Whatever happened to the Dean Koontz who wrote such excellent books as Watchers, Intensity, Dark Rivers Of The Heart, From The Corner Of His Eye, and Velocity -- just to name a few? It's sad to see when an author goes from being "can't miss" to "don't bother." For me, this has been the situation with Koontz's books over the past several years.
I was hoping, however, based on the description in Amazon Vine, that What The Night Knows was going to be like Koontz's books from yesteryear -- i.e., edge-of-the-seat excitement, fully developed credible characters, realistic dialogue, and non-stop suspense. The plot is described as involving a Homicide detective who believes that his wife and children are being marked for murder in the same way his parents and sisters were brutally killed twently years earlier by a crazed murdered out on a killing spree. A killing spree that ended when the detective, then fourteen years of age, killed the murderer of his family.
Unfortunately, virtually none of what I hoped for turned out to be the case. While What The Night Knows has its moments of suspense, there are not enough of them nor are they of the caliber of suspense Koontz used to be able to create; suspense that used to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end.
Even more disappointing to me was Koontz's inability to create believable, fully developed characters as well as realistic dialogue. For me, this was particularly true about the child characters in What The Night Knows. These children, pre-teens, are so poorly developed and speak such unrealistic dialogue that I often had to stop reading in order to get my eyes to stop from rolling around in my head in astonishment. I know that Koontz doesn't have children of his own, but I am amazed that he could be so clueless as to how young children behave,think and speak.
As a result of my disappointments with this book I considered giving up on the book at various times. Instead, out of a sense of respect for an author that used to be one of my favorites, I decided to read on -- but I could only get to the end by skimming through several passages.
Based on my above comments, it is obvious that I don't recommend this book. I know my one-star rating is perhaps going to upset some Koontz fans who want to read his latest work, and result in them giving my review a "no/not helpful" vote. Hopefully, other potential readers will view my review as helpful, in that it provides "food for thought" that differs from the majority opinion expressed to-date.
What the Night Knows is my first exposure to Dean Koontz. While I am not a fan of books and movies that scare the life out of me, Koontz may be the exception.
This author really knows how to tell a story that grabs the reader and does not let go until the book ends. Further, he is a master of pace, suspense and thrilling action that is visual to the point that chills the reader to the bone.
Alton Turner Blackwood is the product of repeated inbreeding from 3 generations. He is the epitome of evil. He graduates from killing animals to torturing and murdering entire families.
One such family was that of now detective John Calvino who at the age of 14 was the lone survivor of Blackwood's evil quest, having shot and killed Blackwood in order to live on.
Unfortunately, early on we learn that Blackwood's ghost also lives on to enter the bodies of others to continue his evil quest that will reach John Calvino's home and family.
This is a book that is nearly impossible to put down and will keep the reader thinking about it for days to come. Enjoy!
on February 8, 2011
I'm sure Mr. Koontz has plenty of money and doesn't need to make another book sale for the rest of his life to be secure. His readers, on the other hand, are just regular folks on a budget and can't afford to throw away good money on what turns out to be junk. I bought the Kindle edition, so I can't recoup even a part of my investment in the first yard sale of the spring. Live and learn.
I will admit that the prequel to "What the Night Knows", a novella called "Darkness Under the Sun", was very good, good enough to "hook" me into pre-ordering the novel that promised to be a continuation of the same story. I started reading "What the Night Knows" immediately, and it drew me in at first. Then it began to wear on me, especially the thought processes of the very unrealistic children. But the real killer came at the end. The book has a totally unacceptable Deus Ex Machina type ending, like Mr. Koontz had written the book without any idea where he was going, got to a certain point and decided he was tired of it and had to end it somehow, and threw in the absolute WORST ending of any book I have ever read by any writer at any time. The ending was so bad, so disappointing, so unimaginative, and so trite that I can only compare it to a punishment meted out to the reader for staying with such a totally inferior book to the very end.
In short, the ending was a TOTAL RIP OFF, and not worth the time and effort invested to get there. If there were a way to give this book NO STARS, I would gladly do it.
on February 23, 2011
I have read every book that Dean Koontz has written. I know his style like the back of my hand. His first books, Watchers, Strangers etc were like a work of art. You heart did not stop pounding until you finished. What I want to know is where did Dean Koontz go? This book was like reading a novel for tweens. I landed up flipping thru alot of pages to try and find that old feeling from his writting. It was never there. I couldnt wait for it to end and not in a good way.
on January 7, 2011
Once upon a time Koontz was one of my favorite writers, what happened to him?... anyway I do own all of his greats twilight eyes, watchers, lightening etc. My advice to new or young readers of his work is to start at the beginning and work your way forward. I cannot be the only person who has become disenchanted with this writer. I sincerely long for the koontz of the years past.
To be open and honest in my evaluation, I really enjoy Dean Koontz's books. I have read nearly every one and enjoyed all but a very few.
Mr. Koontz's books are extremely hard to characterize. The only constant factor in all of the books I have read is the triumph of good people - and there is one exception to this. The early books (many of which were written under pen names) were story driven. As the career progressed and his skills sharpened, Mr. Koontz moved to character driven books.
Even in the character driven books there is a huge diversity of styles. Some of the books are hard driven books with no rest for the reader, who feverishly turns from one page to another (Intensity). One, Tick Tock, is equal parts suspense and humor. Several, are thoughtful books where Mr. Koontz's philosophy and views of life are explored for the reader to enjoy at a leisurely pace. This variety is evident when one reads reviews of Koontz's books. Books I loved (One Step Away from Heaven, the Odd Thomas books) are frequently trashed for not being "authentic." On the other hand, I personally find some of the books so cruel that I can't enjoy them (notably, False Memories).
So what does have to do with "what the night knows?" The beginning of the book is some of the best written spooky stuff I've ever read. Thoroughly enjoyable, it's Koontz at his best and sets the reader's expectations high. Unfortunately, the middle of the book sags badly. Koontz's characters- who are normally so believable and essential to the story- are not well developed. Their interactions- again normally a strong point- seem false and unbelievable. The children are not appropriately aged for their responses. The parent child relationship is not what I would consider healthy for a well functioning family. This probably does speak to Koontz's lack of experience these areas.
The book redeems itself in the end with a return of Koontz's story telling skills. He manages to develop suspense, scrape some surprise out of the story line, and throw in a bit of philosophy. The polished, developed Koontz has returned, with the story's action focusing on adults and children who are behaving in adult fashion (as they should given the situation).
All in all, I would not recommend this book as a typical Koontz accomplishment. In my humble opinion it does not rise the standards of his other work. It would be a poor sampler of a great writer. That said, a bad Koontz book is still so good, that I couldn't recommend you not read it. Surviving the middle will be tough, but the end justified the effort expended.
on August 7, 2011
I try to watch what I read, even for entertainment. I'm a bit disappointed that I even finished this book based on the fact that the brutal sexual assault of children was central to the plot. A documentary on the subject is different but how can this topic be rationalized for entertainment. I suppose I'm in the wrong genre which is why I allowed two stars instead of one.
The writing wasn't much better then the plot. There were places in this book where the author tried to sound like a child or teen and it was amateurish, way below Koontz's best efforts.
on January 29, 2011
This is the first Koontz novel I have read that I didn't like. At all. I am a huge fan and have read pretty much everyting he has written. The plot is slower than mud and the evil entity is simply too powerful, too perfect and too undefeatable! I could not suspend my disbelief to get into the story because of that. On the other hand, the hero (father) is absolutely useless and essentially does nothing to defeat the evil menacing his family. As usual, a Golden Retriever is introduced (in ghost-form - which I usually like), but again, he does NOTHING to help the family. It's almost as if Koontz forgets he introduces the animal. The thing that is missing here is that the family doesn't defeat evil with some kind of goodness, inner strength, or faith. They simply luck out at the end. The ending is probably the most ridiculous "deus ex machina" contrivance I've ever read. Very disappointing.
John Calvino is a police detective with a secret. Twenty years ago a seriously deranged serial killer, Alton Turner Blackwood, murdered John's family as well as three other families in his town, using their corpses in a gruesome ritual. John, who was fourteen at the time, shot Blackwood in the face even as the madman was forming the words of the promise to finish what he'd started, after John grew up and had his own family. "Someday you'll be a daddy..." Now a husband, and father of three precocious pre-adolescents, he has reason to believe the man he killed twenty years ago has returned from the dead to fulfill a promise of rape and murder.
Not knowing where to turn for help, John is afraid of what his friends, relatives, coworkers, even his wife will think if he tries to express his fear that a dead man seems to be haunting his house and stalking his children in anticipation of a deadly anniversary that's coming up fast. What happens after that is a fairly hair-raising battle for John's children, during which several unusual elements enter the fray, including the ghost of his family's dear departed golden retriever, Willard.
Koontz introduces an interesting dilemma in the story when John begins to wonder if his mind is turning events he is experiencing now into false evidence of a dead killer's promise, or if his twenty years of fearing this event has opened the door to the killer's ghost and actually brought it all to pass. Is it all in his head, or can we conjure demons by invitation, even inadvertently? The answer to why this is happening is of course the answer to how to stop it, and the clock is ticking down on his children as John scrambles for the key. I am missing many of my nails as a result of the second half of this book.
Dean Koontz's stories always sit smack at the intersection of Weird and Main. He writes about normal, extraordinarily nice people who are called upon to do battle with extraordinary evil - the evil of devils and demons, often by invoking the power of angels and God....and children and golden retrievers. In this way, What the Night Knows shares most in common with Hideaway, a book he wrote nearly 20 years ago. It also brought to mind Darkfall, which in turn reminds me of TickTock, which just means Dean Koontz may have a common theme running through his books, but oh boy, does he have a wide variety of ways of developing it. You could say Jane Austin wrote formula fiction, but I don't think anyone wants to criticize her for it, except to wish she had managed to write more of it. Dean Koontz (and JD Robb, and John Grisham, and Robert Parker, etc.) does too. It's not a bad thing. For me it means I know what to expect from his books, and since I like his writing (and his dimples) I am seldom disappointed in my choice.
I discovered Koontz over thirty years ago, and quickly became a fan of his novels. They were hard to categorize, as they were a blend of thriller, hard science-gone-amok, and paranormal. They were edgy, tightly plotted, brisk, and peopled with fully realized characters. His was definitely a unique voice; a rival to contemporary Stephen King.
But over the last several years, Koontz's style has changed dramatically. Edgy has been replaced by treacly. Brisk has become meandering. The fully realized characters have become simplistic and sophomoric sketches. It got so bad, as illustrated by the one Odd Thomas novel I read, that I utterly gave up on Koontz.
After reading the product description of this book, I was eagerly awaiting its delivery; it sounded like a return to the Koontz of yore. Sadly, it was not to be.
Yes, there are echoes of the old classic Koontz magic here: a malevolent spirit, the ghost of a mass murderer, is possessing people and making them perform violent and depraved acts against innocents. A police detective who survived one such attack as a child, before the murderer's death, suspects the spirit's existence and is trying to prevent more murders, thereby putting himself and his own family in harm's way.
But the execution fails badly. Way too much cutesy-poo space given over to pre-teen kids who seem to have the emotional and intellectual development of 20-somethings. I have to wonder if Koontz ever actually raised any kids. The ones in this book sure don't ring with any authenticity. I found myself skimming pages and pages at a time trying to get back to the actual story. Even his characterizations of the adults in the book seem very flat and two-dimensional. This thing has the pacing of molasses in January, to use an old cliché. It never builds up any dramatic tension whatsoever.
I'm sorry. A dismal failure. One star.