What a change of direction for Dean Koontz. I'm really rather surprised with his romantic central plot and enquiries into human nature.
This is the story of Addison Goodheart a man who has suffered horrible abuse, more or less since birth, because of his "differences". Addison has had to battle against what's considered normal society merely in order to survive and it would appear one glimpse of his face is more than enough to produce a murderous rage when viewed by other people. As an outcast from normality Addison has had to find himself a safe place of refuge but; it's a place of isolation and shadows, almost a mirror image of his own inner feelings, and you can't remain hidden forever.
Much of the novel is focused upon Addison's journey into self imposed exile and then his eventual attempt to return to what he fears the most - normality.
I found the inclusion of the female love interest, Gwyneth, a girl every bit as detested and cast out as Addison, cleverly worked. Not only does their relationship add emotional warmth but there are many contrasts between the two of them which adds texture and allows the reader to see the situation from both a male and female perspective. Placing the two key characters, and much of the plot, inside a library works well and the themes of old buildings and books allow for a Gothic atmosphere to develop as Addison begins to prowl out of his lair and secretly approaches Gywneth.
Innocence isn't a complex story, in fact it's quite simple, and asks one central question of it's characters; angel or devil? To be honest the story is much more about exploring the evil within human nature than it is about external demonic forces or the supernatural however; the principle characters remain nicely shaded, there's plenty of intrigue surrounding them, and Koontz makes a decent job of slowly revealing their real truths and motivations.
Any negatives? Yes, I'm less than 100% convinced the plot really works and it certainly reads as quite odd and random at times. Innocence is certainly the best book I've read by Koontz for a while but some of his themes are just too clichéd and you really do need to suspend too much self belief if you want to stay with it.
If, like me, you read a lot of horror and supernatural fiction you're perhaps not going to be too surprised by anything in Innocence and I doubt you'll find the novel in any way scary though it's certainly more than surreal. I'm leaving 3* because Innocence isn't really a book for me but I enjoyed the relationship between the central characters, thought the concept of using a library and literature for the background to the plot an excellent idea and found Addison Goodheart quite intriguing.
on 5 January 2015
I've enjoyed Dean Koontz novels before so when I saw this had great reviews I thought it was a safe bet. I was so disappointed. It was, to be kind, very boring. I kept reading it as I was mildly interested to learn what it was about the central protagonist that provoked such a visceral response in the people he met, but it wasn't worth it. I keep finding that four and five star reviews on Amazon are totally meaningless these days (or perhaps that's just for e-books?), but I trusted the glowing reviews posted from mainstream press. However on looking back at those comments now, I see they are actually listed as "praise for Dean Koontz" so they're probably from earlier book reviews. Pretty shoddy, Amazon.
on 4 January 2015
A disappointment. Starts out promisingly enough, but the characters are clichés, and the book can't even decide what it wants to be -- horror, a romance, a religious parable, or what. The flowery prose eventually becomes a parody of itself. When the big reveal comes -- the explanation for what makes all ordinary people recoil in horror at the main character if he ever reveals his face, and what made his own mother abandon him at age 8 -- is just jaw-droppingly awful. It goes downhill from there.
I bought this book on the strength of an earlier, much better Koonz novel, and the four-star average review on this site. I really don't understand what all those other reviewers saw in this. Well, maybe I'll try some of Koonz's better novels, as mentioned in the other one-star reviews.
on 31 December 2014
Interesting plot and different from anything else that I've read by Koontz or others. However, I found myself speed-reading large sections of the book as the narrative became very wordy in ways that didn't serve the plot. Around page 179, Koontz writes a whole paragraph describing how the snow was falling; now, I appreciate that good writers would give us more than "it was snowing", but the paragraph highlighted how wordy the book gets in places. I felt as if he was being paid by the word!
By the end, I felt as if I had eaten a very big (though decent enough) meal: "phew, I'm glad to have made it to the end and now I'm stuffed!"
on 1 February 2014
Having previously read only one Koontz novel well over ten years ago - and not being overly impressed with it - when I picked up this book, I was taken in more by the eloquently fluid turns of phrase and less by the reputation of the author. Who, if I am to be honest, I sort of regarded as a hack, just another popular author churning out meaningless fluff for the masses.
Foot, meet my mouth.
This is a difficult book to describe in terms of genre, though there are distinct tinges of horror, a genre I usually stray from because it tends to tap into the mundanities of life and glorify that, despite the extraordinary events that take place in their pages. Aside from the breathtakingly beautiful writing, I noticed early on that this somehow transcends those aforementioned mundanities, so while the places and time may be familiar, reading 'Innocence' was almost like being transported into another world. The same can be said of Addison Goodheart, the main character/narrator, who is depicted as an outcast for reasons that will not be made clear until the ending, as his insight and luminous mind seem to separate him from ordinary humanity surely as does his "deformity".
Koontz weaves a captivating tale of Addison and the seemingly troubled Goth girl, Gwyneth, whose lives are somehow connected, and who he must help and protect at all costs from the man responsible for her father's murder. While the plot was light in certain instances, much of the book revolves around how Addison's past is leading him to their present life together, and the crumbs of supernatural the author throws for us are shiver inducing and spellbinding. Along the way, the book is spiced with some very erudite observances regarding the modern world, and the connections to darkness in which they spring from.
I have literally been left astounded by this book. From not being much impressed (and possibly turned off) by the book I read so many years ago, this is now an author whose works will be sought out ravenously.
on 16 July 2015
This is a strange book. I still can't work it out. Has the author been so ultra-clever that his craft is beyond me, or has he merely penned a book that employs a tangled, confused prose and plot? Are all those 5-star reviews made because those reviewers don't want to be seen as having missed the point? Well, I openly admit it, I don't get much of this novel.
First the good points:
The plot, as far as it goes, had me eagerly turning pages from about 90% into the story. I really wanted to know what happened.
I haven't encountered a similar storyline before. So, for me, it is original - although I don't read much urban fantasy stuff.
Finally, nearing the end, I found myself drifting into the world that the author has created and empathizing with the main characters. Thus, I acknowledge that the author has engineered a three dimensional backdrop populated with believable (sort of) characters.
Now the not so good points:
The book was a hard, and sometimes a meandering, read. The author seems incapable of telling his story without reams of irrelevant, descriptive detail. At times, I felt that my eyes were trying to wade through a congealed mass of alphabet spaghetti. Quite frankly, a church is a church, I don't need to be told of its architectural detail unless it's vital to the story. I'm just not interested.
Some chapters were totally superfluous to the basic storyline - the information given could have been supplied in a single, manageable paragraph.
As you might have guessed, I thought the book is way too long. A 30% cut in word count would improve it. When I read a book, I want a pacey story that gives easy entertainment. I don't want the author's musings on why he hasn't identified a character by name until now, 88% into the work.
The main mystery of the work, why the protagonist hides himself away from society, just wasn't a good enough hook to engage me. Indeed, I only persisted reading to the end because of the numerous 5-star reviews that this author has. Surely, I thought, there must be a more interesting plot conflict that will be revealed soon? There wasn't.
The dialogue was stilted in many places. Real people just don't speak like that.
Some of the sub-plots were so contrived that I thought they could've been lifted straight out of a children's book.
The author regularly referred to contemporary items and therefore I assumed that it was set in the present. But, so much of the plot just grated with current day reality. Perhaps that was the idea, there is this vast, unseen fantasy world that we are unaware of. Maybe, but to me that's just what it is, fantasy, and I'm not a big fan of the fantasy genre.
Some people obviously love Dean Koontz, he has plenty of novels that have plenty of 5-star reviews. I'm afraid, I'm not one of them. Judgements are necessarily subjective in this respect and so I'm quite happy to accept that my view may not be shared by his fan's, but I'll not be re-reading this novel any time soon, if ever. I'll also not be buying any more of the author's books. His love of seemingly unending paragraphs of minute and awkwardly worded descriptions just don't do it for me.
I rated the book a 3-star because I did want to know what happened in the end - it's just a shame that I had to plod through 300 pages of verbal treacle to get to anything that gripped my attention.
on 18 January 2014
Addison Goodheart, the hero of this novel, is another one of Koontz' typical protagonists. The problem in his life is that, for some unfathomable reason, anyone who so much as claps eyes on him (from his birth, quite literally, onwards) is stricken with murderous rage and attempts to kill him.
Addison thinks this is due to some horrible deformity or monstrousness of expression in his face, eyes, hands, entire body, but he cannot understand why this would provoke so severe a reaction. Nevertheless, for his own survival, he has to remain anonymous and hidden from all chance of human contact.
So he ends up living underneath the city (which is not named as such, but which strikes me as, New York). Distinct echoes here of the 80s TV series "Beauty and the Beast" or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The adventure proper begins when, on his nightly forays into the city, he meets a young woman being pursued by a man trying to kill her.
If I said anything more, I'd be telling you the plot, so you have to read it for yourself to find out what happens next.
I wondered how Koontz would handle the revelation of exactly how or why Addison is seemingly so deformed that he inspires revulsion in normal people, such that even cops or preachers fly into a killing frenzy when they see him or others like him. This is always a tough matter to accomplish for a writer; you can only go along hinting at 'but it is indescribably awful' so long before you have to try and describe it or give up.
I was expecting some kind of genetic syndrome or condition where Addison was twisted and maimed and the like. That's not how it's explained, and I never expected what Koontz pulled out of his bag of auctorial tricks. I think it works very well, but if you're not religious, or at least sympathetic to the parameters of horror/fantasy novels, then it may not work for you.
Let's just say it's similar, but not the same, as how Stevenson describes the effect Hyde has on those who see him, in "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde":
I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight. So had the child's family, which was only natural. But the doctor's case was what struck me. He was the usual cut-and-dry apothecary, of no particular age and colour, with a strong Edinburgh accent, and about as emotional as a bagpipe. Well, sir, he was like the rest of us; every time he looked at my prisoner, I saw that Sawbones turn sick and white with the desire to kill him. I knew what was in his mind, just as he knew what was in mine; and killing being out of the question, we did the next best.
"He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point. He's an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can't describe him. And it's not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment."
on 27 October 2014
I'm a huge fan of Dean Koontz and have read everything he has written so I eagerly await each new offering from him. Therefore the mixed reviews I read of this novel did not put me off reading it for myself and I'm sure that will be the case with other Koontz fans as well. However, I have to say the ending was disappointing, especially as I was racking my brains through the whole book trying to think of what was so grotesque about the main character to inspire such murderous hatred from the mere sight of him. When this was finally revealed it was quite an anti climax. Anyway, I enjoyed the story, even though I found some of the plot holes a bit frustrating.
on 18 January 2014
i have been reading dean koontz since i was a teenager so was very excited about this new book, and i wasnt disapointed.
i would recomend you read the prequell to this story first as this sets the scene nicely.
this book was different from deans usuall storys, halfway through the book i was still unaware how addison the main charachter was "different" it keeps you guessing till the end and the ending was very thought provoking indeed.
if you love dean koontz you wont be disspointed.
on 27 January 2015
Enjoyable and gripping reading - I enjoyed reading about the life of the young boy/man shunned by society because of the way he looks and the young girl who befriends him. The book kept me wanting to know more. Unfortunately it doesn't get 5 stars because as another reviewer mentioned, the end of the book was a bit of a let down after such a gripping and fast paced adventure. It is almost as if the author had run out of ideas or got bored with writing the book so brought it to, what I felt was, a rather abrupt and 'wishy washy' ending. Left me a little disappointed, but I would still recommend if you like Dean Koontz.