Pros: Intensity, nifty plot, likable characters
Cons: Weak ending, some purple prose
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 6/13/2005
I don’t read as much fiction as I’d like to. Recently I read James Scott Bell’s “Plot & Structure” and one of the authors whose work he used for example purposes was Dean Koontz. He used Koontz as an example of an author who knew how to structure a plot in order to build up and sustain intensity to draw the reader in.
And it’s true. While I don’t think Koontz’s books are perfect, and they have some flaws in my eyes, the one thing he’s extremely good at is using plot to ratchet up the tension.
Dylan O’Conner’s entire life has revolved around caring for his autistic brother, Shep. Jilly’s life has revolved around using her anger and bitterness to make people laugh. Their lives are irrevocably thrown together when one mysterious mad scientist injects them with an unknown liquid and they begin to experience… changes. Unfortunately the scientist had some enemies, enemies who want to see the results of his work destroyed. And the results of that work are Dylan, Jilly, and Shep. They’re going to have to run far, think fast, and learn what’s happened to them–and how best to use it–in time to keep themselves alive. Otherwise they’re all bound for a very bloody end.
Koontz does his usual job of keeping the tension high; I certainly found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. The prose gets a bit purple sometimes, but usually enjoyably so–I can forgive that more in an entertaining thriller than I can in some other kinds of writing.
The characters have more depth to them than those in the last Koontz book I read, and I found them likable, flawed and interesting. I’m no expert on autism by a long shot, but I found the portrayal of Shep to be sensitive, interesting and compassionate.
My one real problem with this book, however, is the ending. Obviously I’m not going to give away how it ends, but I will say that it has some of the feeling of a deus ex machina. I find such endings to be unsatisfying, unfulfilling, and disappointing. The ending also seemed to be an abrupt change in tone (and, in some ways, almost a change in genre as well), which felt… wrong.
I certainly enjoyed the book, and the ending wasn’t enough to take that away. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a not-too-deep thriller with some action, some danger, and some mystery to it. I’ll just warn you up front that the ending isn’t as strong as the rest of the book, and this isn’t deep reading that’ll leave you mesmerized.