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Customer Review

on 25 April 2014
I cannot believe the positive reviews of this book. People saying this is the best book they have ever read really need to expand their literary horizons.

Watchers is nothing more than a pulpy, run-of-the-mill potboiler, totally devoid of thrills, horror, tension, character development, memorable dialogue or plot. Calling this "terrifying", "thrilling" and "a page turner" should be investigated by a consumer watchdog it is so far from the truth.

I admit that the book does start well - the set up when Travis meets the dog is very well done and is the only time in the book Koontz generates any sort of tension and thrills. I was intrigued; unfortunately the rest of the book is a real slog with very sporadic action or excitement amongst 100s of pages of tedious exposition and narrative.

The characterisation is so thin, by the end of the book (500 pages - a decent author / editor should have got this down to 250 at most), I knew nothing more about the central players - Travis is a lonely ex-Delta Force operative, Nora is pretty and conquers her shyness and Einstein is a wisecracking dog. That's it. The assassin, Vince, is also paper thin: the usual indestructible, un-arrestable, undetectable super-human killer that pulp novelists love to create but who are always undone in unlikely circumstances by some ordinary joe. Quite why Koontz didn't make Vince a victim of The Outsider at the end was beyond me - that would have been much more interesting. The narrative drones on for page after page yet nothing happens and there are no character arcs. Oh, but we do learn a lot about eyes. Apparently eyes are all you need to know about anyone: his eyes were cold; his eyes were steely; her eyes were soft; his eyes betrayed his terror; my eyes closed and wept a tear.

It gets so tedious that I started to skim read the last 200 or so pages until the denouement which is so perfunctory everything is wrapped up in 10 or so pages. The ending was remarkably abrupt and could have been a lot better and more tense but that goes for the rest of the book after the first chapter.

The book also regularly insults the reader's intelligence. At one point, Nora and Travis visit the red light district of San Francisco. There is a sign for a "live" sex show. Disgusted, Nora asks if there are other shows where people have sex with the dead. Really? Then, when Nora asks where all the strippers come from, Travis says they are bred on a farm in Modesto. Nora gapes in genuine shock and disbelief. Again, really? Are you kidding me? Nora might be closeted and un-worldly, but her reactions are laughably unrealistic. Yet just a couple of pages later, this ingenue refers to men looking for hookers as "johns". So on the one hand Nora knows slang terms for kerb crawlers yet thinks strippers are manufactured on a farm? Not only is the writing ridiculous it is inconsistent.

At another point, we are told that rather than get as far away from The Outsider as possible, Nora and Travis turn around and drive back to California to be closer to The Outsider to prepare for its inevitable arrival. This is stupid and makes no sense. I understand that the alternative would completely undermine and negate the story - that Nora and Travis decide to move to suburban Philly, Manhattan, the Florida Keys or somewhere similar where they would be safe - but there is no reasoned explanation for why they would actively choose to remain on the West coast in an isolated house; it's just a throwaway line that the reader is expected to accept unquestioningly.

Koontz also appears to have suffered amnesia in places. For instance, at one point we are told that Travis has rigged his barn with all sorts of "surprises" yet when the final confrontation takes place in the barn, they have all been conveniently forgotten.

Koontz also uses his characters to espouse his right-wing views. At one stage our heroes are fleeing the police, NSA and The Outsider, yet they take the time to have a leaden conversation about social fluidity, dictatorships and the role of government. It completely jars given the context and is conspicuously an opportunity for Koontz to lecture the reader about his views on society. After reading the section, which was so obviously right-wing, I looked up Koontz to find he indeed gives funds to the Republicans. That's his choice, but shoe-horning soapbox arguments into the story was so obvious it feels like propaganda.

I cannot believe that people have read this book eight times. I have read it (in part) once and that was enough.
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