This has to be one of my least favorite reads of 2019. Good lord this is just bad. And it has too many characters and not enough plot. When we finally get to the whole conspiracy aspect of this I laughed. I think since this was written in 1986 it made sense to Koontz to write it the way that he did. However, as someone who grew up watching B level monster movies, this is just no comparison at all.
This book also indulges in all of Koontz’s many writing weaknesses through the years, we can see his beginning fascination with military men or women who know how to shoot guns. We can see the “Perfect Woman” that shows up in his books again and again, though this one is short and a doctor. I can’t recall him writing a woman with a job in his last couple of books that wasn’t an artist or doctor. The book is also too freaking long. This is over 700 pages. I skipped over the Afterword because (swear word) you that’s why. I didn’t care what Koontz had to say about this book at this point. He had 700 pages to say it, and I was just done. This book fits so many squares for Halloween bingo, but I refuse to recommend you all read this. Just stay away.
“Strangers” follows like 20 people. I don’t know. I stopped counting once we got up to five separate story-lines. Anyway, back to the book, “Strangers” follows a lot of people across the United States over a period of a few weeks who seem to be hiding from someone or something. Some of these people go into fugue states, others are scared of the dark, of black gloves (no really) and all of them are starting to feel strange. Once the strangers start to connect the dots they realize that all of them seem to be missing a period of time. And what happened during that period will be a revelation.
Cue the sad trombone noise.
So off the top of my head, these are the only characters I can remember. Dom, a writer who has hit it big. Ginger, a surgeon. Ernie who is a retired Marine who runs a motel with his wife Faye. Brendan who is a priest. Jack Twist whose name made me laugh a lot who is a retired Army Ranger but is now a thief (don’t ask me, I didn’t write this) and Stefan another priest. There are other people that were brought up later in the book and I refuse to go back and look their names up. Koontz focuses on these people at first (6 strangers) and then adds in more people. And let’s not get into all of the secondary and tertiary characters. It’s too much. I just maybe ugly laughed at one point last night or this morning (it was around 1 am) and I started to wonder if Koontz wanted to go up against King for most characters vis a vis, “The Stand.” For those who are wondering, “The Stand’ was published in 1978 and I recall as a kid not even trying to get through that brick. I jumped around a lot while trying to finish that at the age of 12. One of these days I will re-read.
I usually have one or two people I like in these kinds of books and honestly the only person that I felt any infinity with while reading was Ginger. I loved her whole backstory and if the book had focused solely on her I would have loved it. A young woman whose Jewish father and Swedish mother were very much in love with each other and her, she’s excelled at anything she has ever wanted to do. When she starts taking part in surgeries in Boston and when she starts to have terrors and blank spots in her memory, she’s legitimately scared she has a tumor or something else wrong with her. Unfortunately, Koontz switches back and forth between her and 5 other people, and then adds in more, and then Ginger is just lost in the wind like everyone else.
I already said this book seemed to start Koontz’s fascination with portraying ex-military personnel as characters. One character, Jack Twist, had a storyline involving his wife that reminded me a bit of “The Husband.”
The writing was great in parts (hence the one star) this book just needed way cut back. And when we get to Part III the book hit a ridiculous stage and when we get into the reveal I maybe said seriously? The flow was bad. There was no action until maybe the last 100 pages. Maybe less than that? When all is revealed. Until then it’s just all of these people we track trying different ways to figure out what is going on with them. It’s not that interesting in the end.
The setting of the book of course takes part in the 1980s. I can see some elements of horror and science fiction books and movies taking place here. We get the scary government element (see E.T., Flight of the Navigator, etc.). You also get (spoilers) which is very 80s too.
The ending was just a wash for me. I felt like I was being preached to (a favorite thing that Koontz still likes to do in his books) and just felt bored and also robbed of the time I spent reading this.