Sunday, December 09, 2012

Books I Simply Couldn't Finish: 77 Shadow Street

I decided to lift my personal ban on Dean Koontz novels when this list told me his 77 Shadow Street is a quality read. Every neuron in my brain started screaming as I slid the book off a shelf at Coles. I'm not sure exactly what they were trying to say, because neurons can't talk, but it was probably something like

Struggling not to twitch, I paid for the book and took it home, handling it much like one should deal with plutonium. I was really fighting my body on this one. My sick, deluded brain was reassuring me, "It will be better this time! This is totally not Phantoms! Koontz just gets better and better with age! He's practically Peter Straub these days!" But my physical instinct was still to carry this thing to the nearest high bridge (in a tightly sealed container, of course) and lob it into the river with my all my strength.
This conflict made for an interesting reading experience. I may have looked calm as I sat in my chair, reading the first nine chapters, but on the inside my internal organs were threatening to mutiny.

So, what's wrong with 77 Shadow Street? Well, what's wrong with every other Dean Koontz novel? Let's review:

1. There's absolutely nothing new here. A dreamhouse built on cursed ground? The Shining, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist. Mysterious deaths among the construction crew that built it? Rose Red. The house drives people crazy? The Shining and Amityville again. Not one original thought exists in the pages of this book.
2. Characters? What characters? Koontz's characters are the flattest, least memorable people in the realm of pop fiction. To call them stock characters would be an insult to stock characters. We have an elderly man who pieces together the grim history of the mansion (*cough*Mary Sue*cough*). We have a divorced country songwriter who is - not even joking here - a coalminer's daughter. Then there's a somewhat traumatized Iraq vet, an investment banker, and...oh, who cares? By the third or fourth chapter, I wanted them all to get eaten by the elevator, like the drunk ex-politician was in the first chapter. Just die already.
3. Not scary. Good horror fiction is about subtlety. The masters start out slow and build up to a sustained eeriness that explodes into terror. Koontz starts out with explosions, so the rest of the book is just some fizzing and spluttering. It's like watching an action movie backwards.

To make matters worse, Koontz's publisher decided to get all gimmicky with this book, and they created a ridiculous "immersive experience" that is basically just a hidden-objects game. In other words, Koontz is so certain you won't feel his story that he has to show you pictures of it.

Nine chapters in, my body finally defeated my brain. I couldn't handle the nausea, the twitching, or the continuous yawning for one more minute, and I stopped reading. I haven't pitched the book into a body of water yet, but I will be marching it down to the used bookstore at the earliest opportunity. In a sealed container, of course.


Eugene said...

It always seemed to me that Dean Koontz stories all have more or less the same template - attractive (yet very damaged somehow) female protagonist and strong, handsome (but also damaged) male protagonist fight and defeat a stock horror trope. Along the way they will have amazing sex and every meal they eat will be described in great detail. The end.

As a teen I devoured all the horror novels in the library. When you read Koontz side by side with someone like King, the lack of originality really shows

S.M. Elliott said...

I think he even skipped the amazing sex with this one. Straight to the tropes.

Vest said...

Agonizing for you but not for new dumb generation starters. do people still read these days. More people are talking and fewer are listening.
How are your mum and Dad these days. and bunnykins.

Vest said...

Authorities in the land of the Free and the Gun and new Huns, yes I mean Stupid uncle Sam land,, land of the new generation Germans; must be a bit whacko not to figure out that about April 19 the 20TH anniversary of the slaughter by American armed forces of the Cult Davidians at Waco in Texas,; would present a good opportunity to exact retaliation on Texan Authorities for the death and destruction of Waco and its 85men women and children, yes 25 children.

Maybe time has erased this disgusting episode in the minds of the Americans who were involved in that only Pol Pot , Autswich or Changi could match

The siege of Waco was linked to the Oklahoma City bombing which claimed 168 lives. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols admitted their equally disgusting act was timed for the second anniversary of the Waco bombing. Over the past two days we have two more bombings, coincidence or what? or were other organisations using this date for their own misguided reasons.

You can bet your boots some crazy bastards will use this time frame to keep our Yankee friends on edge for some time to come. but I hope I am wrong.

So the status quo remains, with few if any changes to the Gun Laws in horse opera land the home of the AK47 toting Cowboys, despite going in with all guns firing, Pres Obama failed to target the problem with the second amendment.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Back on Monday Vest, Going to my No 4 sons wedding Sat 20.(about time too and probably a few grog inspired family verbal fireworks, doesn't that always happen?