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Koontz meets Michael Crichton - and suspense meets science
on 2 December 2010
This is Koontz's most Crichton-esque novel, and something of an experiment in narrative for him too, I think, because it moves between the past and present. He does this with signposts and clarity, which is a relief as such techniques can be disorientating if not downright confusing.
The science of this book is actually set out in the foreword, which in itself is preparatory for the fairly lengthy exposition of what is happening and why. Some like these logistical science-based premises, some do not. I do. My partner does not, so in short, we took take two views about the novel.
What we did agree upon is that the back half of the novel runs like a cheetah, and the action sprints out of its pound once it has been thoroughly set up. The `baddies' form a triumvirate (there are three of them in other words) of differing personalities and spend quite a bit of time looking over their shoulders at one another. The main protagonist is interesting, and turns out to be in need of a good psychiatrist. The streak of mysogyny is something that has recurrence in Koontz' works and hopefully is confined to his characters!
The hypnotic mind control theme raises the issues of accountability and responsibility and these are explored quite well, but ultimately without any conclusion within the fiction. And the means used to combat the threat is poses was one I guessed fairly quickly, which is a bit disappointing. But the book is about to turn 35 in 2011, so I guess I've had many years of succeeding fiction to double guess good plots which subsequently became well-used.
Particularly satisfying is the death of another central character, a sympathetic one - that may surprise readers as Koontz is often fairly reliable in shepherding his favourites across the finishing line, usually wounded and torn half to shreds but alive. Not all of them, if many, can say this in Night Chills.
It's a good solid Koontz book and will appeal more to the science fiction fraternity than to his horror and suspense fans. Despite the age of its theme and its more science-based content, its still very entertaining and distinctive writing.