Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dean Koontz and Strange Highways

Dean Koontz used to be very talented. He could create some great stories and they'd hit you right in your face and you couldn't wait for more. Now Koontz is phoning it in in books like Breathless and Your Heart Belongs to Me, but I'm sure that he's going to rediscover his talent one of these days.

I've been reading Dean Koontz's Strange Highways for some time now. This short story collection is wonderful and I was he could channel the same spirit that went into this collection. The first story, the short novel "Strange Highways" is a dark time-travel story about a man with a past sent on a journey to redeem himself. "Man with a past" could make a good subtitle for this collection and most of Koontz's novels, but these stories don't seem cliched and trite as some of Koontz's novels do.

Darkness is common theme in these stories and that's what's missing from Koontz's writing these days. "Down in the Darkness" and "Twilight of the Dawn" also deal with darkness, but two different kinds of darkness.

"Twilight of the Dawn" deals with a father trying to deal with tragedy after tragedy while holding on to his devout atheism and trying to keep his son from falling into the clutches of religion. This story really hit home for me. Very tough to read at times, but a wonderful story.

"Down in the Darkness" deals with a man who has to deal with a thirst for vengeance while staring at a cellar door that leads to an impenetrable darkness where something hungry is waiting.

"Ollie's Hands" is another favorite story of mine. It deals with a man who has a peculiar ability in his hands that he prefers to keep hidden.

There isn't one bad story in this collection. All of them except for one are very serious and dark and demand attention.

The one story that sticks out like a sore thumb is "Bruno." Koontz can't resist writing a goofy story or a humorless book and with "Bruno" he succeeded at resisting both. Koontz's humor can fall flat for me and this one kind of did, but the story itself was weird enough to keep me interested. It's about a gumshoe that discovers he's a portal to other dimensions (in the story they're called "probabilities") and he discovers this by catching a talking-bear cop in his room. The bear's name is Bruno. Together the gumshoe and Bruno have to catch an evil alien from causing havoc in the gumshoe's probability. Now how could I not like a story like that?

All in all this is a great collection. I just wish Koontz could write like this again. At the very least another fantastic collection like this one would be a welcome sight. It makes me sad to read what Dean Koontz has gone on to do. Where is the guy that wrote these stories? I hope someone finds him soon.

I give it a 9.0/10.

1 comment:

  1. I read this collection a few years ago and was very impressed by it. Who knew Koontz was so good at the short story? I think this collection is the only short story collection he has. After I read your review, I read "Twilight Of The Dawn" again and agree, that is an awesome story. Considering the theme, he walks a fine line in that story and does not end up delivering some kind of heavy handed religious message like he could have. I thought his telling of that story was masterful.