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'On the desk in my candlelit study, the telephone rang, and I knew that a terrible change was coming'.
The opening line of 'Fear Nothing' greets you with a heavy sense of foreboding which continues unceasingly throughout the novel. You join Chris Snow as he tries to prepare himself for the inevitable death of his Father. Chris lives in the night, and only the night. He suffers from a rare genetic disorder which means his skin and eyes cannot be exposed to sunlight. As you begin to learn how his life has unfolded in perpetual darkness you begin to see the light that he sees. In the people around him, in his dog, and in the small joys and freedoms that many would overlook. You cannot help but be drawn into his world, which is like our world, and yet different. Somehow deeper, more permanent and undeniably more mysterious.
This has to be one of the best Dean Koontz novels. He has created a world so convincing, so engaging and so utterly compelling that this is a 'read in one night' tale. The sense of suspense and foreboding is at times unbearable. The temptation to 'just find out' and skip to the end is compelling, but well worth resisting.
Few authors can create people and places that remain in your imagination for as long as these do. The themes of loss, loneliness, suffering and hope permeate this book to it's very core. And they are neither trivialised nor romanticised. This definitely deserves a place on any thriller lover's bookcase.
Have you ever felt a sense of déjà vu when reading a book? Perhaps events are occurring in a pattern that seems to have gone before, or you know what is going to happen next? Can you imagine combining this sense of repeat viewing with a level of boredom close to having to watch an entire 24hrs of snooker, then darts, and then crown green bowling? Now imagine if someone was able to combine both this feeling of déjà vu and the feeling of utter boredom; welcome to the world of Dean Koontz.
Fear Nothing follows Christopher Snow over a weekend as his life changes forever. Christopher suffers from a very rare disease called XP that makes him allergic to bright lights, including light bulbs and the sun. This means that he is used to living his life in the dark. You would think that this would make Christophe depressed, but instead he lives a full life exploring the town he lives in at night. Things take a turn for the worst when his father succumbs to cancer. Christopher stumbles across his fathers body being replaced with that of a murdered man. By following the men that took his fathers body, Christopher uncovers a secret world of genetic experiments and killer monkeys. Can he uncover the truth about his fathers body whilst keeping his own life safe?
The main issue that I have with this book, and for that matter, many of Koontzs books, is that it is far too wordy. As a concept the book is good. We see Christopher uncover dark secrets about the people he thought he knew. However, rather than telling the story in the 300 pages that were probably necessary, Koontz uses 200 pages more. If you are a fan of Koontzs flowery prose this may be good for you, however, I found it incredibly boring filler and detracted away from the exciting elements of the narrative.
Koontz can also be criticised in this book for using ideas that have spanned his work for years. His books seem to follow very similar supernatural themes. For many readers this would be a blessing as they are getting what they want. However, Koontzs novels are similar to the degree were you are not sure were one stops and the other starts. He is such a prolific writer because he always writes the same thing. Perhaps taking more time will help him to develop some ideas that are not based on a 1980s version of himself.
The characters in the book also suffer from a sense of been there, done that. The most interesting character by far is Christopher Snow who sees the world in the dark but refuses to be down about it. I thought that this would lead to some great explanations of his surroundings and perhaps lead him into some unique dangers. Unfortunately, it would seem that the only impact of having a character with XP is that Koontz could turn up his flower power prose to 11. The other characters do not fair much better with Christophers girlfriend being redundant until the end when she suddenly takes on far too much mystery. Christophers stoner surf buddy also gets a significant role, but is still too peripheral to care about. I have read some people love the banter between these two characters, I found it annoying.
I have criticised the length, the style of writing and the characters in this book but there are a couple of things that are good about it. As much as I have gone off Koontz in recent months I still think he writes a good action set piece. In his better books he can fill the time between set pieces with an interesting story, here he can not. When the action does hot up in Fear Nothing the pages rattle by. In particular, the finale of the book and a scene were Christopher must escape the police, standout.
If you have read any of my other Koontz reviews you may have noted that I sometimes think his concepts are inept. I am afraid this is the case here. The idea of genetic mutations being the horror in the novel is great but a bunch of intelligent, evil monkeys just leaves you flat. There was little suspense to be found and the sense of the ridiculous was compounded by the fact animals that normally throw faeces at the wall, were the masterminds (or not).
I would not recommend this book to anyone, even Koontz fans. He has written some great books like 'Odd Thomas' but the vast majority of his stuff is very very boring. During 'Fear Nothing' there are a couple of scenes that show the promise the book could have had, but a hackneyed science fiction plot and pages of unneeded diatribe makes their impact become lost in a sea of dull prose.
Author: Dean Koontz
Price: amazon uk - £6.39
play.com - £5.99
I thought Id take a little time off from my usual book reviews and do a few more reviews on one of my first loved genres, that of horror. If Stephen King is my favourite author, Dean Koontz is a close second. I discovered his books long before he became really popular, that was back in late 1970s but Koontz had been writing for many years before that. His own life story is every bit as gripping as some of his books and I beg your indulgence as I give a brief outline.
Dean Ray Koontz was born on the 7th July 1945 in Pennsylvania, into a poor family ruled over by his alcoholic father, who actually went to prison for trying to kill his own son. Desperate to get away from the grinding poverty of his life, he lost himself in books, reading anything and everything he could get his hands on. How he managed to stay in school when his father thought that book-learning was a waste of time shows Koontzs dedication to rising above his background.
Taking on several part-time jobs he eventually put himself through University and settled down to a life of teaching English, but he kept up his love of writing and started to publish short stories and then novels. Many of those early novels were written under different names, Brian Coffey, Leigh Nichols and Owen West to name a few.
In 1980 he made his breakthrough with Whispers, this time published under his own name. The rest is history; hes a prolific author who seems to put out at least one book a year. His early life instilled a sense of justice and mercy to the underdogs of society and many of his characters are handicapped in some ways. This has led to many fans thinking he has become rather clichéd in the last few years. Maybe Koontzs own demons are still waiting to be set free?
The town of Moonlight Bay has kept its own secrets for many years, a series of genetic experiments has bred some monsters but for the hero of the story this is about to come as a big surprise. Christopher Snow has a rare disease called xeroderma pigmentosus; he is lacking a gene that allows him to tolerate light in any form. He sleeps in the day and comes out at night like a vampire, only in near-darkness can he have any form of life. He still manages to have a girlfriend, Sasha Goodall, a deejay at the local radio station and his childhood friend, Bobby, whose eccentric lifestyle is almost as bizarre as his own.
When Chriss father is near to death in the hospital he manages to say a few words, fear nothing, the title of the book. In one night Chris loses his father and unmasks a conspiracy, which will rock the very foundations of his world. For his late mother, who died in a car crash, was a scientist working on the very experiments that is producing changes in both people and animals, some for the good, a lot for the bad. Accompanied by his intelligent dog, Orson, he spends a harrowing night trying to find out what is happening in his secluded world.
Once again Koontz digs into the dark side of scientific research and in doing so produces some very memorable characters. Chris is yet another of Koontzs flawed characters who exhibits a great deal of courage and self-reliance. Sasha provides the love interest but her courage is also worthy of note. Bobby is a wonderful character sketch of all that is good and wholesome, the repartee between him and Chris is one of the funniest I have yet to read in a Koontz novel, but laid-back as he appears to be, Bobby knows a lot more than its wise for Chris to know.
Once again Koontz shows his love of animals and theres some moments of sheer pleasure with Orson, the talking dog and a cat that could have arrived straight from the pages of another distinguished author.
There are villains aplenty, enough to make you shiver and turn on all the lights. This time the main protagonists are Rhesus monkeys, huge intelligent beings but vicious with it. They may be the future of Moonlight Bay, who knows for the sure; the answer is not to be found in this book.
A note on the prose.
Koontzs descriptive powers are usually heavy on the suspense but he does manage to create a background that the reader can see. Using Snows character to explore the absence of light is extremely clever. Snow has never seen ordinary daylight; he can only imagine a sunrise or sunset and the passages where he imagines an ordinary life is compelling reading.
All the action takes place over one night of sheer terror and its this speed of pace coupled by some astonishing revelations that keep the pages turning.
Die-hard fans of Koontz are looking for new plots, new situations, and new themes. If Koontz returns to a previous topic he is seen as growing stale, for me I tend to analyse each book and try to see the book in terms of its power to grip the imagination and put on a dazzling show.
For all the reasons above I really loved this book, it swept me away and I found it hard to put down. The concept was not entirely new but its the way Koontz handles it that appeals to me. This is one of his older books, published in 1998 there is a follow-up to this book, Seize The Night and another in the pipeline to complete the series.
The genetic condition of XP is a true one shared by roughly 1000 Americans; I cant find figures for the rest of the world.
This alone endeared me to the book that Koontz has done his research and had imagined what it would be like to suffer from this condition showed how he has always felt akin to people that are not really accepted by society.
For new readers this would be a good book to start off with, its not horror in the form of the supernatural, rather a social commentary on how far scientists will go in the hope of finding cures to many conditions and what happens when the military offer their money to keep research going.
I bought my copy from a book club so Im not quite sure what I paid for it, I would hazard a guess at about £5.50, you can find it on Amazon at £6.39 or bid for used copies on E-Bay.
I wouldnt class it as a great book, but for its genre it deserves the full five stars.
Thanks, as always for reading.
© Lisa Fuller February 2006.
I grabbed Fear Nothing with relish as soon as I saw it on the library shelves. Dean Koontz became my favourite horror storywriter a few years ago and I looked forward to reading one of the few books of his that I hadn't already read. Fear Nothing centres around 28 year old writer Christopher Snow who was born with a rare genetic disorder called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. His condition means that his skin and eyes are extremely sensitive to light and especially sunlight that can cause irreparable cancerous damage to him. Because of this Chris lives his life at night in Moonlight Bay and like a vampire goes to bed at sunrise. Even artificial light is damaging to him and he has to wear special extra strong sunglasses. The novel starts on the evening of his father’s death. Chris goes to the hospital where the lights are thoughtfully dimmed on his entry and is with his father when he dies. His sorrow is more poignant when you learn that his mother had died in a car accident 2 years earlier and that apart from his friends he has nobody to help him to bridge the gap between the normal day time world and his twilight one. Before he leaves the hospital he is shocked to discover that his fathers body has been switched with that of a murdered hitchhiker and Chris spends the rest of the night endangering himself by searching for answers to the mystery that unfolds around Moonlight Bay. He finds people who have changed in themselves making it hard for him to know who to trust. A clever cat comes to his aid while he is trying to escape from being hunted down. We meet his dog Orson who is an Orson Welles fan and reveals an intelligence that dogs don’t normally have. Then there are rhesus monkeys with golden eyes that are nastier and cleverer than normal monkeys. He suspects that the strangeness and change around him has something to do with an ex government research centre Fort Wyvern, where his mother worked as a genetic scientist b
efore she died. His findings make him wonder if her death was really an accident and touch upon the problems that can be caused by genetic research. Apart from Chris and his adorable mutt Orson the other two main characters are his girlfriend Sasha and best friend Bobby. Sasha is a night DJ at the local radio station and Bobby lives in a house on the beach and runs a lucrative business providing information about where the best waves for surfing are going to be and when. They don’t come into the story much at first but another obstacle for Chris is the fear that Bobby or Sasha will be harmed if he continues to search for the truth, or that they may have changed too. I enjoyed reading Fear Nothing right from the very first paragraph until the quite satisfactory ending. Dean Koontz is a superb writer who knows how to draw you in straight away and makes me want to devour every word. He has done this time after time for me with excellent novels like Shattered, Lightning, Midnight, The Door To December, Hideaway, The Funhouse and Demon Seed. As with his other best selling novels Dean creates tension in every chapter of Fear Nothing and uses his imagination to create gripping unreal storylines that become real in your imagination for a short time. Added to that there were touches of humour involving the dog Orson that made me smile at the same time as feeling the suspense. Unlike his other novels Koontz has added an extra dimension by writing it in a first person style that works well for this novel. We get into the mind of Christopher Snow and can feel his thoughts and fears as each new revelation or obstacle comes along. He is very laid back when you consider the difficulties that XP causes him in normal life, never mind the 2 horrific nights that the story centres around. He has learned to accept his disorder and make the most of what he can do in life despite the restrictions that his condition imposes. I felt that Dean Koontz
did well introducing this character. Apart from the empathy that you feel with Chris his disorder creates extra obstacles in his search for the truth and trying to escape from the villains around him. He can’t go just anywhere in Moonlight Bay because of the hampering light but those who pursue him can. His matter of factness and lack of frustration at his limitations can seem quite strange but then I realised that I find the same qualities in most people with disabilities and the character became more lifelike to me. I was kept guessing at the ending which was as I said quite satisfactory. Not everything was resolved which would be frustrating if I didn’t know that Fear Nothing was the first novel in a trilogy and the second one Seize The Night was published a year after Fear Nothing in 1999. Fear Nothing is listed on Amazon for £5.59. Or it is available together with the second part of the trilogy Seize The Night for £11.18 I can’t find any details of the third novel in the trilogy, but perhaps that hasn’t been written yet.
‘Fear Nothing’ By: Dean Koontz Fear Nothing Dean Koontz Bantam Books 1998 PB 391 ISBN# 0-553-10664-3 As is his usual, Koontz creates a story where readers hold their breath and race to learn what happens next. One of his greatest strengths is that his stories are about characters readers care about and can relate to. Koontz doesn’t give hischaracters a break and Christopher Snow is no exception. Not only does Chris have a rare genetic disorder that leaves him dangerously vulnerable to light, but finds he’s been plunged into a strange, dangerous, situation too. Chris has lost his mother already and tonight someone has switched his father’s body with a hitchhiker’s. Why and what has he stumbled into? Why were those men going to cremate this man instead? Where were they taking his Dad? He has to find out. Little does Chris realize the violent danger he’d just begun to place himself into. Now,not only must he rise above severe physical limitations, but also confront peculiar creatures, unusual circumstances, and threats to those he cares about. He’d known Angela since she cared for him as a boy. She also was his father’s nurse at the hospital. She seemed nervous when she called, saying she needed to talk to him now – tonight. Angela later tells Chris about a Christmas Eve a few years ago. It was just before the newspapers claimed her husband committed suicide. She’d been in the kitchen happily making cookies when suddenly she looked up to find a Rhesus monkey sitting on the table. He was eating one of her tangerines. He glared at her with unusually dark yellow eyes and when he laughed a terrible evil cackle, the hair on Angela’s arms stood up. She went on to say that when she attempted to shoo it away with a broom, it tried to yank it from her. Then, began to climb the broom toward her. The Rhesus screeched, h
opped up and down, tore at the air, and pounded the floor with its fists. Roosevelt Frost lives on a boat with security cameras, motion detectors, infrared sensors and high-tech binoculars. He warns Chris he has stumbled onto something bigger than the lab at Wyvern. The town’s people were involved now too. Frost goes on to explain that Chris can’t contact the authorities in or out of town. “These people wouldn’t touch you at first, not personally. You’re revered and they’re in awe of you. They’ll leave you alone unless you give them no choice. Forget what you saw and get on with your life.” Chris then asks who asked Frost to warn him and why they revere him. “The cat. She told me,” says Frost. “And the reason they revere you is because of who your mother was.” Chris thinks about what has happened the last few days. Nothing could be dismissed as queer and out of the realm of possibility now. He’d seen monkeys that were not mere monkeys, a cat that was somehow more than a cat, and other mysteries that left the seemingly insignificant very significant. Crazed by whatever disease had entered him, policeman Chief Lewis Stevenson reveals still more ghastly information. It makes Chris stomach churn. How many little girls would suffer a horrific fate before Stevenson gave into his monstrous lusts and claimed his granddaughter? “I’m warning you Snow, if I hear one peep out of you about what has begun here in Wyvern and Moonlight Bay…I’m taking your dog. I’ll make an example out of him so you know. If the world finds out they’ll quarantine the whole county; probably kill every last person and animal and then nuke it for good measure.” What was the project his mother was working on? Evidentially she discovered something. Did it involve genetics? Had it gone incredibly wrong
– blown up to be beyond her or anyone’s control? Had his mother killed herself because of it or had someone wanted her out of the way? Maybe she’d realized it needed to be destroyed? Chris had to know. She was his mother after all. Another question haunted him too. Where had she gotten Orson? He was Chris' beloved companion and best friend. Was he a result of the project too or just a smart dog? This story brings out the fact that when extreme danger strips people of all pretenses, all ambitions, all confusions, makes them focus, ambitions don’t amount to a hill of beans. Love, making love, friendship, and living life is what matters. Koontz creates characters to care about, invents suspense, mystery, and though his writing is fiction, writes about truths, realities, and the human condition. His writing gets down to the nitty-gritty and lays reality and opinions on the line. Although it was a good book. It was predictable.
I've read rather a lot of books by D Koontz but this was the most disappointing one so far. The main character in the book is a young man called Christopher Snow who suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum which means that his skin and eyes can't be exposed to sunlight. Therefore 90% of the action in this book occurs at night which is not surprising for D Koontz! Koontz launches straight into the story in the first few pages with Christopher Snow seeing his recently deceased (less than an hour!) fathers body being being stolen. Its a standard tale of nasty genetic scientists, very intelligent animals, and other animals which are too intelligent and threatening to take over human kind. The usual scenes are used- the supposedly abandoned military installation, the lonely house at the edge of the sea, the morgue, the undertakers. The story line was typical Koontz and therefore I found it very predictable. You just know that he will kill the baddies, discover the truth, settle down with his girlfriend and generally save the day. BORING!! I almost felt as though I had read this book before as the plot was so predictable. I thought the ending was horrendously lame. Did Koontz run out of ideas or did he get himself entangled in a plot that was too complicated to end in a more satisfying manner? I think he shrugged his shoulders and gave up. I don't think I'll bother reading this one again unlike some of his previous books. I'm glad it only cost me 50p at a car boot sale and that I didn't pay the cover price of £14.99!!