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Tag Archives: Dean Koontz

Early Christmas

Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a pleasant – and unexpected – surprise this week.

When my wife and I got home from work the other night, there was a small package sitting on our front steps. We figured it was something from Amazon we had ordered for Christmas and brought it in the house. Upon closer inspection, we saw that it wasn’t from Amazon but from Random House Publishing and it was the size and shape of a book. Surprise!

Well, actually it was, because when we opened it we found an “Advance Reader’s Edition” of Dean Koontz’ new novel, “Innocence” which was just released on the tenth of this month. It’s a beautiful, paperback copy with the same cover art found on the hardbound edition, except for the reader’s edition seal with “Not For Sale” in it. Yes, I had a big grin on my face.

I’ve been looking forward to this book for several months now. Not just because it’s a Dean Koontz book, although that’s certainly enough reason for me, but because this is supposedly something different for Mr. Koontz. Something other than a typical Dean Koontz book. I was planning on using some Christmas money to purchase it later in the month, but that won’t be necessary now.

As happy as this made me, I haven’t a clue as to why I received this in the first place. The package was addressed directly to me from Random House. There was no note attached to it, save the promotional message in the front of the book from the executive vice president of Ballantine Bantam Dell telling me of the virtues of this new novel. No help.

I only have two guesses. First, I may have won some sort of contest that I was unaware of. I’m always clicking “like” on Dean Koontz’s Facebook page and I may have entered myself without even knowing it. Second, Random House may have a marketing assistant in charge of monitoring book bloggers with tiny followings. Whatever the case, I’m extremely grateful.

My first impulse was to start reading “Innocence” that very night, however, I’m currently well into T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” so Dean will have to wait for a bit. But you can bet I’ll be cracking that cover very soon (depending on what other books I get for Christmas!) and passing along my review to all of you.

I hope all of my fellow book junkies out there get the books they want this Christmas. Whether they’re from someone they know or not!

Oh, and one final piece of info. I emailed said executive V.P. a brief thank you note for the book. You know what? She had the grace to reply. That’s what I call class, people. Random House gets a big thumbs up from this house.

Merry Christmas everyone, and blessings in the coming year!

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in What I'm Reading

 

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A Koontz Novella

Dean Koontz likes big houses.

In his novella, “The Moonlit Mind,” Crispin lives with his mom, brother and sister in a three-floor, forty-four thousand square foot mansion called Theron Hall which belongs to his stepfather, Giles. The novel to which this novella is attached, “77 Shadow Street,” takes place in a luxury, three-floor apartment building called The Pendleton which used to be the private residence of a very rich family. Other Koontz books have had very large homes and buildings featured prominently as well. Nothing good usually happens in any of them.

Fortunately, Koontz lets Crispin escape into the nearby city as he tries to evade his stepfather’s agents. Why? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s just say that Crispin is to be the guest of honor at a very special ceremony. A ceremony that Crispin wants no part of. So off into the city he goes, living by his wits and hiding in parks, stores, and abandoned warehouses. Of course, this being a Dean Koontz story, he hooks up with a very cool stray dog he names Harley. A boy and his dog, loose in a city with no one to tell them what to do? What kid hasn’t imagined what that would be like?

Using a clever story device, Koontz uses flashbacks and flash-forwards between the 9 year-old Crispin and the 12 year-old Crispin, effectively showing the reader how he came to be in this predicament and how he finally deals with the events put in motion by his mom’s marriage to Giles. Along the way there are the signature Koontz jabs at modern American culture (a nightclub named Narcissus; a televangelist program called The Wide Eye of the Needle), and quirky, deftly drawn characters (the children’s tutor, Mordred; Crispin’s friend and fellow runaway, Amity, who lives in a department store and is known as the Phantom of Broderick’s).

Koontz’s newer novels all deal with the nature of evil and this novella is no different, though, being essentially an extended short story, there’s not much subtlety in its depiction. And that’s alright. Koontz clearly meant this tale to be a quick, fun ride, and he succeeds in providing the reader with a good time along with some creepy twists (you’ve heard of voodoo dolls; how about a voodoo house-model of the aforementioned Theron Hall?).

And, yes, there’s a lesson here. With Koontz there always is and, honestly, that’s one of the things I like about his works. In his earlier series of Frankenstein books, two of his characters come to the conclusion that fighting bad ideas is a life’s work. Koontz’s novels engage bad ideas, and evil, head-on and grant no quarter. This is good because there is no shortage of bad ideas in our world today.

In the Moonlit Mind, we relearn the old lesson that things, and people, are seldom just what they appear to be. Face value could very well be a mask. There’s more here, but I’ll let you read this tale to get at the rest.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Liebster Questions, My Answers

As I reported the other day, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by fellow blogger Jubilare. In order to receive this award I need to answer some simple questions. So here we go!

1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like.

Holy cow! I can’t remember all the places books have taken me over the years. Now I have to pick one to live in? Oy! Well, at least at this point in my life, I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings and within that book I’d select someplace in the Shire, perhaps Hobbiton, though Pincup in the Green Hill Country looks good. Willowbottom sounds a bit enticing as well.

I definitely want my own Hobbit hole, snug into the side of a nice green hill. Great insulation you know. A good size larder would be nice, as well as a fairly spacious study and library. I think it would be fine as far as size goes. I mean, if Gandalf can fit in Bilbo’s home, I’m sure I can be comfortable too. Oh yeah, and a sizeable dining hall with a large fireplace would be necessary for entertaining guests and for gaming night.

Whichever village I pick will need to have a local pub with an Olde Pub name like “The Board and Bone” or something similar. Oh, and it needs to be within crawling distance of my new abode. For convenience, you understand. I really like pubs.

As for who (or what) I’d try to befriend, probably just the locals from the pub. We’d more than likely have much in common. Good food, stout ale, some aromatic pipe weed, lots of books and interesting conversation; what more can a man ask for in the golden years? If I should see any tall, gray-bearded types with staffs wandering through, I’ll head to my cellar to check on the wines and brandies. If I can’t hear them knocking, oh well.

2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest?

Most of the books I read don’t have food in them, although George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series described plenty of meals. Of course I don’t remember a thing about them. I will say that I’ve always been curious about ancient cuisines. What did the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians or Huns eat?

But then, maybe I don’t really want to know.

3. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much?

I never thought about this much. I guess if I had to pick a plant, I’d pick ivy. I love the shape of the leaves and seeing it growing and covering walls and fences reminds me of libraries and books and warm, cozy houses with fireplaces and reading chairs. So yeah. Ivy.

4. What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why?

My favorite hero in fiction would have to be John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. MacDonald was one of the best pop fiction writers in America in the 1950s and 60s and he wrote a lot more than just the Travis McGee series, but the Florida beach bum was sort of his trademark. McGee lived on a house boat called The Busted Flush, so you can guess how he acquired it. He was in the “recovery” business, which meant that if someone screwed you out a great deal of money or other property, he would get it back for you for a percentage of the recovered item(s). You just didn’t ask him about his methods. He was also something of a keen observer and critic of  modern America. A public philosopher, if you will. Treat yourself to a Travis McGee novel sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

As for what villain really scares me, I’m going with the incomparable Preston Maddoc from Dean Koontz’ “One Door Away From Heaven.” Maddoc is a PhD in philosophy and claims to be a utilitarian bioethicist, but what he really likes to do is dispatch people he deems not worth living, like his nine-year-old crippled step daughter, Leilani Klonk (hey, it’s a Koontz novel). Koontz has distilled and concentrated the essence of the secular-humanist-utilitarian mindset into this one character and what makes him so frightening is that there really are people out there who see the world this way and are trying to spread their ideas. Ever hear of Peter Singer?

A close second would be Koontz’ new, improved Victor Frankenstein from his five novel series based on the Frankenstein story. I really do believe in mad scientists.

5. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why.

Ah, yes! The Happy Wanderer game. Let’s see. I’ve never been a big city-type of person, and farmland is useful but doesn’t have a lot of variety in the vistas department. Now, the mountains with the forest and ferns sounds really nice but at my age the steep-climb-thingy is a deal breaker. Heck, that may have been a deal breaker in my younger days, too! So that leaves the home and hearth option, which, if I were to have my very own Hobbit hole, would be just peachy by me.

There IS another direction I wouldn’t mind going: up. I’ve always thought that if a race of advanced aliens (friendly, of course) were to stop by and ask if I’d like to come for a ride I would probably answer yes. To see our planet and solar system retreating from the ship as we head out into deep space would be amazing! Maybe even see a new world or two.

I guess one could also include the option of going down. Think I’ll pass on that one, too.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Quick Koontz Review

When is a haunted house not a haunted house? When it’s in a Dean Koontz novel, of course.

English: Film poster for The Haunted House

English: Film poster for The Haunted House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Koontz’ “77 Shadow Street,” as in so many of his novels, things aren’t what they seem to be when the trip begins. Take an old, luxury apartment building called the Pendleton that used to be a mansion, add a cast of 10 or so wealthy tenants and employees, throw in an elevator that descends below the basement and a swimming pool with something strange in it and you have what seems to be the beginning of a supernatural thriller.

Koontz loves to explore the nature of evil, and in this story he looks at it from a different angle. Told through the varying viewpoints of different characters, we see that the source of evil isn’t always something intentional but can easily come from the unintended consequences of human actions. Especially if those actions come from the desire to play God.

Truly, no other author that I know of today can create a believable character in so few sentences as can Dean Koontz. He always amazes me. The problem with this novel is that there are so many of them that the reader has trouble deciding which character to focus on. Add to that that the layout of the building is a key part of the story (there is even a 2 page diagram of the Pendleton at the start of the book), and it becomes increasingly difficult to follow the thematic thread of the novel.

Because of the nature of the story, I can’t go into much detail about the events in it. I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you decide to read it. And you should read it. Despite the drawbacks, it IS a Koontz novel and even one of his sub-par stories is better than many of today’s tale spinners’ best efforts. Yes, I am a fan.

By all means, pick up “77 Shadow Street.” Get the paperback edition if you can because it contains a bonus novella titled “The Moonlit Mind.” At 137 pages, that’s a nice extra and won’t take much of your time. Plus it’s got a dog in it.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Book Review

 

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You Animal, You!

I read an interesting article this weekend in The Wall Street Journal by Frans de Waal, primatologist at Emory

The Elephant Fiasco

The Elephant Fiasco (Photo credit: locket479)

University in Atlanta. Titled “The Brains of the Animal Kingdom,” it offered many interesting examples of the intelligence of such animals as chimps, elephants and octopuses, some of them pretty amazing. The point? Nothing new really. As de Waal puts it, “science keeps chipping away at the wall that separates us from the other animals.” The implication being that humans are nothing special, just another animal.

Sigh.

This just gets so tiring, but it offers an example of why it is good to read books and not just the newspapers. I take you back to 1967 and a book written by the late, great Mortimer J. Adler. “The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes” (Holt, Rinehart & Winston) explores the many areas in which humans are not “just another animal.” Adler even quotes evolutionists such as George Gaylord Simpson, Theodosius Dobzhansky and Julian Huxley as referring to man’s uniqueness. As Dobzhansky put it, ” Human intellectual abilities seem to be not only quantitatively but also qualitatively different from those of animals other than men.”

In one of his Frankenstein novels, author Dean Koontz has a character state that “to fight bad ideas is a life’s work.” Well, the idea that humans are nothing but animals needs a good butt-kicking.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Ideas, Quotations, Worries

 

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Don’t Get Too Close!

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film)

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry I’ve been away from the old keyboard for a bit. About two weeks ago I came down with something like a head cold on steroids. Headache, sinus pressure, a small cough and the usual “Yuck!” By the time my wife and I would get home from work in the afternoons the only thing I would be good for was the couch. It hurt to think much less actually put thoughts to paper (or screen, as the case may be!)

But even when I’m sick, there is one thing I still can do. Read. So here’s a brief recap of what I’ve been reading since the last time I put fingers to plastic.

I finished the fourth book in Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series, “Lost Souls,” in which we meet the third incarnation of Victor Frankenstein, Victor Immaculate. By far the worst of the three, he is even scarier because his views are the same as certain groups of very radical environmentalists today. You might think that there couldn’t be anything funny about this book, but you’d be wrong. Koontz’s pairing of characters and the situations he places them in bring forth some of the best dialog you’ll ever read. Trust me on this. The fifth and final book in the series, ” The Dead Town,” is ready and waiting for me to finish two other books I’m now reading.

One of which is Eugene Peterson”s “Eat This Book.” My Christian friends will recognize Peterson as the author of “The Message.” Some think “The Message” is another paraphrase of the Bible but it describes itself as a “contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.” Now, in “Eat This Book,” Peterson discusses the best ways to read this amazing book called the Bible. He stresses that we should try to avoid “atomizing” it, chopping it down into little factoids or proof texts for our pet positions. He spends a lot of words exploring a type of spiritual reading called “lectio divina” which has come down to us from ancient Christians. It’s a wonderful, encouraging read.

Finally, I’m reading the second in Thomas Cahill’s “The Hinges of History” series, titled “The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels.” I read his first volume “How the Irish Saved Civilization” last year and was completely charmed by it. This volume is equally well-written and fascinating. Even if you’re not a person of faith, you owe much to this bunch of desert dwellers. Without their beliefs and ideas, the way we view ourselves and our world would not be possible.

Well, that’s it for now. There are plenty of other books lined up for this year as well. I need to put together some sort of reading plan, but since organization has never been one of my strong suits I won’t promise anything. But I will promise to try to be better about getting to the keyboard. Once I’m feeling better.

Better spray your screen with Lysol for now.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Authors, Book Review, History, What I'm Reading

 

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The Postmodern Past and the Fantasy Future

A View of Earth from Saturn

A View of Earth from Saturn (Photo credit: alpoma)

Readers didn’t have affection for the past anymore because they didn’t believe in it. They’d been told for too long that everything they knew about the past was a lie, that the good men with hard codes were actually the bad men and that the outlaws were either victims of injustice or rebels against conformity – which were the real lies.

People didn’t believe in the past, and they didn’t believe in the present or the future because they were told constantly that they were headed toward one cataclysm or another, that before them lay a smorgasbord of dooms. They believed only in the far future where adventures took place on distant planets nothing like Earth and involved characters little or nothing like contemporary human beings, or they wanted parallel worlds with wizards and warlocks, where all problems were solved with wands, spells, and the summoning of demons.

 

Dean Koontz, from “Frankenstein, Book Four: Lost Souls.” (2011 Bantam Books Mass Market)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Quotations

 

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