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"A few minutes past one o'clock in the morning, a hard rain fell without warning. No thunder preceded the deluge, no wind.
The abruptness and the ferocity of the downpour had the urgent quality of a perilous storm in a dream".
Thus begins Dean Koontz's riveting read, The Taking, as our main character, Molly Sloan, a self-doubting writer living with the lingering emotional issues of her past in the supportive companionship of her devoted husband, Niel, finds an already disturbed night's sleep interrupted by this violent and unheralded rainstorm.
Leaving her husband still sleeping, she finds something so unusual and intriguing about the intensity of the storm that she leaves the bed, with the intention of spending more time on her latest manuscript now that any chance of sleep has faded. However, her curiosity about the downpour is piqued further and soon any thought of writing is also abandoned, particularly when she comes across a strange sight on the porch of her house...
I've been a huge fan of Dean Koontz novels for years now and, although at times with many, many of them under my belt I can find his writing style to be formulaic, this book was the first of his that I ever read - and what a way to start!
So first, a little about the man and indeed his novel.
Dean Koontz is an American novelist who has a propensity for turning out massive amounts of books each year - seemingly you can never keep up and that's before you approach an epic back catalogue stretching right back to when he used to write under an assumed name, so popular has his later work made him that most if not all of these have been reprinted. Koontz is a man of massive imagination and is also blessed with a writing style that is at the same time both flowing and descriptive, easy to follow and yet challenging, indulging in beautiful use of words and description as well as underlying humour and observation of characters that make his sometimes astonishingly far-fetched storylines believable. His work is almost a genre of its own but to best pigeonhole it, if one has to, he could be described as anything from Sci-Fi to Horror via Fantasy.
As I alluded to above, I have since formed opinions about Koontz's body of work as a whole, but for this book I would like to address it as I found it, the first of his works that I encountered, not just out of fairness and to illustrate the impact that it had but also because I think this is one of his strongest works and therefore negates any criticism that I had on his later work.
The Taking was written in 2004, my paperback copy from Harper Collins published in 2005. My copy is one of the more modern reprints in a cover style that is still used by the publishers for his range today, this copy having his name in bold black and purple textured font, the title of the book below in scratchy purple block and the ominous illustrative design featuring the print of a hand on a heavily condensed purple surface like glass.
To return to the plot. Obviously I want to portray as fairly as I can the impact and reaction I've had to this book not just when I first read it but also now, having revisited it yet again. Having not read it in a couple of years, the impact is very much still there even as parts of the plot flooded back to me as I read.
Molly and Neil, both people carrying their own challenging experiences from life but lucky enough to have found each other and formed a strong marriage together, start to realise that there is indeed something strange about the sudden downpour over their town of Black Lake.
First there is the strange, luminescent quality to the water that pounds down over the mountain town, then the strange sensation Neil has of awakening from a nightmare, that of a huge, looming object falling down from the sky. The couple awake and seek understanding together, turning on their television to see the reports of strange phenomena the world over. No explanation presents itself, just gradually quickening chaos as news readers, experts and scientists still fail to provide any tangible reasons or solutions. Then, the situation starts to take on a far darker, threatening air as it becomes quickly very clear that the threats seemingly gathering to face humanity were not of any natural cause - at least, none natural to this planet.
Molly and Neil realise that not taking action is futile, so abandon their home and go out into this fast-changing world - in search of company, security, or to help others? In a world suddenly devoid of its usual sense and boundaries, it's hard to tell. But what they endure that night, they could never have imagined before, but they ultimately find that they have an important role as the night unfolds, one of protection and taking a bold stand against an enemy they couldn't have envisaged in the worst nightmares.
I hope that I haven't said too much in that attempt to entice and explain some of the premise of The Taking - I assure you there is plenty more to come from the book if you choose to read it!.
So to my opinion. Well you probably won't take any surprise from learning that I loved this book. Having had it for years now and read it several times, my opinion of it has evolved which is quite a strange feeling with a novel.
When I first read this I was blown away by the style of writing, the plot, and the premise of the remarkable ending. It was a read of massive impact - not just because of the positive aspects in my previous sentence but also because Dean Koontz has spared nothing here by way of graphic, intense, hugely imaginative but really very strong horror in some of the passages.
That in turn is what brings me to record my opinion of it now, having just re-read it while stuck at home unwell. Maybe I'm just going soft in my old age, or maybe now that I am already familiar with the plot that has removed some of my element of surprise; perhaps upon a first reading the graphic nature of some of the events and the unfolding chaos around the characters go hand in hand, as this is very much a book that can demand you read it in one sitting, unable to put it down and if you do finding it niggling at the back of your mind until you take it up again.
Possibly it's because I never yet to read anything from Koontz nearly as violent as this book can be - although without giving away the plot it is obvious that for it to be written at all would require an illustration that would inspire true terror in the characters. But I have to say that if you are not inclined towards horror and graphically violent science fiction, then this book has the potential to not just be something you might not enjoy but something that you may find disturbing.
In conclusion - of course this is purely subjective as what fascinates one person can leave another cold, no doubt more so in this genre than in many others - but for me this is a book that I imagine Koontz enthusiasts will love, and that will probably appeal to any Sci-Fi or horror fan. The style of writing is fabulous, the characterisation strong, and I think that the length of the book is just right. The ending is what completes the five-star impact of the book for me, explaining in more depth what had gone on before yet leaving an open future for those remaining in the book.
The Taking uncovers human failings and shows a whole spectrum of human capabilities and understanding, whilst also being a story which lingers with you long after you read it - and if your interest is in the thrill of the read, then you will not be disappointed by this.
The Taking is available on Amazon (second hand from as little as 1p) as well as for Kindle at £5.49 at time of writing in January 2012.
432 pages paperback
However, upon my latest read I have to say this;
Despite spending the last two decades reading g every horror and thriller that I could get my hands on and an awful lot of eclectic books beside Dean Koontz seems to have slipped though unnoticed. Sheer chance landed me with a copy of The taking in a giant box of books liberated from the last school fund raiser.
Apparently Mr Koontz is a rather prolific writer having amassed a whopping number of titles to date averaging three a year since 1968 although until 1996 these were published under ten different pen names which perhaps explains why I haven't come across Mr Koontz writing as Mr Koontz even though his style of writing did feel rather familiar.
As an introduction to the musings of Dean Koontz The Taking was a definite case of in at the deep end sleep deprivation. The book begins blandly enough with a quotation from T.S. Elliot on a stormy night which wakes Molly Slone the books key character. Unable to sleep Molly gets up quietly to do some work on her latest novel in the hopes that doing something will eventually tire her out. Living in the woods Molly is rather surprised to find coyotes sheltering on her porch, even more surprised to find that the world beyond her window glows with an ethereal brightness most unusual for the dark of night. I couldn't have predicted what was going to happen next nor how fast the action would flow or how addictive finding out what happened next and then after that. In a non stop rollercoaster of unexpected twists the plot plunges deep into the depths of the unthinkable with rational explanations aplenty for why this might be so. Although I consider myself quite open minded I'd never once considered the scenario set out in great detail here but once it was explained it was blatantly obvious and would make a great episode in The X-Files for Mulder and Scully. For this is science fiction like you've never imagined.
And then it went flat as a pancake. The action stopped just like that. The sun came out and it was just another day. Disappointed doesn't describe my feeling of the ending. One minute it was a gobsmackingly fabulous totally enthralling novel and the next it was over. Just like that.
10/10 for plot, 2/10 for the abysmal ending.
The Taking is a great piece of fiction by Dean Koontz, who is my favourite writer of suspenseful thrillers.
The story revolves around the main character, Molly Sloan and her husband Neil.
It starts when Molly awakens during the night and, as she is a writer she goes downstairs to work on her manuscript. Her attention turns to coyotes outside on the porch which have come out of the woods nearby.
Sensing that they are frightened she steps onto the porch and becomes uneasy because of the strange silvery rain which has an odd scented smell.
Her husband and her eventually flee to the nearby town with some of the other residents. There is a fog which makes everyone scared and they find out that the same conditions are happening all over the planet.
Then they lose all communication....Lots of things start happening like strange fungus starts growing and there are lots of strange noises and fleeting glimpses of things moving.
Molly, Neil and a dog named Virgil, who seems to know when the towns children are in danger, set out to save people in the town. The people decide that they are being invaded by aliens and you do believe their belief.
This novel is excellent and will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the end!
Following on from my recent review of Koontz's THE HUSBAND, I decided to look over reviews of some of his previous novels as I have a tendency to do from time to time. Stumbling across a review of THE TAKING, I remembered that I had read this but had forgotten exactly what it had been about...knowing that his books are, almost without fail, light and easy reads, I decided to pick it up again and refresh my memory....
I am so glad I did!! Though it doesn't bode well that it did not linger longer in my memory, this is by far one of his most ambitious yet also most enjoyable thrillers for quite awhile.
Molly wakes up in the middle of the night to a bizarre rainstorm that glows luminesence, smells faintly of semen and generally feels unclean. Against their normal nature, a group (what is the collective term, one wonders) of coyote shelter on her front porch seeking shelter from the rain even when Molly goes out and walks amongst them. Something strange is going down and it soon becomes evident this is no ordinary rain storm!!
Waking up her husband, Molly next puts on the television. Similar mysterious weather is occurring all across the globe. In Russia, children play in blue tinted snow but it is not long before scenes of innocent tranquility turn to images of panic and mayhem. Locking their doors, Molly and her husband Neil prepare to leave their house and find out what exactly is going on...if nothing else, maybe one or more of their neighbours may need assistance.
The rain disperses but in its place comes an eerie mist that seems to hide more than meets the eye. Molly and Neil come across survivors who have all flocked together despite their differing opinions as to what they should do next, but even here things are not all they appear on the surface. It quickly becomes apparent that someone or SOMETHING is taking control of events and even people and directing them towards some kind of higher purpose. Whether that actually proves to be intentionally maevolent or simply a side effect of bigger events remains to be seen....be prepared, this novel is very unlike anything Koontz has written before...and thats without mentioning the shocking twist at the novel's climax!!
Reminiscent in places of Stephen King's novella, THE MIST, or Richard Laymon's ONE RAINY NIGHT, this is an eerie, chilling novel that keeps you puzzled, perplexed and on the edge of your seat until it's shocking climax!! It is very hard to fathom out exactly which direction the story's going until it gets there but that is part of the charm!! At times 28 DAYS LATER, at times INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS but with echoes of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and John Carpenter's THE FOG, this is typical Koontz- short-but-to-the-point, light, easy reading, with plenty of shocks, thrills and spills to keep you shaking to the end!! Typically of Koontz, opinion on this book is divided but on the whole the general consensus is that it is one of his greatest works!! Certainly it is up there with some of my favourites- even if I had forgotten it until now!!!
Someone commented recently on another of my Koontz reviews that Koontz is both the author he likes best and at times the author he likes least!! I beg to differ; whilst some of his titles are better than others, none of his books have ever really struck me as being stinkers even if some of them have not fullfilled all of their potential. Typically Koontz for me has proven to be fairly consistent in his writing even if he refuses to be "pigeon-holed" in one spefic genre.
In fact, never knowing quite what you are going to get from a Koontz novel aside from a cracking good yarn is part of his charm!! What starts off innocently never seems to last that way for long and I always find I am guaranteed value for money 99 times out of 10 when I pick up one of his vast back catalogue of novels.
In short, if you're looking for an alternative novel that doesn't fail to chill,thrill and spill whilst still being an overall light and entertaining read, then pick this up even if you've never read Koontz before. My only complaint is that lead character Molly's husband, Neil, often feels unnnessecary and under-used and often gets ignored in the the wake of Molly's shadow but this is very unusual and a one off for Koontz who normally goes into too much detail with his characters. Apart from this small slight, this as good as you can normally expect from Koontz - the only thing missing is his trademark humour but then this is not really a humourous book...it's far too dark for that!!
Available from all good book shops, EBAY or swap site READITSWAPIT!!
I am a big fan of Dean Koontz as I find him easier to read than others of his genre such as Stephen King, and his stories always terrify me! The Taking was no exception.
As a quick overview I would say it is a cross between Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Signs with a twist.
This is the first book I have read in a while that has really got to me, I made the mistake of reading it before bed and needless to say, spent a few unsettled nights!
Moll & Neil Sloan are awoken in the middle of the night by an unusually heavy rainstorm. On further investigation they realise the intensity is not the only unusual thing about the rain. It appears to have a mysterious glow and a strange odour and makes them extremely uneasy.
They are not the only ones affected as they find a pack of wild Coyotes huddled on their front porch, totally against their normal wild instincts.
Unnerved by this they turn on the tv and find that strange weather phenomena are occurring all over the world.
A short time later, mild curiosity turns to fear as global communications begin to fail and the reports they do receive take on an increasingly sinister note, with reports of strange creatures being sighted and wide spread panic.
The couple decide to leave their isolated mountain home and head to the nearest town where they find their neighbours huddled together in a large terrified group.
The world around them is changing, with never seen before plants sprouting and horrific creatures coldly butchering whoever they find.
While the rest of their neighbours sit in fear, deciding where they can hole up, Molly and Neil realise that there will be many people still in their homes, including children and bravely set out, accompanied by an unusually intelligent dog to find them.
As they travel through the eery town they begin to realise the full horror of what is happening. Can anyone survive this apocalyptic event? What has happened to the animals and why is it that some people appear to be spared by the vicious creatures roaming around?
This story had me gripped. I had to find out what was happening (you don't find out the real story til the end) even though I was looking over my shoulder the whole time!
I have to say it starts off better than it ends, though I didnt expect the outcome. I suppose with a build up like that it is difficult to come up with a super climactic ending.
Even though the ending was slightly disappointing I felt, the story as a whole was intense and captivating and I would throughly recommend it!
Upon the town of Black Lake nestling in the mountains of Southern California an unseasonable rain starts to fall. Just above the town in the Sloan family residence Molly Sloan lies awake listening to the snores of her husband Neil. The sudden torrential rain arrives unheralded by any thunder or lightning pouring off the roof, cascading around the house making any further sleep impossible. At 2am Molly gets up intending to work on her latest book but the eerie luminescence of the downpour takes her to look outside where a score of coyotes are sheltering from the rain on the porch, something very unnatural is going on but what can it be?
This is the start of a nightmarish three days where Molly and Neil encounter a vision from hell. Within the course of one night the world is turned upside down with freak weather destroying civilisation on a global scale. One by one all connections with the world are systematically wiped out and the young couple are left with the inhabitants of the town trying to understand what is happening and how they can survive when it seems the earth itself is doomed. Various theories are put forth each seemingly more outlandish than the last one but a series of events lead both Molly and Neil to believe they are doomed to an inescapable fate.
The morning dawns with the cessation of the relentless deluge but in its place is a purple fog making visibility poor. In this alien landscape people disappear, strange growths blossom on every surface touched by the night's strange rain. But Molly will not give in to despair and along with Neil and some highly intelligent dogs they set forth on a mission to rescue the children of the town. Before the end their very sanity will be rocked to core of their beliefs but this couple have a love so deep that they will battle on when all hope seems lost.
What is the nature of this threat to mankind and can even love hope to survive amongst the peril they will face over the next few days? This you will have to find out for yourselves but beware thinking that this a normal tale of people surviving against all odds, the ending will leave you wondering as much as the story itself.
As usual with all Koontz's books he focuses on the main characters bringing a depth to them that encompasses their past as well as present. He teases you with clues and makes you believe in them so they leap from the pages as people you can like and empathise with. The other characters are pencil sketches but they play their own part in the book. Once again Koontz uses intelligent animals as he does in so many of his stories but this will not put off fans, it's one of his trademarks. Newcomers to Koontz's books will be delighted by the characters he makes out of animals, usually dogs, well we all know that our pets sometimes show uncanny human traits.
There are a few villains but attempting to describe them would spoil the story, once again he shows his mastery of the good and bad in most people.
I found the book a little lengthy in the opening chapters and was tempted to think it was one of his usual plotlines, he does tend to write a lot about issues that are becoming more real as scientists play around with genetic engineering and manipulating the environment, but as I read on I discovered that once again amongst the plot he was making me think about the frailties of mankind and how they would react under certain circumstances.
He sets the scene and then the action takes over, usually lasting over a few days until the tension is almost unbearable.
The action becomes frantic and is enough to satisfy the most jaded appetite and again he leaves an open ending that some people may find disappointing but for me this usually works well. When Koontz pulls out all the stops there isnt an author who can compare with him, he can pack a punch in one chapter that most other authors would take a whole book to equal.
Koontz is a prolific writer but recently his books have become have become a little stale, "The Taking" is a return to form of some of his earlier books and will be welcomed by old and new fans.
It's certainly a good read for stormy nights and winter days and you may find yourself looking over your shoulder now and again. It is violent in parts and a bit gruesome but well worth a read for horror fans. Strangely enough this has been classified as a science fiction story rather than a horror story, I'll leave you to work it out for yourself.
My copy is a hardback version retailing at the full price for £16.99, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon at £12.49 hardback, £3.99 for paperback. E-bay is selling it from £0.99 to £1.99 for used copies. Published in 2004 by Harper Collins it's one of his latest books.
Once again, thanks for reading.
An unseasonal downpour the like of which the world has never seen wakes Molly and Neil Sloan. Combined with this are an eerie luminescence and a scent that is both pleasant yet foreboding. The tangled news reports of tragedy across the globe coupled with the strange behaviour of the fauna around them leads them to believe the earth is under attack. Retreating to the nearest town of "Black Lake" their suspicions are further aroused by the emerging alien fungus around them and the increasingly disturbing events which unfold.
I began reading Dean Koontz's "The Taking" with little in the way of hope. All Koontz's works seem to receive high praise but of late I have been increasingly infuriated by his increase in style over substance writing. The old alien invasion plot does little to re-assure me this will be any better but I read on. Koontz has always been the master of imagery and suspense and at least half of the book is spent in the build-up to forthcoming events. His powers of description and use of imagery are second to none especially when describing the bizarre and the gruesome. His visions are always vivid and convincing, this novel is no exception.
Molly as the main protagonist is an interesting choice as we are given more backstory on her life and character we come to respect and admire this strong-willed writer. The cynic in me asks why authors have a tendency to cast writers in their leading roles. For me it shows an arrogance and lack of imagination. Fortunately, Molly is both likeable and has considerable depth. Unfortunately, another trademark of Koontz is a lack of detail when describing other characters. Molly's husband Neil is a major character yet we learn little of him other than his lapsed Jesuit faith. Lesser characters are given even fewer references and are purely used as plot devices in which to drive the story.
Luckily the plot is such that this tends to be only a minor consideration as the action midway through novel reaches breakneck speed as Molly and Neil are thrown from one tumultuous situation to the next. Koontz plays on the reader's fear of the unknown as he takes the reader from one horrific event to another. Molly's fear is our fear as Koontz's portrayal of an apocalypse-style alien invasions is so vivid yet possible that you cannot help but despair and hope while reading.
The plot twist is what makes any book such as this worth reading and on this front Koontz succeeds in one revelatory, stupendous moment. Our reliance on logic and science is both our strength and our weakness and Koontz hints at this throughout. I was worried the ending would peter out as approaching the novel's conclusion it would have been all too easy to use the "dream sequence ending". I need not have worried. What is truly great about this novel is you will not guess the twist, it is so well worked and subtle.
At 410 pages I thought this novel was going to drag but my initial impressions were refreshingly changed. Koontz has managed to take an old and tired format and re-invent it. I recommend this novel to all. It is a masterpiece of thrill and storytelling. Its imagery is convincing, it's premise mesmerising and it is truly original. When Koontz is on form there is no finer writer and to my delight, on this occasion he truly is out of this world.
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