Tag Archives: Horror Fiction

Book Review: Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz

Sole Survivor by Dean R. Koontz - Reviews, Description ...

Here we are, readers, reviewing yet another Dean Koontz novel. Unlike Innocence, I was able to finish reading one, so you know it’s a good story. 😉 Originally published in 1997, Sole Survivor is still current. Yeesh, it is scary how much art is mirroring real life….  Brrr! But if you wanted to know more details about that, you would be watching the news. Since you are here, you want to know what to expect when you pick up Sole Survivor. Therefore, let us begin the description process….now:

The hero of this book is one Joe Carpenter. Thirty-seven years old, Joe used to be a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Post. Then, a year ago, his wife and daughters died in a plane crash on their way back from a trip to the east coast.

The grief and anger he feels over his loss led Joe to quit the Post and alienate most of his friends during the course of the past year. He can’t look at a crime scene without seeing his wife and daughters’ bodies rather than the real victims’; he can’t go a day without suffering panic attacks. During these episodes he imagines dying with his beloved family, feeling racked by guilt that he could not die with them, leaving him the sole survivor of the Carpenter clan.

Nevertheless, Joe has not taken the ultimate step to utter despair. He is desolate, certainly, but he hasn’t committed suicide yet. Mostly, this is due to the fact that he is not sure there is a life beyond this one. If he gets there and finds nothing but an empty void, he will still miss his wife and daughters. And if there is life after death, which he seriously doubts, then murdering himself will guarantee he never sees his family again.

All of this means that Joe is in a rut. He sold his and his family’s house and now lives in an apartment, waiting for the day he can wake up dead. He can’t drink or dope himself to death because doing so would eventually erase his memories. Since those are precious to him, he doesn’t overdo the beers. But he hasn’t been taking care of himself, either.

This morning, on the anniversary of the crash, he calls his mother-in-law. She’s the only one with whom he feels capable of discussing his grief and despair. She asks after his health and suggests he go back to writing, but he deflects her probing questions, convincing her to describe the sunrise at her Virginia home. Her voice has the same southern lilt that his wife’s did, and so he likes hearing her talk. Joe also wants to make sure she and his father-in-law are doing all right, since they’re still grieving, too.

Sole Survivor - Audiobook by Dean Koontz, read by Ryan Burke

Later on Joe goes to the beach. He’s hoping to lull himself into a mood where he can visit his wife and daughters’ graves later in the day without falling apart or getting violently angry. While he is there, drinking and watching the waves, a couple of young boys sidle up and ask if he is selling something. Joe tells them no, and they say that someone must think he is, because there are a couple of “cops” keeping tabs on him from further down the beach. Thanking the boys, who walk away, Joe soon gets curious and turns to spot the men they identified.

Neither man looks to be the regular variety of cop. They’re definitely interested in him, but Joe can’t guess why they should be. He dismisses them from his mind until he goes to the men’s room. Worried about being jumped, he pays a fourteen year old boy to scope out the territory for the two men. Coming back, the boy tells him he spotted one of the two men staring at a couple of bikini-clad women, one of whom is apparently deaf.

“Deaf?” Joe asks. The boy elaborates and states she kept pulling out and putting in a “hearing aid” in one ear. Paying the boy the rest of his promised money, Joe leaves the restroom and goes back to his place on the beach. Two young women set up next to him and, since he is wearing sunglasses, Joe can keep an eye on them without giving his suspicion away. They are watching him – and not the way young women usually watch men at the beach.

Using up the last of his beer, Joe decides these cops have picked him out of the crowd by mistake and ignores them. He packs up and heads to the cemetery. When he gets there, however, he finds a woman photographing the headstones of his wife and daughters’ graves. She tells him she is not ready to talk to him yet, then asks how he is coping with his loss. It doesn’t take a great detective to see he is in bad shape, mind you; she just needs a conversational topic.

Sole Survivor: Amazon.co.uk: Dean Koontz: 9780747254348: Books

Before their graveside chat can go any deeper, the two are interrupted by a screeching engine. Joe looks up to see a vehicle approaching the cemetery. It stops and the two men who were observing him at the beach jump out. Immediately, the woman takes off, and she is so fast that Joe can’t keep up with her in his poor condition.

His two shadows chase after the strange woman. Doubling back to their vehicle, Joe discovers a third man inside. Taking the brute by surprise, Joe subdues him before studying the interior of the van. Abandoning it, he races off before the thug can grab him. He gets shot at, but loses his pursuers, only to find he has picked up a helicopter instead. Discovering a tacking device on his car, Joe slaps it on a passing dump truck and goes to get some answers.

In the process, he learns there is a reason to keep living. Someone survived the plane crash that killed his family, which should be impossible. But apparently it isn’t and, on the off chance that the woman he met at the graveside can help him locate the survivor, Joe begins chasing after her. As he does he learns by inches why he was allowed to survive his family’s demise.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, readers. In spite of the protagonist’s depair-induced whining about the world toward the beginning of the novel, this is a riveting book. Joe eventually gets whacked on the head enough times that he straightens up and flies right, naturally. Koontz doesn’t hold with wimps or whiners, though he occasionally writes about them. Sole Survivor is no different than the rest of his works in that respect.

A good read with a good ending, Sole Survivor is as timely today as when it was written. But you don’t need to take my word for it, readers. Pick up the novel at your earliest opportunity and discover how good a book this is yourselves!

‘Til next time!

Sole Survivor « Dean Koontz

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Book Review: Innocence by Dean Koontz

Innocence – Dean Koontz | Penny Dreadful Book Reviews (Est ...

Whew! We are finally – finally – going to discuss another Dean Koontz novel! 🙂 Hang on to your hats, everyone; this one’s a doozy!

Innocence, by Dean Koontz, is a standalone novel about a man who is so ugly that he inspires everyone else to hate him on sight. This young man – Addison – lived alone with his Father, a man who was also considered sickeningly ugly, beneath a city for some time. Six years ago, Addison’s father died, and ever since our hero has lived alone.

Father was not Addison’s biological father. That man ran off before Addison was born, and so he never knew him. But Addison did know his mother, with whom he lived for eight years, before he had to leave and ended up in the city. It was while he was running from a gang of teens who had seen his hideous visage that he met his adopted Father.

Our hero cannot stay underground all the time, of course. He has to go to the surface from time to time to get food, which he usually has to take from closed stores at night. His Father had to do the same before him, and he taught Addison to leave money behind for the things they “bought” in this manner. At other times, Addison goes to the surface to visit the local library during the darkness, when no one can see him. On different occasions, he goes topside to watch the storms come and go.

This night, he heads to the surface to visit the library. While there, he hears a man shout and sees a woman roughly his own age racing away from her pursuer. Between the two of them, Addison and the girl manage to lose her hunter. But our hero finds he can’t leave the young woman alone; he can tell she needs help. So he offers to aid her in her dilemma.

Innocence (ebook) by Dean Koontz | 9780007518036

Cautiously the heroine of this tale, Gwyneth, agrees to accept Addison’s help. Naturally enough, though, she asks why he hides his face. Addison explains that he doesn’t want to scare her and, even though she says she doesn’t care about appearances, he insists on keeping his countenance hidden. Gwyneth eventually accepts this, then states her own rule: Addison is not to touch her or make skin contact with her. She cannot be touched – at all.

Thus we have a hero who can’t be seen and a heroine who can’t be touched. Curious yet?

If so, since I don’t want to spoil anything too much, let’s just say that the title Innocence is right on the nose. From the description I’ve offered here, it’s not hard to see a parallel between this novel and the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. While Addison is a most decidedly un-beastly character, I would be willing to bet that this fairy tale might have helped inspire Koontz to write this book. There are certain overtones that hint at Beauty and the Beast up until the middle of the story. From then on, though, the tale takes a different turn entirely.

To make this review perfectly honest, I have to admit that I never finished reading Innocence. It was too close to reality – and seemed too much like a prophecy – for me to complete it. A few pages from the finale, this blogger shut the book and put it away. So far, I haven’t had the nerve to read the last few pages, despite being told by a friend what happens at the end of the tale.

Perhaps I will be able to finish Innocence someday. But it will not be today. The book is written like The City, from the first person POV with short chapters that can be a paragraph in length. These will in turn preceed lengthier installments. The big difference is that this book has a more linear timeline than The City did.

I hope Innocence entertains you, readers, as it did me. Though I didn’t complete the book, I found the story to be sound and enjoyable. It is not a horror novelm and just because it didn’t work for me does not mean that you won’t like it. It just means this blogger has to get up the nerve to finish the novel at some point. 😉

‘Til next time!

Dean Koontz Quotes. QuotesGram

Book Review: By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz

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I think I have reviewed a total of three Dean Koontz novels prior to this point, readers. Though horror is not my preferred milieu of fiction, Koontz has valuable insights in his novels that are worth the price of admission. He also creates compelling characters and satisfies my desire for a good story well told. So I have read more than the three novels reviewed here at Thoughts; I just have not gotten around to writing about most of them.

By the Light of the Moon is the most recent book that I have read, and the ending is an absolute kicker. The author pulled a fast one on me with this one, so I have to be careful to describe it or I will give away spoilers.

Dylan O’Connor, an artist, has stopped off at a hotel on his way back from selling some of his work in the next state. In the hotel is his younger, autistic brother, Shepherd. (For the majority of the book, he is called Shep.) Unfortunately, before Dylan can get back to their room with the fast food meal his brother ordered, someone sneaks up behind him and knocks him out.

He wakes up some minutes later, strapped to a chair and gagged in their room. At the table in the center of the area, Shep is putting together a puzzle at lightning speed, seemingly oblivious to the little old man who is preparing to stick Dylan with a needle full of strange, golden liquid. The mad man tells Dylan that the “stuff” in the syringe has effects that are “without exception interesting, frequently astonishing, and sometimes positive.”

Oh, great. Of course, that makes total sense. And it is super comforting, too, Doc McEvil. We all love the idea of being injected with “stuff” by mad scientists. (Yes, I am being sarcastic and snarky.)

Image result for by the light of the moon by dean koontz

And yes, this little old man is the bad guy – and what a villain. He doesn’t go in for the usual evisceration, mental or physical, that you would expect. He is apparently harmless and full of remorse, but as a fan of Koontz’s, I can tell you to never assume any antagonist in his stories is harmless or full of remorse. This bozo is no exception.

Well, Dr. McEvil finishes up with Dylan and leaves the room, telling him he has some handful of minutes before the MIBs show up to kill him. This is because the “stuff” is the scientist’s life’s work and it is apparently dangerous enough that the Feds want it completely eradicated. While Dylan works on freeing himself, Dr. McEvil spies his next victim: Jillian “Jilly” Jackson.

Jilly is trying to become a professional on the comedy circuit, and to that end she travels around the Southwest with her jade plant, Fred. Fred is part of her act and the closest thing she has to a friend in her travels. Anyway, she pops out of her room to grab a drink and a snack from the vending machine. When she comes back, her door is ajar and it takes her too long to react to the fact that she has an unwelcome visitor. Knocked out and injected with the same “stuff” as Dylan received, Jilly misses most of Dr. McEvil’s spiel and stumbles out of her room toward the parking lot – with Fred in hand, of course.

Dylan and Shep are headed to their truck at the same time, and the three begin traveling together after a nearby explosion shows them that Dr. McEvil wasn’t kidding about the MIBs. Whatever he injected them with, the Feds want it destroyed –

And that means they want Dylan, Shep, and Jilly dead.

This has to be one of the most surprising stories Koontz has ever written. The first five to seven chapters had me in stitches; I am usually pretty good at handling his customary “gag-on-your-giggles-so-the-librarian-doesn’t-throw-you-out” humor, but this time it was amped up to eleven. I nearly choked trying to keep quiet so I could read the book. It wasn’t easy – at all. 😉

But the real surprise in this book was the ending. It is a lighthearted, almost fluffy finale that pokes fun at a genre you hear a lot about here at Thoughts. The fun isn’t aimed at my favorite company, but its rival which, let’s face it, takes itself waaay too seriously most of the time. There is still some self-deprecating humor in my favorite producer, but heaven only knows how much longer that will last.

Someone else I know who read the book felt this ending was a bit disingenuous, but I kind of liked it. Most of Koontz’s novels end with a “Beware the Darkness” note, which is fine. But it is nice to know he can put a little more bounce into an ending if he wants to do so. The fact that he doesn’t just goes to prove the point I mentioned in my review of The Good Guy.

If you don’t think you can handle Koontz giving you a “fluffy” ending, then you may not want to pick up By the Light of the Moon. I think it was worth the read, however, and that is why I am recommending it. The first few chapters, at least, are worth it for the humor alone.

Have fun with By the Light of the Moon at your earliest convenience, readers!

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Book Review: The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

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I have stated that I am not a fan of horror novels/films/fill-in-the-blank. That still stands. Do I believe in ghosts, monsters, demons, and evil? Oh, yes, I do. That is part of the reason why I do not like horror stories. Too many people think these things are not real, and therefore they take them lightly. But these things are all very real, so I do not have a blasé attitude when I consider them.

Evil is real, and Koontz makes sure to tell his readers this time and again throughout his novels. The Good Guy is no exception; it opens with Tim Carrier – a bachelor, mason, bricklayer, and former United States Marine – sitting down to have a beer.

Since his return to the states, Tim’s kept himself off the radar. He is a self-employed mason in California who shows up, does his job well, and says very little about himself. He likes to end his days with a drink or two at his friend’s bar, the Lamplighter Tavern.

On this particular night, though, he does not go unnoticed. A nervous, twitchy little man enters the establishment after Tim has exchanged the usual pleasantries with his friend. For the first few minutes, he thinks the newcomer’s just jumpy, so he tries to strike up an interesting conversation with the guy.

Then the man slides a thick manila envelope over to him with the words, “Half of it’s there. Ten thousand. The rest when she’s gone.”

At first, Tim is too surprised to explain that there has been a mistake. Before he can get his mouth to start working, though, the little man has bolted out the door. Looking at the manila envelope for a while, Tim then opens it and checks out the contents.

Inside are ten thousand dollars in cash and a photo of a pretty woman about Tim’s own age. Printed on the photo is the woman’s name – Linda Paquette – along with her address.

He puts the photo and the money back in the envelope before sliding it as far from him as he can. No sooner has Tim put this slimy offering away, however, than a man – who could be his dopplegänger – enters the bar. He takes the uneasy man’s seat, orders a beer, and picks up the envelope.

What would you do here, readers? Call the cops? Try to tell the man the job’s off? Tim tries the second course, but it does not work. As for the first, Tim considers it until he sees the killer put a police light on the top of his car. This hired murderer might be disguising himself as a cop, but having seen his eyes, heard him talk, our Good Guy doubts that very much. Going to the police will therefore get Linda – and very probably Tim – murdered a whole lot faster.

Now, readers, in this situation, what would you do? Help Linda, or walk away and forget the entire scene had ever occurred?

Dean Koontz lets Mr. Carrier make the choice. And Tim chooses to go help Linda.

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The Good Guy is a great read. It will scare the pants off of you, and it will break your heart. It will crack the veneer of normalcy the academics and journalists have laid over our world to show you the writhing, seething things that hide in the darkness so prevalent in the world where we live. If you pay attention, you will learn many things about evil, faith, hope, love, and courage while reading this book.

Koontz has often referenced Flannery O’Connor, one of his favorite authors, in his novels. Flannery O’Connor once said that her aim in the stories she wrote was to “shout loud enough for the atheists” to hear the truth she had to tell them.

Mr. Koontz is aiming in the same general direction, but it is not just the atheists and unbelievers he wants to awaken. It is the rest of us who go about the world with our hands over our ears, eyes, and mouth in the hopes of avoiding the face of evil. Evil is real. It is very, very real, and the only thing that allows it to win is if good men and women – good guys and girls – let it.

That is Mr. Koontz’s message in all his fiction, something new readers of his works ought to be aware of. The Good Guy is one of the stories where he shouts the loudest.

Discover The Good Guy, by Dean Koontz, at your earliest opportunity, readers. It is worth your time and money.

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Being a Victim

For a long time, maybe even since the stormy night of her eighth birthday and the frenzied palmetto beetle, she’d known that being a victim was often a choice people made. As a child, she hadn’t been able to put this insight into words, and she hadn’t known why so many people chose suffering; when older, she had recognized their self-hatred, masochism, weakness.

Not all or even most suffering is at the hands of fate; it befalls us at our invitation.

She’d always chosen not to be victimized, to resist and fight back, to hold on to hope and dignity and faith in the future. But victimhood was seductive, a release from responsibility and caring: Fear would be transmuted into weary resignation; failure would no longer generate guilt but, instead, would spawn a comforting self-pity. – Intensity by Dean Koontz.

Feel It

Besides policemen, Chyna saw numerous physicians. In addition to the necessary treatment for her physical injuries, she was more than once urged to discuss her experiences with a psychiatrist. The most persistent of these was a pleasant man named Dr. Kevin Lofglun, a boyish fifty-year-old with a musical laugh and a nervous habit of pulling on his right earlobe until it was cherry red. “I don’t need therapy,” she told him, “because life is therapy.” He didn’t quite understand this, and he wanted her to tell him about her codependent relationship with her mother, though it hadn’t been codependent for at least ten years, since she had walked out. He wanted to help her learn to cope with grief, but she told him, “I don’t want to learn to cope with it, Doctor, I want to feel it.” When he spoke of post-traumatic stress, she spoke of hope; when he spoke of self-fulfillment,she spoke of responsibility; when he spoke of mechanisms for improving self-esteem, she spoke of faith and trust; and after a while he seemed to decide that he could do nothing for someone who was speaking a language so different from his own.

The doctors and nurses were worried that she would be unable to sleep, but she slept soundly. They were sure she would have nightmares, but she only dreamed of a cathedral forest where she was never alone and always safe.

On April eleventh, just twelve days after being admitted to the hospital, she was discharged, and when she went out the front doors, there were over a hundred newspaper, radio, and television reporters waiting for her, including those from the sleazy tabloid shows that had sent her contracts, by Federal Express, offering large sums to tell her story. She made her way through them without answering any of their shouted questions but without being impolite. As she reached the taxi that was waiting for her, one of them pushed a microphone in her face and said inanely, “Ms. Shepherd, what does it feel like to be such a famous hero?” She stopped then and turned and said, “I’m no hero. I’m just passing through like all of you, wondering why it has to be so hard, hoping I never have to hurt anyone again.” Those close enough to hear what she said fell silent, but the others shrieked at her again. She got into the taxi and road away. – Intensity by Dean Koontz.

Dean Koontz: Relentless

Dean Koontz' Relentless

I am a late-comer to Dean Koontz’s fiction. Being a romantic, I am not that inclined to crack open so-called “horror fiction,” even when it is written by a remarkably sensible person. However, perusing the library’s shelves opens one to all kinds of things, and this last time I was at the library I happened across Mr. Koontz’s book Relentless.

I cracked open the hardcover book and read the inside blurb (never start a book without reading the blurb on the back or on the inside; it is like checking the menu to see what you want to order at a restaurant). Relentless was intriguing to me because it was about an author, his wife, and their genius-level six year-old son literally being hunted down by a professional book critic. “That’s interesting,” I thought. “I know some critics have it in for good writers, but I have never heard of a critic carrying it this far.”

And, having read Relentless, readers, I can honestly say I never want to meet such a critic during my stay on this earth. Ever.

Relentless centers on the man of the family, Cullen “Cubby” Greenwich (where on earth does Koontz come up with these names?). His wife was given the name Brunhild when she was born, but she understandably uses the easier moniker Penny. Their six year-old, a rival to Tony Stark, is named Milo. Their non-barking dog is named Lassie, even though she is not a collie.

Cubby is an author, having just completed and published his sixth tome. Relentless begins with him promoting this book on the radio from home, and then going to breakfast in order to shake off his self-promotion guilt. Before he has a chance to start on his pancakes, though, the phone rings and his editor tells him she has sent him three reviews of this book. The last review, she tells him, is by a man who never likes stories similar to Cubby’s.

Well, Cubby goes to his computer and reads the review, against Penny’s advice, and finds that the man who lampooned his book: a) does not seem to understand its point; b) writes using very poor syntax, and c) actually does not seem to have reviewed the book at all, instead focusing on the publication letter that gets sent out to reviewers with newly published books.

From there, things go downhill fast. I will not spoil anything else about the story, readers, but let you pick up the book yourselves and read it, if you so desire. It is a very good book. I started reading it in the library and, before I was a page into the story, was laughing so hard I annoyed all the patrons around me. Relentless is a thrill ride that is as persistent in its humor as it is in its suspense. Dean Koontz, I tip my hat to you, sir! It is a rare author who can teach a lesson through a scary story, while managing at the same time to keep the reader in stitches.

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian