I have just finished “The Husband” and will start “Cold Fire” today or tomorrow. After that I’m stepping away from Dean Koontz for a while because I’ve read a dozen or so of his books since I first happened upon “Watchers” (which I first wrote about here), and I need a break.
I wanted to write something about Dean Koontz because for once I asked myself why I’ve torn through the work of a best selling author. And I don’t mean why I like sci-fi or horror or mystery or action elements, all of which Koontz uses to great effect. But I asked myself why I was drawn to his characters, and what about them that keeps me coming back.
To be honest, if you’ve read one Koontz book, you’ve read them all, in a sense. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either. But he’s discovered a formula and it serves him well, serves his message well, and serves the reader.
I can’t remember a single protagonist ever coming to great harm in his work, nor can I remember a truly bleak ending. Everything seems to wok out for his characters, despite whatever crazy hell they may be experiencing, and that’s okay with me. Koontz doesn’t believe in evil triumphing over good, despite conjuring some truly evil people.
I’ve started to believe, while reading his work, that Koontz is a man who is compelled to write about the things he has in his life or things he appreciates about life in general. Overall, I believe Koontz to be a positive, forward thinking person who wants what we all want in life: a sense of purpose, of discovery, and a belief in true love, of two people finding each other amid the chaos of daily struggle. That approach can seduce a reader, I think, because while we all want to escape with a good story I think when we put the book down we want something else beyond those written words, however interesting the stories might be.
To be honest, I often feel jealous of his characters and that’s weird. They have all the accomplishments and achievements they’ve set out for. Not just professionally, but in total, with their lives representing a perfect little island where all is right. Bombs are exploding, evil scientists are mutating and killers are traveling to different dimensions, but the heroes have something to fight for and get back to, once the adventure finally wraps up.
Children, family, love, support, home – these are all things that Koontz has in his life, or really wants. That’s what he writes about. Good things being challenged, being tested. Sometimes his characters discover those elements in the course of the story, but one way or the other they end up on the right side of things, and as a reader I appreciate it. There’s all the other little story ticks: Golden Retrievers or other dogs, high end weaponry, a strong female character, characters running away from their past and reinventing themselves, southern California or other western locales, and a host of other things. But in the end, it all comes back to that underlying sense of hope and love and family, which the majority of his characters are willing to die for.
Truth is, most of us don’t have those things in our lives, probably never will. We’re resigned to our own fates, whatever they may be, and they don’t include true love or triumph over adversity or even a feeling of better days ahead.
Koontz gives me that hope, as a reader. And that’s why I need to stop reading him. That’s a funny thing to say I realize, but life isn’t like that and I have little hope of it ever getting there. That’s just a phase for me and that’s okay. Besides, if I read them all now I’ll have nothing later. And you should never run out of positive things to read.
Koontz doesn’t only write cool, interesting genre mash-ups, but he also writes about good things. And that’s the best recommendation I could give. Koontz believes in life and the opportunity afforded to us and I’m not sure what else you can ask for as a reader.
I want to get into some of the books, individually, but for now I just wanted to tip my hat to Koontz and his approach. Some of those books are more entertaining then others but in the end they’re all cut from the same cloth.