Book Review: Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz

A couple of weeks ago I finished the very disappointing The City, but I had downloaded this short story a couple of months ago when it was on offer and felt it was time to give Mr Koontz another try. Oh boy I’m glad that I did. Ricochet only took me about 90 minutes to read, but it is brilliant.

Joe, the hero, suddenly finds himself drawn to rescuing people in danger. He doesn’t know how he knows that people need his help, or what kind of situation he’ll find himself in when he gets there. He is aided by his girlfriend Portia, who seems to know more than she lets on. Joe suddenly finds himself immersed in a long drawn out battle between good and evil, and he has been recruited by the good guys.

The reluctant hero with some kind of paranormal gift isn’t a new theme for Mr Koontz, as he hasn’t written similar tales in the Faceless series, in Cold Fire and the Odd Thomas series. Incidentally, Odd Thomas is one of the very few Dean Koontz books to have been turned into a film, and very good it is too. Initially the way that the battle between the two forces reminded me of the larger story arc in Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series, but it then occurred to me that Ricochet Joe was much closer to the excellent 1987 film The Hidden starring Kyle MacLachlan. Another film you should check out along with Odd Thomas.

The book also has Kindle in Motion features, where may include art, animation, or video that can be viewed on certain Fire tablets. These features were not available on my bottom of the range Kindle, but I doubt if I was missing anything too exciting. Anyway I gave Ricochet Joe 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. All of my other Dean Koontz book reviews can be found here.

Book Review: The City by Dean Koontz

I’ve been a fan of Dean Koontz for over thirty years ever since I was given a copy of Phantoms by my uncle. However I’m not a sycophant with his books. I will say if I don’t think they hit the mark. Sometimes, like Stephen King, his books are needlessly long, and some of his books are probably best left staying published under a pseudonym, for example, The House of Thunder by Leigh Nichols. I recommended a couple of Dean’s books to my lovely wife, who doesn’t generally enjoy horror, sci-fi or the paranormal, but she thoroughly enjoyed Watchers, his best book. The City was one book that Helen bought but struggled with, so I gave it a go.

Set in an unnamed city, the story is told through the eyes of a dying musician as he looks back upon his youth. Jonah is a prodigious pianist, with a mother who is a talented singer and her father who is also a pianist. While this seems important, looking back I realised that this is incidental to the story. When Jonah is ten he meets a woman who is the embodiment of the city, and she guides and aids Jonah as his father forms an alliance with a group of murderous thieves.

My thought on the book was that at times I had to work at it, almost plow on through it. The book would benefit from losing at least 100 pages from the first half and losing an additional 50 pages from the second half. Mr Koonts also uses one of his favourite tropes for the climatic ending with a thunder storm. I gave it three stars on Goodreads and one for the fans only. There is also a prequel called The Neighbor, which unless I stumble across it in a charity shop or the free little library on the next street, I will probably give it a miss.

You can find all of my Dean Koontz reviews here.

Book Review: The House of Thunder by Leigh Nichols

Leigh Nichols is, or was, a pseudonym, hence why the cover picture gives the author as Dean Koontz.

Early on in Dean’s career his publishers felt that he was too prolific for his fans to keep up with, so he published a few books under pseudonyms. Obviously as he became more and more popular it made financial sense to re-release these books under his own name. Unfortunately, some books should remain under a pseudonym. This isn’t one of Dean’s better books by a long way.

The main character wakes up in a hospital after a near fatal car crash suffering from partial amnesia. As she recovers she is haunted by ghosts from her past, notably the four college ‘boys’ (young men) who killed her then boyfriend in a fraternity hazing gone wrong. All four of the killers have since died, but they appear all too real to our heroine.

For me the characters are very two dimensional, with simple shock tactics reminiscent of early 1980’s horror in general, whether it be books or films. There is also far too much dialogue. The book could easily lose at least a hundred pages and would be better for it. I will admit I skim read most of the middle section until the last 40 or 50 pages. I would expect that most people would have given up by then.

The book also touches on some familiar themes to fans of Dean Koontz, namely secret government organisations, brain washing and morally dubious scientific advances, with thunder storms to add tension.

I picked up the book second hand in Coniston after we had walked up the Old Man (read about it here), with the money going towards the local hospice. As it was only £2 I’m not too fussed that it wasn’t that good, and I only gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. One for hardcore Dean Koontz fans only.

Book Review: The Jane Hawk Series by Dean Koontz

I’ve had a bit of a Dean Koontz revival these last couple of months. First I reviewed his Nameless series of books (read my blog here) and then I wrote about his best three books (read my blog here). I wrote at the time that it was highly unlikely that I would want to change my top three books by My Koontz, but actually I would remove Phantoms and replace it with Lightning, a pseudo-science adventure with time travelling nazis.

Back to the Jane Hawk series, and I ordered something from Amazon in early June and accidentally clicked on the one month free Prime trial. It is very easy to do this and surprisingly harder to cancel, but that’s the way things go. However, there are a number of books available to read for free with Prime, one of which was The Silent Corner, the first book in the five book series. I read it in almost one sitting. I was completely hooked.

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It is difficult to review a whole series of books without giving away too much plot details from the later books, so if you’ve not read the series, don’t read beyond ‘Spoilers’.

The Silent Corner

Jane Hawk is a decorated FBI Agent, happily married to a former Marine with a young son. Her husband suddenly kills himself, for no apparent reason. Devastated, Jane investigates and finds that the suicide rate has increased and that her husband isn’t the only apparently happy person to have killed themselves. When she is threatened she knows that she is onto something, and goes on the run, hiding her son with friends. The silent corner refers to people going ‘off-grid’, going offline, no internet, no mobile, no GPS devices. Jane does this and then tracks down a few leads, discovering rumours of nano-technology being used to control people, and of a ‘weird’ brothel. With the help of another Marine Jane hunts down a brilliant but insane scientist who invented and almost perfected the technology.

Nano-technology is something that Dean wrote about 30 years ago in the book Midnight, where a whole town has been implanted, and then many of the subjects go slightly crazy. In The Silent Corner the technology is more wide-spread than first assumed, and the so called Techno Arcadians, the people on the inside, are far more numerous than first expected.

An excellent book, 5 out of 5, and as soon as I’d finished it I was downloading the second book.

*Spoilers*

Don’t read beyond here if you’ve not read The Silent Corner.

Book Two: The Whispering Room

The second book begins with a dedicated and hard working award winning teacher loading up her car with flammables and driving into a newly opened restaurant, killing a politician and over forty other innocent people. The local sheriff, who has known this kind teacher all his life, knows something is very wrong. The subsequent cover up confirms this. While this is going on, Jane has captured a lawyer, one of the Arcadians, and extracts more information. They both independently find themselves in a small town with a large hotel and conference facility where they believe many of the guests had been drugged and subsequently implanted with the mind control nano-technology. They also discover the whispering room, a new development in the nano-technology which allows the implanted people to communicate telepathically within a 20 mile radius. The whole town, apart from their children, have been implanted. On top of the whispering room we also learn about the Hamlet list. The idea being that if Hamlet had been killed in the first act, there would have been far fewer deaths. In this series the men and women on the list are people that could potentially alter the course of history for the worse. When I say ‘worse’ I mean worse for those power mad ‘elites’ who want everything.

This was another excellent thrill of a book, again 5 out of 5, and as I finished it I downloaded the final three books in the series.

The Crooked Staircase

By this point in the series it has become obvious that this isn’t a small group of ‘believers’ but a very large scale part of the Government, highly funded, highly motivated and definitely not nice people. Their ‘aim’ is to make the world a better place, although mind control isn’t the right way to do this. The people at the top want power, unlimited power, to be able to do anything they want without repercussions. Think Donald Trump or Dominic Cummings who ‘know’ that the rules don’t apply to them.

In the Crooked Staircase Jane goes after another one of the heads of the Arcadians, finding him to be very disturbed. His brother had married and then forced his wives to hand over their wealth in the divorce settlements, before their untimely deaths a few years later. The brother learnt this behaviour from his mother, who virtually tortured her two sons, instilling in them a crazed power mad need to be in control.

Another 5 out of 5 book which opens up more avenues for Jane to explore in the next installment.

The Forbidden Door

In book 4 the agents of change fed up with not capturing Jane Hawk, opt to follow her in laws and any friends that might be looking after her son. Her husbands parents manage to allude their potential enslavers, but the friends looking after Travis are not so fortunate. Here we have one of Dean Koontzs often used plot devices, where a main character has a helpful relative or friend with almost unlimited funds. Powerful storms with torrential rain and thunder is another plot device Mr Koontz often uses to ramp up the tension. Reading all five books one after another means that these are spotted, along with his fondness for the word ‘cleave’.

Anyway, the Government agents have a vague idea where Travis is holed up, knowing that this will be their best opportunity to capture Jane. Their plan is to inject the nano-technology into as many locals as possible and force them to help search for the boy. The creator of the technology postulated that one in 10,000 people might react very badly to the implants and become insanely violent. They would enter the forbidden door. If this was to be combined with the whispering room potentially the violence could spread to everyone with the technology within a 20 mile radius. Jane enlists the former sheriff from book 2 to help her rescue her son.

Once again another 5 out of 5 book, and I could hardly wait to begin the final book. Again more spoilers follow.

The Night Window

I crashed into this book, voraciously reading it, although it didn’t feel like the end of the series. The book started slower than any of the others, and about half way through I thought that it might not be the last book. It might be the last book written so far, but that Mr Koontz had plans for another book or two in the series that were not yet published. There was also the small matter from the end of Book 4, where Jane’s in laws had captured an Arcadian and were about to inject him with the nano-technology. This is never mentioned in the last book.

In The Night Window Jane meets up with an old colleague from the FBI, a computer genius who had hacked, on behalf of the Arcadians, every agency and database the Government has. Another thread in the book has the billionaire visionary, the man behind the curtain, hunting down someone from the Hamlet list, who escapes, but we do get to read about his childhood and how he was ‘evil’ from an early age.

The book slowly builds towards the finale, with the whispering room once again being utilised, however, a previously unknown technological advance is used to reveal all of the implanted victims. The book ties up most of the loose ends, although, as mentioned earlier Jane’s in laws aren’t featured until the very end, and the mother from book three isn’t mentioned either. For me this was the weakest book of the series, but I would still give it 4 out of 5, possibly 4 and a half. If you’ve come this far you’re definitely going to want to finish the whole series.

Overall a brilliant series, dark and dystopian in the vein of many of Dean Koontz’s books. Time for me to re-read a few of his earlier classics.

 

Top Three Books – Dean Koontz

The other week I blogged about my top three books by Stephen King (read about it here). At the time I wasn’t sure if I had picked the best three, and in hindsight I should definitely have picked Deadzone instead of The Stand, but that’s how it goes.

Dean Koontz on the other hand was far easier, even though he is even more prolific than Mr King. There are so many books that I could have included. The Nameless series which I only finished late last year (read about it here) or Odd Thomas (one of the very few Dean Koontz books to have been made into a film, and very good it is too) are both books I could easily have included, along with half a dozen others. That’s not to say all of his books are great. His Frankenstein series didn’t really work for me. However, I think that my top three choices are likely to remain as my top three.

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First up is Phantoms. My Uncle was an avid reader of horror books and he gave me a whole box of them when I was about 18. Phantoms was one of them and it was one of those rare books that genuinely unnerved me, in much the same way that The Day of the Triffids did many years earlier.

A young woman returns to her small town to find the place deserted. Everyone has disappeared, much like the Marie Celeste, with dinners half eaten and still warm. She manages to phone the sheriff from the next town over who brings most of his men, many of whom don’t survive. They search the deserted town and find a clue written on a mirror by the owner of a bookstore. The clue is the name of a book, which is all about disappearances throughout history all over the world.

A scary book with a few good twists along the way. Next up is probably the most well known of all of Mr Koontz’s books, Watchers. A lonely man is out walking in the woods and comes upon a dog, who is far more intelligent than he appears to be. The dog saves the man from some unknown terror in the woods, and then the two of them be-friend a lonely woman. The three of them save each other and work together to find out just how intelligent their furry friend is, and try to discover where he came from. The obvious answer is that he escaped from a government facility, along with his ferocious evil counter part.

Many of Dean Koontz’s books feature dogs, but this is easily the best. My lovely wife, who isn’t a fan of horror books, enjoyed Watchers as well.

Finally we have Dark Rivers of the Heart, a very dark dystopian thriller. No supernatural or sci-fi elements in the book, although there is a psychopathic government paid killer. The main character used to be a cop, but left after killing someone. He travels around and meets an interesting woman who is being chased by a secretive organisation. He tries to help her, but is out of his depth and she ends up having to help him. The book is dark, and you get the feeling that the secret government higher-ups have read George Orwell’s 1984 and have thought that it was a  ‘how to’ manual. Another very good book with a very unexpected turn towards the end.

Here ends my top three books by Dean Koontz and I’m fairly happy that my choice will not change over the next few months or years, unless of course his next book is an absolute killer.

Currently reading American Gods (the extended version) by Neil Gaiman, and Thin Air: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver.

Book Review: Nameless by Dean Koontz

Much like yesterday’s blog about James Herbert (read about it here), Dean Koontz is one of my old favourites when it comes to a good horror novel. Phantoms, his second full length book genuinely scared me, but much like Stephen King, Dean Koontz’s books can be a tad on the long side sometimes. However, the Nameless series of books are definitely not too long, if anything I was left breathless and wanting more.

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Here we have six interconnected short stories, with the eponymous hero without a name. Currently the books are only available as Amazon exclusives, but they come in at a good price for your Kindle if you buy the whole lot in one go, which is what I did.

The main character, the man without a name, travels the country killing evil and righting wrongs, all paid for by a secret organisation, which could be privately funded or a secret Government black opps. He is sent details of his next mission anonymously, along with money, weapons, car and fake ID. Or is everything in his head. He could be clairvoyant, after all this is a Dean Koontz series of books. Things slowly become more clear as we progress through the books as our hero appears to regain some of his lost memories.

I rolled through this series of books at breakneck pace, thoroughly enjoying them all. Not too dark, definitely not as dark as Dark Rivers of the Heart, and not too much supernatural or horror elements, making these a great starting point for anyone not familiar with Mr Koontz’s very extensive body of work. And if you are a fan, then you have probably already read them.

Book Review 2017 – Part VII

So many books to read, so many reviews to write, and too much time spent at work. Never-mind, here’s a Dean Koontz double bill.

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I’ve been a Dean Koontz fan for almost 30 years, when my Uncle lent me a copy of Phantoms, which scared the hell out of me. In the years between I have probably read most of his books, even though he is fairly prolific. I wasn’t a fan of his Frankenstein series of books, as for me they didn’t really work, but otherwise I have enjoyed all of his work.

Recently my wife has started to read some of his books, so with an Amazon voucher from work I bought two of Mr Koontz’s finest; Watchers and Lightning.

Lightning is a time travelling thriller, where a mystery man keeps popping up to save a young girl’s life. Where does he come from, or more correctly, when? The ‘science’ part of the book is definite ‘fiction’, but it’s a great read, and the ‘when’ is not what you expect.

Watchers is more horror than thriller, although it does have an intelligent dog as the hero. Apparently Mr Koontz receives more fan letters about this book than any other, and I can see why. I’ve read it at least 3 or 4 times, and will probably read it again in the not too distant future.

The dog, our hero, brings together two lonely people and between the three of them they have an adventure. I don’t want to say too much as my wife is only half way through, and I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say – it’s a great read.

That should be my catch phrase for book reviews – it’s a great read. You can find all of my other book reviews here.