Newest Review: ... reader interested and giving the book a greater depth than you might expect from something which lazily labelled as "horror". ... more
Twilight... and not a vampire in sight
Twilight Eyes - Dean Koontz
Member Name: SWSt
Twilight Eyes - Dean Koontz
Advantages: Well written, fast paced book that will appeal beyond horror fans
Disadvantages: Overreliance on unlikely coincidences or events
At one time, I read lots of Dean Koontz titles in fairly quick succession. After a while, though, I got a little fed up with them as they started to become very similar. Whilst he's no longer an author I read religiously, I still pick up one of his books from time to time and find them enjoyable reads which carefully blend suspense with a kind of low-level horror.
What attracted me to Twilight Eyes initially was that it offered something a little different. Set in a circus, it follows the dangerous quest of Carl "Slim" Mackenzie, a young man cursed with a terrible gift. He has telepathic powers which allow him to know when a terrible event is going to occur. He is also able to see that such events are deliberately caused by people who appear to be human, but are some sort of hideous, other race that hates humanity.
At first glance, it might not appear that this plot is particularly complicated or even that original (the idea of some alien race masquerading as humans whilst plotting their downfall is straight out of 50s sci-fi such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Just sticking to this basic idea might have made Twilight Eyes feel slightly derivative, but Koontz recognises this and introduces additional elements to embellish the basic concept. New ideas and plot developments are added on a regular basis to keep the reader interested and giving the book a greater depth than you might expect from something which lazily labelled as "horror".
This is not a horror book in the usual sense. Whilst there might be monsters and acts of violence, it is a tense thriller; a traditional tale of good vs. evil; a story of a lone hero battling against the odds. It incorporates a lot of different elements and ideas from across the story-telling spectrum. In many ways it reminded me of Stephen King's "It" in the way that it slowly builds an sense of eerie tension that keeps the reader wound tightly, wondering what will happen next.
This strong plot is complemented by some genuinely impressive writing. Despite the somewhat fantastical occurrences, Koontz roots his adventure firmly in the real world, creating a highly believable version of America, populated with plausible characters. The main characters are also well realised. Despite the intense danger they are in for much of the book, you find yourself wanting to join them in their deadly crusade. By turn, they are funny, dangerous, generous, deadly and immensely likeable.
Koontz even finds time to muse on other, deeper issues connected with the plot and to ask questions of the reader - without slowing the pace of the main narrative down. There are several musings on religion, the nature of humanity and other deep subjects. Nor are these idle musings introduced to show how "clever" the author is; rather they are a key part of the book, helping you to gain a deeper understanding of all the characters - good and bad.
It's true that the plot sometimes relies too much on unlikely coincidences or unlikely conversations to solve a problem or get out of a tight situation. It's probably also fair to say that some of the plot exposition and back-story to the book's monsters is rather fantastical. Yet once again, it demonstrates both the quality of the writing and the depth of imagination that you are at least able to swallow these more fantastical elements without them spoiling the book.
More importantly, whilst the characters might not always act as you might expect, they do act in a way which is internally consistent. Having got to know the characters, you understand the rules or outlook on life which governs their actions and, whilst they might not do what you would, they don't do anything which is at odds with their established character.
This combination of a strong, slightly different plot and quirky, fund characters makes Twilight Eyes a real page-turner and you can't wait to get to the end to find out how it all ends or which of the characters survive.
It even manages to avoid one of my most common complaints about horror books: that they often go on for a little bit too long. They reach a sensible stopping point... and then keep going (this is particularly an issue with Stephen King's works). That's not the case here. Even though the book is over 500 pages long, I was gripped almost from the off and stayed that way until the final page had been turned.
I say "almost from the off" because briefly, I struggled to get into this book. Having read the first 40 pages or so, I got a little impatient- not because nothing was happening (one of the strengths of the book is that it pitches straight into the action), but because it just didn't "speak" to me initially. Perhaps I was just tired when I first started reading it, or perhaps I thought it was just going to be another generic "body snatchers" style thriller. Whatever the reason, though, the feeling didn't last long: once I got into it, though, I couldn't put it down and motored through the remaining 500 pages.
If you're fed up of traditional horror featuring scary monsters and unlikely, gruesome deaths, then Twilight Eyes can serve you up with something different. It has enough to satisfy horror fans, but it' got a much wider appeal, the tense atmosphere and well-crafted writing making it a stand-out horror-thriller that can be enjoyed by anyone.
Headline, new edition, 1990
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: Comfortably familiar, but sufficiently different