This one is a reread for me, but it’s been about a decade, so there were a few things I’d forgotten. Not a lot, though. I don’t know how many of you are Dean Koontz fans, but this is another one of his that is basically a normal good guy versus a supernatural evil creature. Of course, there’s the requisite side characters and side-kicks, and, in this case, a decent portrayal of first generation American angst.
One thing I definitely have to say about him is that, unlike a lot of thriller novels or films, his female characters are not there to be love interests or damsels in distress. It’s often just as likely in one of his books that the female lead will be the one saving the day in one manner or another, even if she does end up with the male lead at the end. Also, dogs. If you’ve ever picked up one of his books, I don’t need to expand upon that.
Though called a supernatural thriller, this novel starts off as a straight up horror, with the protagonist, Tommy Phan, finding a rag doll on his stoop, which he idiotically brings inside. Don’t worry, everyone points out what a bad idea that was. A lot of what we see of him is his yearning to be a tough guy a la Humphrey Bogart but with a huge scoop of familial guilt burying that idea. Personally, I think his mother was manipulative to the edge of abusive and should have been called out on it. A common theme of a Koontz novel is forgiveness for your own sake, though, so I can’t be as frustrated as I may have been.
The rest of the novel follows Tommy as he runs from the monster and teams up with Deliverance Payne and her dog, Scootie. They travel around, stealing vehicles and staying barely out of reach, thus the classification of this as a thriller. Really, though, once Del gets on the scene the whole surreal vibe the book started with amps up high enough that you either love it or hate it. Her eccentricities can definitely make or break the book for a reader, and I have to admit that, though I really liked Del, it sometimes felt like Tommy didn’t.
You see, in the afterward of this addition, Koontz wrote that he wanted to mix a supernatural thriller with a screwball comedy, which is no longer the well-known type of comedy it once was. In a Screwball comedy, you have a straight man surrounded by whacky people who think they’re normal and, usually, at least one of the nutjobs proves to be right about everything. Think Arsenic and Old Lace, or Ricky’s reactions to Lucy’s hijinks. Oh! Luna Lovegood, you all get that reference, right? Thanks to Tommy muttering to himself about how crazy she was, it was occasionally difficult to tell whether he was just grumbly because of the evil monster chasing him down, or if he really found her that frustrating.
Don’t expect a major climax in this book, I’ll tell you right now that it ends up as a comedy. If it weren’t for Del speaking her mind to Tommy’s mother at the end-which satisfied my frustration with the real enemy, familial tendencies to both take members for granted and to guilt-trip to a debilitating extent-I may have been upset that there’s no huge fight or anything. We are trained to expect certain things at the climax of a thriller or a horror, but by that point, the genre has changed over almost completely, so the ending follows a more farcical pattern. If you’ve kept up with the changing mood, it works, but if you’re still considering this a horror, you’re probably out of luck. Still, I always meant to reread this one, so I’m glad I finally remembered to do it. I think it only happened because I intend to lend it to someone. Overall, I’m still satisfied with this book.