead and Alive” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2009)

Dead and Alivestar

Sadly this final showdown, in the concluding volume of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein, doesn’t deliver the climax and denouement that addicted readers were impatiently waiting years for.  The many monsters that Victor Helios has created are starting to malfunction, performing cannibalistic acts on themselves, as well as attacking and killing innocents.  Helios pretends it is a minor thing, capturing those that are malfunctioning and dumping them in a specific place where all his other rejected freaks are; little does he know there is an uprising developing with these rejects, as they come up with an ultimate plan to capture and kill their master.  Meanwhile, Deucalion is working his way through Helios’s creatures, killing and shutting them down one by one in an attempt to get closer to his creator.  And the detectives who are on the case are doing their best to stay live, being greatly outmatched against these monsters.  It all comes down to a final scene that I won’t reveal for the readers, but will ultimately leave everyone feeling dissatisfied and unrequited.

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Originally written on November 23rd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein Book Two: City of Night” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2005)

City of Nightstarstar

In Prodigal Son, readers learned of the existence of Victor Helios’s (formerly known as Dr. Frankenstein) creatures which he has continued to make over the centuries.  In City of Night, readers learn the extent to which these many hundreds of creatures have infiltrated every level of society.  They look much like you or I, but are incredibly powerful, and in many ways unstoppable.  The creature known as Deucalion – the original monster created by Frankenstein – has returned to New Orleans to try and stop them and end Victor’s experiments, along with the help of Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison.  Carson and Michael have a growing relationship for each other that aches to stretch beyond the boundaries of professional partners, but they know they have to stop Helios first before they can give into their desires.  While Deucalion was programmed to never harm his master, Helios, he infiltrates the complex network, taking down the creatures and freaks, which he has no qualms about doing. City of Night loses the momentum generated by Prodigal Son somewhat with an introduction of many new characters – mostly Helios’s creatures – that can befuddle the reader at times, but nevertheless builds to what will hopefully be an epic climax in the third book of the series, Dead and Alive.

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Originally written on November 23rd, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein Book One: Prodigal Son” by Dean Koontz (Bantam, 2005)

Prodigal Sonstarstarstar

In the Frankenstein trilogy, bestselling author Dean Koontz goes on a tangent from his usual novels with this short series taking on arguably one of the two most famous horror novels of all time (the other being Dracula, of course), but putting a whole new spin on it that will leave readers reaching out for the sequel.

In a world much like our own just about everyone knows about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  What everyone doesn’t know is that it was based on a legend about a scientist known as Dr. Frankenstein.  Only he somehow managed to make himself immortal and is now alive and well in the twentieth century, living in the United States.  And over the last century he has been busy.  His new and improved “creatures” now walk the streets as ordinary looking humans with extraordinary powers.  Only some of them are starting to “malfunction,” killing innocent human beings in the process.  Victor Helios, as the doctor is now known, doesn’t care, continuing to create, with the goal of taking over the world with a perfect race.

Deucalion, Frankenstein’s original monster, who is now forced to come to the Untied States to face the growing evil and put a stop to it.  Meanwhile detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison get to deal with all the mangled and destroyed bodies that keep showing up, trying to put the pieces together and figure out what is really going on.

Prodigal Son is a strong start to the trilogy that reveals Koontz still has some great stories to tell.  With an abrupt end, readers will be grabbing for book two, City of Night, and book three, Dead and Alive, now finally available.

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Originally written on August 13th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.