77 Shadow Street

When I decided that I wanted to read some Dean Koontz books a while ago, there were two that I purchased, this book and Your Heart Belongs to Me.  I read Your Heart Belongs to Me a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t terribly impressed, and this book didn’t do much better for me.

Book Stats77 Shadow Street

451 pages

Drama

Characters

This book follows the residents of the Pendleton, a very large residence built in the late 1800’s that was split into quite a few condos in the mid 1900’s.  Of the 20 or so characters, there were two that actually stood out to me, and it’s probably largely because they’re the two children in the book.  Winston (called Winny in the book) is a young boy who reads a lot and is shy around most people.  Iris is a young girl who is autistic and also reads a lot.  Although those two come to mind first when I think of the characters, there really isn’t much about them that stands out.  The only thing that should really stand out is Iris’s autism, but in one of the more tense sections later in the book, she is able to calm down when faced with everything that triggered her panic earlier in the book, completely ruining the point of her having that aspect of her character.  The other characters are completely forgettable, and even having just finished the book about an hour ago I don’t think I could list half of their names.

Setting

The book is set in 2011 and most of the story takes place in the Pendleton.

Plot

On a random day like any other, some very strange things start happening to the residents of the Pendleton.  They start seeing apparitions and hearing strange noises.  As the book continues, they are transported to a very strange version of the Pendleton where nightmarish monsters are all around.  The story of the book is just the people trying to stay alive.

Enjoyment

First off, after having now read two of Koontz’s books, I can see that he constantly tries way too hard at creating artistic prose.  While he’s trying to sound profound and deep with his language, it comes across as pretentious and extremely overwritten.  This is a recent book of his – published in 2011 – and I wonder if Koontz even has an editor anymore, if he does I don’t think he listens to them very much, at least when it comes to sentence level editing.

The idea behind this story is really interesting, but there are several major problems that I have with it.  The first is that there are simply too many characters.  You don’t have time to get to know any of the characters that well.  Because of this they all come across as being very flat.  The second is the way that the characters discover what is going on around them.  It seems like everything that is going on is something that the characters knew beforehand, so there is very little discovery, and more of the characters simply saying what they already knew.  This leads to very poor foreshadowing throughout the book, because there really isn’t any.  One of the main parts where you learn what is going on in the story comes from a conversation between two people who aren’t even going through any of the events in the story.  They’re two people who live in the Pendleton, but who were out eating while all this was going on and weren’t pulled into the events.  The last problem that I have with the book is similar to a problem that I had with Your Heart Belongs to Me.  Most of the book makes it seem like there is a supernatural element to the story, but about 80% of the way through the book, he gives it a plausible scientific explanation.  The problem with it in this book is that it only covers half of what is going on, the monsters that we see.  There is also a time travel element that is left completely unexplained.

After reading two of Koontz’s books, I’m not impressed and probably won’t be looking into any more of his writing.

Overall Grade

A decent story idea plagued by forgettable characters, overwritten prose, and poor foreshadowing.  I can’t give this book too much of a suggestion.

3/10

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Your Heart Belongs To Me

So I’ve been wanting to read some of Dean Koontz’s books for a while now, having heard good things about many of the novels that he’s written.  So on  my last trip to Barnes & Noble I found where his books were at, read the synopsis on the back of a few of them, and ended up buying this one.  Apparently that was a mistake.

Book StatsYour Heart Belongs To Me

364 pages

Drama

Characters

The main character of the book is Ryan Perry, a 34 year old internet millionaire who seemingly has everything going for him in life, except of course for a decent – or consistent – personality.  There was really nothing about Ryan that makes him memorable, and if you ask me in 3 months what the main character of this novel’s name is I doubt that I’ll be able to tell you.  The most memorable thing about him is how he completely flipped his personality about half way through the book.  None of the other characters in this book are all that memorable either, and I’m not even going to bother mentioning them here.

Setting

Present day, mostly in California but also takes place in Las Vegas and Denver.

Plot

The synopsis on the back of the book got me interested in buying this novel over Koontz’s 20 or so other novels that they had in stock, so I’ll just give that.  A year after receiving a heart transplant, Ryan is visited by the spitting image of the donor of his heart.  She feels entitled to everything that Ryan has, and is coming to take it from him.

Enjoyment

The plot summary is brilliant, unfortunately everything else about this novel is a complete and utter train wreck.  Rather than taking place immediately before his transplant, the book starts about 4 months beforehand to show Ryan happily living with his girlfriend.  After finding out that he needs a transplant, Ryan immediately does everything in his power to get the best doctors in place so that he can keep living.  But once he gets his transplant, we immediately skip to a year later to show that his personality has flipped, and he’s gone from being a very open person to a paranoid recluse.

There are also some very odd plot points throughout the book.  Koontz spends a lot of time having Ryan follow a very strange hunch, and then it never plays out for the rest of the novel.  Along with that, one of the biggest plot points around which Koontz places the theme of his novel is never mentioned before the reveal in the final few chapters.  Without giving spoilers it’s involving the location of his heart transplant, which is never mentioned in the chapters where it talks about him going to get his transplant, trust me, I checked.

Along with those, Koontz beats you over the head with the idea that novels often have subtexts.  I don’t have a problem with that, but Koontz talks about it for a decent portion of the novel, then beats you over the head with what he thinks the subtext of this novel is.

I also have to comment on Koontz’s writing style.  And considering that this is the first of his novels that I’ve read, I don’t know if it is simply something he did here or if it’s part of his style.  He constantly tried very hard to use poetic and flowery language, but the problem is that I could see how hard he was trying, and it comes across as one of the weaknesses of the novel.  I also think that someone needs to take Koontz’s thesaurus away, or at least smack him every time he reaches for it.

So what we end up with is a novel with a forgettable main character, a pointless first half that is completely different in tone from the second half of the novel, non-existant foreshadowing of some major plot points, and overdone language.

Overall Grade

I’m hoping that this novel is a bump in the road in Koontz’s writing career rather than the norm, and I’m going to check out one or two more books by him to make sure, but for this book by itself, I can’t suggest it to anyone.

3/10