Newest Review: ... hopes in this offer from Koontz. ***77 SHADOW STREET*** The Pendleton stands as an icon to one man's determination and indulgence in ar... more
To Koontz Or Not To Koontz?
77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz
Member Name: missrarr
77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz
Advantages: On its own, a good horror sci fi read
Disadvantages: For the Koontz faithful, you'll know its not his best work
Seriously, though. I have read so many of this man's books - easily done when he seemingly churns out about 712 a year. Amongst them are some gems, some really inventive, thoughtful and strongly written plots and characters you don't just understand but who linger with you long after the reading is over. But along the way you see the formulaic repetitiveness that frustrates the hell out of me more and more as I progress through his body of work.
Recently, after a period of ill health and being on a few days off, we finally made it to Mr Rarr's parents' new home in Cornwall. The idea was plenty of R&R for me and a bit of sea air, as my problems with recurring ill health stem from a very upsetting recurrence of what was out-grown childhood asthma. For that, I would need a book, and having gone through the entire River Cottage Bread Handbook whilst my superb other half drove me, rattling on Sudafed and inhalers, to the dark depths of Cornwall, that meant I might have to go shopping.
Tesco, bane of bookshops and sporadic saint to those short of both new book and pound in pocket, provided me with two options from Koontz that I hadn't been aware of before. One was the fifth in what was once meant to be the three-part Frankenstein series, and as I haven't read the third and fourth, it meant that 77 Shadow Street came home with me and I started reading it that very afternoon on the sofa as soon as we got back - I didn't move off the sofa all day and as I'm sure you can understand that not being able to breathe can make very boring! So I had to invest high hopes in this offer from Koontz.
***77 SHADOW STREET***
The Pendleton stands as an icon to one man's determination and indulgence in architecture - but that man's life soon descended into deep misery as his wife and children were seemingly abducted years before now, never seen again.
This was not to be the only tragic event to strike the Pendleton, as modern resident Silas learns as he researches its history in desperate attempt to fill the void left after the death of his beloved wife. He is a resident in the modern age, the book set in 2011 when the building is a luxurious apartment building.
Silas starts to spot a pattern in the tragic occurrences that seem to hit the building every 38 years. And as he does so, he realises that the next should be imminent in the next few days. Meanwhile, the easily unlikeable Senator who owns one of the apartment goes missing, and shadows start to move menacingly, terrorising residents like Sally Hollander, who found refuge in a small apartment in the Pendleton paid for by her employers, the cake-empire owning Cupp sisters. Silas senses that there was more to the "disappearance" of the wife and children of the original Pendleton owner, but can't envisage how accurate he is as he hears first-hand accounts of former events coupled with his own knowledge of growing, threatening happenings in the building.
Meanwhile Bailey Hawkes has a disconcerting and seemingly impossible close call with a shadowy figure under the water of the Pendleton pool, whilst songwriter Twyla Trahern is unaware that her son Winston, intelligent beyond his age, has been enduring strange incidents involving his television and something unknown seemingly using it to try to communicate with him.
Soon they and the other inhabitants of the modern-day Pendleton realise that the full force of whatever is causing these unfathomable episodes is upon them, and survival becomes their foremost concern as the true meaning behind the situation starts to become clear. Who will survive the ordeal and what has caused the terror they are forced to endure?
***SO, A GOOD READ?***
To me this Koontz book has, like so many, great potential, but becomes a bit "write it by numbers". It reminds me hugely of The Taking, a book that I enjoyed massively, but only by way of the fact that it seems his modus operandi in writing the book is throwing sci fi horror nastiness at the reader, followed by the eventual understanding of the characters in which is delivered the moral message which inspired the writing in the first place. Maybe if this had been written before The Taking or if I had read it first then I would prefer this, although I suspect I would still consider The Taking superior.
This book differs in that the apartment building being used as a scene allowed for more characters than The Taking (although there are massive similarities between many regardless). So what you have here with the usual graphically horrific description of the situation the characters have to endure is an almost ensemble cast - after the initial scene is set Koontz actually swaps between characters with their name in italics above the documentation of their experience. This is useful in that it means all characters can be involved and also their own experience and reaction can document the events that play out through the whole building, but I think that the book suffers for strong characterisation that I know the writer has created before, in efforts such as The Taking and Lightning.
Koontz's ability to write horror is still perfectly evident (whilst in comparison with The Taking whilst the basic structure is similar I didn't find this as graphic, however). However none of these characters are a patch on Odd Thomas or some of Koontz's other really memorable creations. The relationships between them didn't seem to build sufficiently and the ending, whilst clever in its use of these multiple characters, in some case just in their survival and in others how they take the experience further and progress in showing what is learnt from it, seems disproportionately rushed compared to the length and involvement of the story - possibly because there are so many people's accounts being documented.
Amazingly, there isn't a Golden Retriever in this book. There are two cats, but that's about it. There is not one but two strong women, and if you're waiting for the autistic child to show up, you won't go long disappointed. So the formulaic tendencies which Koontz uses so often that I am tempted to call clichés are not missing. And I for one am getting fed up of them - yes, the use of an autistic character here helps develop another in this book, but when you've had the same combination of characters (with or without a shiny hyper-intelligent yellow dog) thrown at you over about twenty books in the last eight years or so, it just gets too repetitive for words, and the depth it adds to each story is compromised as a result.
So overall, whilst I couldn't not finish this once I had started, with the rushed ending and the characters in some cases seeming oh-so-disappointingly familiar, this book ultimately left me feeling a bit deflated when the final page was turned. The investment of my time as a reader wasn't rewarded as I know that this writer can, and I can't honestly say that I see this book as being one that will sneak onto the list of books I have reread one day in the distant future. It promised quite a bit but sadly the overall experience, whilst this is a good read taken on its own, wasn't up to the standard that I know the author can achieve.
I just hope to god he doesn't react to bad reviews in the same way that his character in Relentless does. Or I'm toast.
Summary: This is ok, but when you know what a writer is capable of, it doesn't match up