Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Darkest Evening of the Year: Dean Koontz (Bantam) I just finished the latest of Dean Koontz’s many awful novels and believe I am beginning to uncover at least a morsel of their irresistible attraction. It has been obvious for some time that I share many of the same notions and ideology as the typical Koontz villain. Despite the fact, I almost never indiscriminately or otherwise shot people with silencer-fitted automatic weapons. Nor does the concept of killing fill me with satisfaction. Nevertheless, I do share the Koontz bad guys’ basic mistrust of humankind. It is debatable if this mistrust should be defined as misanthropy. Yet, much like the villainess in The Darkest Evening of the Year who enjoys torturing her own child and burning the homes of strangers after sex, I look forward to reading The World Without Us.

Koontz often warns his readers about the fiction of other writers. Usually these unnamed prose stylists are described vaguely for their dark humor and ironic stories of human folly and the meaninglessness of life. Great stuff, obviously. And unnamed until now. Several hundred pages into his latest masterpiece, Koontz reveals that his latest killer/drug dealer/literary enthusiast -- an amiable fellow named Billy Pilgrim -- has read Finnegans Wake three times. Billy also enjoys Kafka and Wallace Stevens, though it is unclear if these are the favorite authors he often mentions. Of course, despite ruthlessness and training, Billy is no match for the golden retriever-loving protagonists at the center of Koontz’s story. The heroic couple has love and hope and a shared belief in the power of goodness on their sappy, soapy, cliché-ridden side.

It is very easy to belittle Koontz, but despite his microwave ready plots and cornball dialogue, he continues to sell many thousands of books. The list of 51 titles inside his latest does not include the dozen or so science fiction novels Koontz published prior to his commercial breakthrough with Demon Seed. Unlike most of his fans, and I must count myself as a fan, I read his books because they do not speak to me. I have long recognized Koontz is some variety of conservative, if not a full-blown neocon, but I am just beginning to understand that my opposition to Koontz is profound. I will no doubt continue to read Dean Koontz and dislike his every moment at least until I can fully understand the complexity of our duality.


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