Sunday, April 13, 2014

Innocence by Dean Koontz

I’ve been reading Dean Koontz for a lot of years, starting in my youth when I knew I wanted to be a writer. My local library had a book called Writing Popular Fiction by Dean R. Koontz (I believe the book was later released under the title Writing Bestselling Fiction , once Koontz was actually a bestseller). The author’s photo showed a long-haired young man with a mustache. Cool, I thought. Unlike most jobs, writing let you grow your hair as long as you liked.

I must have checked out that book 10 times while I was in high school, trying to memorize its secrets.

A few years later, when I was looking for another author to fill the gap between releases by my new favorite, Stephen King, I discovered the fiction of Koontz (I recall searching for his work after reading the non-fiction book, but Koontz’s science fiction novels were hard to find in this part of Kentucky).  I think the first Koontz I read was Whispers. After that, I was hooked. While Koontz didn’t seem to dig into his characters’s heads as deeply as King did, his plots were outstanding and the premise of each novel was imaginative and original. Since then, I’ve grabbed everything he’s released. That doesn’t mean I’ve loved every book, but even the least of them were enjoyable.

Over the years, Koontz has introduced more spirituality into his novels. I hope it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say that Innocence is his most overt expression of this.

Innocence concerns a boy named Addison, who must remain hidden from the world. If he’s spotted and someone looks at his face or into his eyes, that person tries to kill him. So Addison only goes out at night, and only with his face hidden. One night he meets a girl named Gwyneth, who can’t stand to be touched. They bond, and we’re off on another Koontzian adventure.

At times, the book’s pace slows down, but the ultimate revelation of Addison’s “condition” is quite unique and offers a payoff that makes up for any of the novel’s shortcomings.

There are a few unanswered question, though, and that’s unusual for a Koontz novel. Those include the presence of spooky marionettes and a confrontation with an archbishop, both of which almost read like plot threads that were meant to be expanded upon.

I’ll give Innocence a grade of a solid B. We’ll see what Koontz comes up with for The City, due out in July.

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