Newest Review: ... you can pick these up in charity shops, car boots, used on eBay or Amazon (all for minimal amounts of money) or for the frankly massive... more
Another Strong Offering From A Master Of Fiction
False Memory - Dean Koontz
Member Name: missrarr
False Memory - Dean Koontz
Advantages: Entertaining, written in the author's usual flowing style
Disadvantages: A bit long for some, storyline requires the perpetrator to be revealed very early
Being laid up ill for what feels like the umpteenth time in the last six months, I decided that I couldn't take any more of the dross that gets passed for daytime broadcasting and picked up the thickest book I could find - which happened to be False Memory by Dean Koontz, which I last read long enough ago to have forgotten the majority of the plot details if not the basic premise.
He probably needs little introduction but to the uninitiated, Dean Koontz is pretty much the master and commander of the science fiction / horror easy-reading genre. American, as has been the setting of all of his books that I have read bar one (and that's a technicality), he has over the course of the last couple of decades or so churned out title after title at a mind-boggling rate covering everything from the descent of hell to earth through to homicidal demons delivered in stuffed toys, via Government plots, superhuman powers, a complete reworking of the story of Frankenstein's monster and pretty much anything else you'd like to imagine. Imagination is the key with Koontz - he has a great ability to think up original ideas and new angles and this, combined with an easy-going tone and a flowing writing style, has made him one of the most successful writers of modern times.
I have reviewed one of his books before and read many, and my sole criticism of his writing style is that too often I find his characters, or the variety of them, to be very limited. Whilst not unlikeable, very often the characteristics of the lead protagonists, and those of the secondary and in turn more supportive individuals, will be mirrored on a regular basis. Admittedly when you produce as many works as Koontz there's going to be some overlap, but this often extends to medical traits and even the personality of the seemingly completely and utterly mandatory dog.
My copy of False Memory is a paperback boasting a high-contrast blue, black and white cover printed in the most popular reprint styles of Koontz's work in recent years. It's bold and eye-catching and only now do I think these are starting to look slightly dated.
As with most of the Koontz collection, you can pick these up in charity shops, car boots, used on eBay or Amazon (all for minimal amounts of money) or for the frankly massive prices you'll pay for any book (in this case £7.99) if you are suddenly so desperate that you have to go to Waterstones or similar.
Published by Headline
Dusty and Marti Rhodes are happily married and don't ask much from life other than to be happy together with their dog Valet, earn enough to be comfortable from their respective jobs as a house painter and a computer game designer, and move on with their life from their also respective issues from their past, Dusty his terse relationship with his mother and her succession of intellectual husbands and Marti with the relatively recent passing of her beloved and heroic father, Smilin' Bob.
They seem to be contentedly achieving their aspiration in life together when one day Marti, when walking her dog as always before her twice-weekly errand of escorting her agoraphobic best friend to her therapy sessions, feels a strange sense of unease and fear, which at first she struggles to place until she realizes that, briefly and inexplicable, she felt afraid of her own shadow. Dismissing her apparently temporary silliness and heading off to pick up and indeed cajole Susan Jagger from the secure boundaries of her home out to the offices of her psychiatrist, she thinks nothing more of it, but later that day a similar attack strikes her, leaving her with graphically violent images in her mind and a seemingly suddenly uncontrollable succession of mental images of the violence that she, peaceful and kind Marti, could play out with everyday items all around her.
Before long Marti's mental state has deteriorated into a series of escalating panic attacks, and on what a day for this to happen, for at the latest property he has been commission to paint, Dusty finds his sporadically drug-addled, messed-up half-brother, a member of his staff, convinced that an Angel of Death has told him to jump off a roof and find peace in suicide. Determined to stop him, Dusty climbs the roof with him...
...whilst Susan, once she has completed her therapy session and enjoyed a reward of take-away food with Marti, during which she alludes to revelations Marti was unaware of but that Susan refuses to elaborate on, calls Marti whilst the latter was fighting the grip of these previously unknown panic attacks with a shocking revelation that would stretch the comprehension of most people, let alone someone suddenly forced to battle an inexplicable mental crisis.
So the scene is set for the unfolding of a nightmarish collection of individual psychological scenarios, the extreme nature and timing of which forcing Marti and Dusty to realize that there has to be a connection.
It's hard to review this book any further without giving away too much of the plot and in fact it is a hard book to review at all without spoiling many aspects, so if you think you've read enough I will say this: I enjoyed this, it is written in the author's customarily readable style and yes, it's got a dog in it. It has a good pace and the usual description and imaginative content you would expect of a Koontz novel. I would recommend it to fans of his work and to people who like to spend a lot of time with their nose in a book - this is a 600+ page epic, be warned - but I did not find it to be flawless nor my favourite work he has produced. In order to elaborate on why, I might have to reveal a few more details, so please bear that in mind if you read on. If you'd rather not, then thanks for reading to this point.
**HERE BE DRAGONS...ER...SORRY...POTENTIAL SPOILERS!***
***WHERE I THINK IT GOES WRONG...***
Now, as I said this is a hefty book, and due to the nature of the storyline it would be virtually impossible to execute it without revealing early on who the enemy is in all this, and how they are doing it. There is also how this character is able to get away with doing this due to larger connection in the wider world to establish, and on top of an already very complex plot involving many scenes and scenarios that take a long time to play out with the necessary gravitas, there are further twists at the end of a nature more personal to our leading couple.
The plot in this book relies very heavily on a premise that is heavily linked to that of The Manchurian Candidate - blatantly so, as the book is used and referenced several times in False Memory. To me I'm not sure this comes across entirely as homage so much as a useful mechanism for the use of ideas clearly based within that book, but it would be unfair to accuse Koontz of taking on the idea specifically from the older book because the theory of thought-control techniques is not exclusive to that book either. So worry not Mr Koontz, I'm not accusing you of anything!
Again for me there are formulaic trends amongst the characters, both the good, the bad and the canine, but this is again a characteristic of the author's work and it doesn't detract from this particular story in any way. We like the characters that we are meant to, and it is impossible to like the ones that we do not, therefore the mechanism is an effective one.
For me, if there is a significant flaw then I would have preferred more resolution as to the involvement in support of our perpetrator of a higher power, supposedly a Governmental or some high-level operation, but I personally don't think there was much closure on specifically what this organization was, but then when you have so many pages that at first I actually physically found this book hard to hold open and read before you were some way in and had cracked the spine a bit, that's probably a good thing as for this to have any more duration to it would, to me, be a mistake.
There is humor in this book as well as tension, invention and indeed reinvention of existing ideas, and it kept me interested. Had I not been ill I would have been unlikely to read this in a hurry as there's no way I'm carrying that much book with me on a commute, but as it is with almost solid reading I'd finished this in a day-and-a-half.
I might not rush to read this again as I think that my overall conclusion - enjoyable, but nothing astonishing - would be a good indication of why I left it so long after my first reading to revisit it, and having now done so twice I think there are other books for me to move on to in the future.
For Dean Koontz fans, a success, and probably a fine introduction to his work for other bookworms who aren't afraid to sit down and plough through a bit of an epic.
Summary: An enjoyable Koontz book but far from my favourite of his