My second novel read for 2012 – 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

This very well be one the hardest book reviews I’ve ever tried to write.  If you follow this blog you’ve read me waxing poetic about Dean Koontz.  He is one of my favorite contemporary authors, like top 3 ok probably top; I can’t deny it.  From a statistical standpoint,  the guy has written over a hundred novels (not to mention short stories) in around forty years.  Folks that’s an average of two novels a year for forty years!! Woody Allen has an average of a film a year since 1969 { 3 years had no movie; 1970, ’74, & ’81}!  I mean these two guys are the definition of prolific.  And just like Allen not every book Koontz has penned is a winner, but very few have sucked.

His story is also something that endears me to him.  As a teacher and novelist having difficulties making ends meet; his wife gave him an ultimatum “five years, I’ll support you, you write.  If at the end of five years we’re not better off than we are now – you go back to teaching” (not a direct quote!).  Well after five years he became a best-selling novelist!  That’s love baby!  Further more, from his own life and love of it his characters are staples in his bibliography – strong and intelligent kids that he writes with such love that you may very well end up associating more with them then the characters your own age and gender, strong women that don’t “need’ a man to save them, and dogs (golden retrievers).  His heroes are virtuous and are always on the side of the angels despite a flaw or two that makes them all the more heroic.  His villains are despicable, vile poisonous demons in human skin that give you the willies; and they are so wonderfully fleshed out.  Koontz does an incredible amount of research for his books, from psychological  and medical disorders and conditions to scientific advances to historical points, these all lend a credibility to the characters and their plights.

So in a long line of wishy-washy; almost too feel – good, life is sunshine if you believe it to be, sub par books [see from 2001’s One Door Away from Heaven on with exceptions being the phenomenal Life Expectancy from 2004)  he comes out with what is my opinion one of best finest written books in a long time, but left me with such a contemptuous feeling that I don’t know where my relationship with Dean stands!  Yes I’m going there!

77 Shadow Street takes us into the what seems to be haunted halls and rooms of a luxury hotel that has seen it’s share of horrors over the years.  Murder and suicide, apparent suicides and disappearances and that doesn’t even cover the present day inhabitants.  We are introduced to a cornucopia of characters whose introductions and histories  are deftly handled by Koontz mastery of storytelling.  We have ex-soldiers, attorneys, scientists, philanthropists, morning talk show hosts, little old aunties, cats, murderous psychopaths, a singer-songwriter and her precocious son (whose my fav), a writer whose family was killed by lightning and … of course Koontz new personae de jour her autistic daughter.

These characters are caught up in a hotel that transports them back and forth in time!  Neat and pretty cool, right?  Right.  It’s a story worthy of Koontz.  However, here is the thing it seems that of late, Koontz it using awesome setups and story plots to convey a (possibly) new-found ideology; “science is evil”.  Now he has always had a somewhat negative view of how science can become dangerous {see Demon Seed} but it never seemed so pronounced to me before.

Mickey Dime, a wonderfully written character that is so malevolent you just love him; has some mommy issues.  What does Mrs. Dime has to do with all this stuff going on?  She writes about post-humanism.  And what does post-humanism have to do with all this?  Well science has created some really dastardly science stuff (that it is wont to do sometimes) that should help humanity; but in the future its goal is to kill it!  Post-humanism is the philosophical look at how science is trying to enhance human life, be it longevity or intelligence or anything that may help overcome any thing deemed inefficient.  So what can go wrong?  Everything can and apparently does.  This is all okay because this is a common theme in many stories; hell we wouldn’t have Terminator II is we didn’t have that theme (such a great sci-fi flick).  Yet, there are too many times where science is looked at as the enemy period.  That is where this book becomes a major problem for me.

“There’s nothing wrong with the science.  It’s only how the science was applied.  You’ve got to make that distinction.  The world doesn’t have to turn out this way just because of the science” (pg. 350).  This is the point made that I agree with.  How can you not?  Well ….

Spoiler Alert —————-

The guy that say’s this, is shot!- Are you kidding me!!  Koontz has created the ultimate evil.  A possibly innocent man, granted a man possibly at the root cause of the bad future, but possibly innocent man is shot because of what might happen.  And Koontz the guy who writes all the morally just stuff in characters wrote this????

End of spoilers ————————–

I couldn’t write this review without spoilers, it just couldn’t be done.  But I will reiterate something from above sans spoilers.  Koontz, in this book has created the ultimate evil character and has justified it as moral.  I find that alone reprehensible.  this is the first time I was disgusted by a “good” guy in one of Koontz’s novels. Science is not the evil, it the evil that men do with it.  You might as well blame the typewriter because Mein Kampf was written on one, or the Gutenberg press because (if Hitler didn’t write his book on a typewriter) it most certainly was mass-produced due to Gutenberg.

I understand that authors and artists alike use their art as a platform to profess and spread what is important to them, it is just a shame when your favorite artist begins to stand on a soapbox made of disillusionment.  [just wait for my Orson Scott Card reviews 😦 ]