Rating: 5 out of 5
Dean Koontz’s The Taking: A Novel is a fascinating genre blend of cosmic horror and alien abduction science fiction. Molly Sloan wakes up to a bizarre and furious downpour outside. The rain is ever-so-slightly glowing, and it makes her uneasy. When she steps outside, a pack of coyotes joins her on her porch to get out of the rain, and they treat her almost as one of their own. Both digital and analogue clocks go crazy, and her husband Neil, when he wakes up, hears the throb and hum of some sort of alien craft above their town, before it moves on. When the couple turns on the television, they see reports of massive waterspouts, deadly floods, and satellites going blind. They decide to go into town and hole up with any other townspeople who show up, but there’s no escaping the mysterious things that come from within the storm.
Much like the other Dean Koontz title I read recently, Velocity, the main character has a transformative and traumatic past event from her childhood that informs the present: her father shot several of her fellow students when he tried to kidnap her. Much like other Dean Koontz novels, there are otherworldly intelligent dogs that act as forces of good. The blend of cosmic horror and science fiction works quite well–people disappear up into the air, fog shrouds everything once the downpour stops, odd fungi start popping up everywhere, and something moves within the walls of a house. Mechanical devices start activating randomly, computer screens show weird symbols, and CDs play strange music. Molly and Neil put themselves in charge of finding and protecting the children of the town, since the otherworldly forces seem to be concentrating on adults.
The townspeople divide up into four camps as they gather at the town tavern, and it’s a wider variety of reactions than we often see in invasion tales. There are the drunks who want to simply drink their way through until it’s all done, whatever that might look like. There are those who still think the aliens could be well-meaning, and that there must have been a terrible misunderstanding. (This is harder to believe once Molly and Neil hear the last transmission from the ISS, which involves an alien vessel docking with the station and a whole lot of screaming.) The third group are the fence-sitters: they want to defend themselves, but aren’t yet convinced they should go on the offensive, because that misunderstanding theory might hold some water. And finally, there are those who want to fight. Molly and Neil join that last group. Before the survivalists can put their plan into motion, however, things go straight to hell.
Given how easily the aliens/horrors seem to sweep people away, Molly and Neil start to wonder how exactly it is that they’re still alive. And yes, the story does eventually answer this burning question. There are dead bodies dug up and walking, and the oft-referenced idea that a sufficiently advanced technology would appear to us as magic–or vice versa. This was one of those stories where I wondered if the end would live up to the book, and I believe it did.