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One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz is one of his books that I bought years ago and one that I've kept and read again a few times.
Troubled Michelina Bellsong (Micky) has just been released from prison and has gone to stay with her Aunt Geneva in her trailer when they meet a disabled girl from next door called Leilani Klonk. Leilani talks tough and has a great sense of humour but some of the things she tells them about her drug fuelled mother and her stepfather, the infamous Preston Maddoc who believes in survival of the fittest to the point of "helping" the less fit on their way, start alarm bells ringing. When Leilani mentions her brother was killed and buried in the mountains and she's sure she will go the same way by her next birthday Micky and Gen start to worry. Preston has convinced Leilani's mother that aliens will collect her at that point and heal her leg she wears a brace on and her hand that doesn't have proper fingers so they travel around searching for genuine alien activity with that day moving ever closer. The following day after this revelation the Maddocs have moved on, changing Micky's life forever.
Curtis Hammond isn't really Curtis Hammond. Curtis Hammond is dead and the boy who is using his identity is not of this world. With the authorities chasing him along with others similar to his kind he races across the country to try and stay free. His companion, Old Yellow, is a dog that once belonged to the real Curtis Hammond and together they try to evade capture and death.
Will Micky be able to outwit the cunning and deadly Preston Maddoc before he murders Leilani and will Curtis Hammond be able to stay free with dangerous people and aliens after him and his lack of social skills letting him down at every turn?
This book is old style Koontz and as such a big long read. That in my opinion is a good thing, he used to write hefty books that kept me going for a few days but recently his stories have become alot shorter and that means a day, two at most, for me now. In this book we start to see his humour that is now very prevalent but wasn't back then. He uses this to give Leilani depth as a tough kid and to give Aunt Gen her likeable craziness due to being shot in the head years before.
The subplot of the alien pretending to be Curtis Hammond makes this a fascinating read and the first time I read it it took me a while to realise what was going on there. The people Curtis comes across as he tries to escape are a mixed bunch and his lack of social graces constantly gets him into trouble but in a humourous way.
The other characters in this book are suitably Dean Koontz weird and oddballs and all bring a little bit more to the storyline. The storyline itself is of course not something you can imagine happening, not the alien side of things anyway. But these are the kind of books that made Koontz as popular as he is today, the dark and wonderful world of people combined with supernatural events.
I must have read this book 4 times over the years, I read it every so often when I'm in the mood and it never fails to amuse me and have me thinking how good it is even though I can usually remember most of the plot. It's a cross between his original Watchers and his more recent dabble into goodness and humour and I like the fact that practically all the characters in the book are flawed in some way and nowhere near the pure characters we find in his books these days. It's classic Koontz.
I bought a hardback copy but it is available to buy in paperback now from Amazon for £5.99 new or used on Amazon Marketplace for 1p. I strongly advise buying it rather than borrowing it because it's such a long and complicated story you will forget bits and re-read it. This is the point where Dean Koontz was the Dean Koontz, master of darkness, that we all loved and not the author we see today who seems to have lost his way a bit.
Thoroughly recommended and I love this book.
How long should a book be? The longest book that I have ever read was the Lord of the Rings trilogy and that was over 1000 pages long! But, it was also three books in one. Perhaps classics like War and Peace deserve to be extra long as they have a lot to say, but what about the everyday book; the thrillers, crime fiction or sci fi that people read going into work. Are 700 pages too many for a book like this? In my opinion, the answer is yes, especially when the author doesnt actually have anything to say. This leads me nicely into One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz a book that could have done with that one magic person, an editor.
One Door follows three distinct tales before they merge later into one. Firstly, we have Micky, a beautiful, but lazy young women who is happy to spend her life living in her Aunts trailer until a young girl called Leilani comes along and needs her help. Secondly we have Noah, a private detective with a conscience. Finally, we have the most Koontz-esque storyline of a young boy whose parents have been murdered by mysterious beings and is being chased across America. How do these stories connect and what will happen to the various characters? Find out slowly over the next 700 and odd pages
For a book to be worthy of an exceedingly long length it has to have some sort of spark that means you want it to last forever. The action or the characters have to have a pace or an attraction that makes you want to read just 10 more pages before you go to sleep. Recently I read the excellent Power of the Dog by Don Winslow that came in at a hefty 500+ pages but I wish it went on forever. So much happened and the twists made it one of the best books I have ever read. One Door had none of this magic.
To be honest I perhaps should have guessed this may have been the case as I have read several Koontz books already. His earlier novels are short but feels amateurish. Its his later work that has began a trend of too much length, perhaps because he makes so much money that is editors are too scared to say anything to him. I just managed to crawl through From the Corner of His Eye because, despite its length, the central good and bad guys were intriguing. This can not be said of this book.
I quite liked the characters of Micky and Noah as they are sympathetic. Its just that their scenes move so slowly. I am not exaggerating when I say that by page 200, when many books are reaching their conclusion, nothing of merit had happened. Koontz spends far too much of these pages being twee and describing inane things we do not care about. Add to this the final story of the runaway boy and you realise that this is just the same story that Koontz has written at least five times before but stretched so thinly over 700 pages that its like the tissue paper thin skin that Nicole Kidman has on her forehead (Botox anyone?)
I just feel that Koontz is either taking the Michael out of his fans or that he has become ignorant of their needs. Does he think that it is acceptable to produce the same novel over and over again and actually make the experience even more mundane by increasing the size of the book? The problem probably lies as much with Koontzs editors as with the author as they should have the guts to tell him that he has gone too far. I can imagine that its a hard job to tell a multi-million selling author that his work has got out of hand.
Before I write off Koontzs entire back collection I have to say that things are not all that bad. Like his hair, Koontz does come miraculously back from beyond the grave (have you seen the photos of him in the 80s and now? Where did his full hair come from?). I have read books that have been written by him after this one and have to say that they are amongst his best work. In particular Odd Thomas is worth a read. It seems that during the late 90s and early 2000s Koontz did go through a period of over writing but maybe he is past this now. So in essence, Im trying to say that although this book is awful and only useful as a rather chunky doorstop, dont let it put you off reading some of his shorter and better novels.
Author: Dean Koontz
Price: amazon uk - £6.39
play.com - £5.99
A superb story of redemption, terror and wonder from the international bestselling author of Intensity and Watchers.