As you may have noticed, I have read a lot of Dean Koontz this last year.  I just discovered his books just this past year and found parts of his style appealing while other parts lost me.

***If spoilers trouble you, skip this review***

 

The Good Guy

The first of his books that I read was kind of the epitome of both sides of this equation.  I loved the repartee between the main protagonist, Tim Carrier, and the assassin’s target, Linda Paquette, who Tim has to save after inadvertently receiving the hit notice on her.  The contract killer, Krait, is both chilling and entertaining… the latter being true only if you are not on his hit list.  He has bizarre idiosyncrasies that make his scenes some of the best in the book.

That said, the thing that bothered me was how Koontz took one of the main draws of the book (i. e.: what would happen if Joe Schmo accidentally intercepted a killer’s hit contract and had the choice to help the victim) and chickened out at the last minute. 

***This is where the spoilers really kick in, by the way*** 

The story’s protagonist, who was supposedly an average Joe, ends up being a highly-trained Congressional Medal of Honor awarded military hero.  This fact is not revealed until near the end of the story.  It comes off as though Koontz get to the moment of truth and has no idea how a normal guy would be able to take down this expert psycho and says, “Oh wait.  I never really clarified the reason why he has been avoiding any discussion of his past.  Maaaaybe I could make him secretly uber!  That would solve all my problems right there.”

Except that it doesn’t.  It feels like a cop out.  As a reader, I feel like the promise of seeing someone just like me (only a little more buff and manly) take down a contract killer against improbable odds has been broken.  Like when my teacher told the class that any one of us could become President and then I grew up to understand how the system really works.

I was going to cover a few more, but I think this pretty much sums up my growing disillusionment with Dean Koontz.  He is an excellent storyteller who never seems to be happy with just telling a good story.  He wants to add a little zest and zing to his books.  The bad part for me is that I don’t want zest and zing.  I want the good story I was promised.  The added BAM and POW are unnecessary additions that end up taking the original promise of the story away.

I should add that I was sold on Dean Koontz because my friends told me he was a horror writer.  He is not.  Koontz writes thriller and suspense stories, which are not always my cup of tea.  In a recent episode of “Writing Excuses,” the guys explained the core difference between horror and suspense.  In a horror story, the protagonist’s competence must not be equal to the dangers they are facing.  They quoted Stephen King, “Horror is an unknown actress, perhaps the girl next door, cowering in a cabin with a knife in her hands we know she’ll never be able to use.”  That is completely appropriate. 

The protagonist in “The Good Guy” starts out looking like an average brick mason facing a skilled, competent psycho.  When it turns out that he is actually more than equal to the task, it pulls the rug out from under the reader’s expectations.  Now that I have read more of Koontz’s works, I understand that, if you like an equal meeting of forces, you will love his books.  I want the protagonist to be screwed on every front and have a very real possibility of failure.  I really am a cup’s-half-full kind of guy, I swear.

Next: Odd Thomas: The awesome book followed by the series that lost me.

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Although I’ve said a million times that I’m not a horror writer, I do like horror.

~ Dean Koontz

 

Listening to: Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman

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