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ASHLEY BELL by Dean Koontz


by Dean Koontz

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-345-54596-1
Publisher: Bantam

Koontz (The City, 2014, etc.) searches the shadow lands of Elsewhere, a mystical terrain where Bibi Blair confronts a rare brain cancer.

Bibi resides in Newport Beach, California, but her life’s love, SEAL team leader Paxton Thorpe, is half a world away. Bibi is an accomplished author, with one novel published, when an off-kilter morning sends her to the ER. Diagnosis: gliamatosis cerebi, fatal within months. Bibi responds, "We’ll see." That night, she has a seizure. Waking, she intuits that she’s spontaneously cured, but when she returns home she finds herself confronted by a mystic’s divination: Bibi must pay for her cure by saving the life of a mysterious Ashley Bell. Bibi, "finding it easier to accept unreason than to resist it," takes on the quest with the merest of clues, soon becoming the target of the "Wrong People" and discovering "such bitter and implacable rancor that mere hatred paled before it." Pax, on an overseas mission, begins receiving powerful telepathic messages from Bibi. She pleads for him to find her. The two narratives converge only to turn and circle back as Bibi begins "sliding down a chute, accelerating, into an abyss." Koontz crafts a story shifting between reality and imagination, highlighted by distinct descriptions—"eyes as dark and liquid as beads of motor oil." Bibi’s a believable protagonist surrounded by interesting bit players like her retired Marine grandfather, the Captain; Solange St. Croix, a paranoid and pretentious professor; and a Holocaust survivor who wrote novels about "valiant girls" that inspired Bibi. Koontz’s setting, with California coastal fog a metaphor for illness and for knowledge beyond understanding, makes real the often surrealistic narrative.

Albeit slightly drawn out as it rolls to its conclusion, Koontz’s novel cuts between the fantastical and the believable to dissect evil, explore the power of imagination, and probe the parameters of consciousness.