Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

I've been a fan of Dean Koontz since I started reading "adult" books. I remember his early works keeping me on the edge of my seat, and he remains one of only two authors who've written a book that unnerved me as I read it. Over the years, my enthusiasm has waned a little bit. Sometimes the old Koontz seems to be at the computer, other times it's the guy who often seems to be repeating himself in his choice of themes and characters. The Odd Thomas books, for example, have all been good reads so far. 77 Shadow Street, on the other hand, was not.

I wanted to like this one, and let me say right now that it's not a bad book. If this is the first Koontz book you've ever picked up, it's probably pretty good. The problem for me was, it wasn't even close to being the first. And page after page, character after character, I found myself thinking, "I've read these people before." Different setting, slightly different problem, but the characters were stock Koontz characters. The only thing missing was the dog. Without getting into spoilers, either, the fates of these characters unfold pretty much the way you expect them to. I could tell within two paragraphs of meeting a character, especially as the book progressed and more people were introduced, whether they would live or die.

It was a good premise. I like the idea of the apartment building over the space-time rip. But that, too, was problematic, because Koontz lets the readers know way too early on what's causing all the weird things. Worse, this is done through a first-person narrative that is the most cliched and over-the-top Lovecraftian-esque narration I've read in a long, long time. It was bad. Bad enough that I found myself skipping those chapters the moment I say the italicized text. I'd have much preferred not knowing the cause behind it all until much later, as that not knowing added to the suspense and intrigue. Once that was gone, I was left with nothing but the predictable characters.

There are books where character, not premise, drives the story, and this seemed like it wanted to be one of those and just had the wrong characters to do it with. There were also too many characters, and two sets of them were practically interchangeable. (Again, this is a result of Koontz dipping into his well of stock characters.) It became difficult sometimes after putting the book down to remember who was who when I picked it up again.

Unlike past Koontz works, this was one I found myself putting down a lot.

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