Koontz shoots for a seriocomic horror novel and takes a dive.
Following the failure of The Taking (2004), which began so brilliantly, then faded into Dullsville with an alien invasion, Koontz strives for high entertainment with a ton of witty dialogue, which fans may find passable but others will deem tiresome. The problem is that the story opens with murders in a maternity ward and a crazed clown raving about the excremental existence of the world-famed Vivacemente aerialists. From this emerges a forecast that Jimmy Tock, a lummox born at the same moment his grandfather dies in the same blood-strewn hospital, will have to face five ghastly days in his future. When the first ghastly day arrives, the adult Jimmy is in his small-town library. Punchinello Beezo, the same hospital maniac who appeared at his birth, shoots a librarian and holds Jimmy and Lorrie Lynn Hicks hostage while Beezo and two grisly buddies plant explosives in secret tunnels linking the library to the courthouse and two other buildings. At this point Koontz starts whipping out the witty exchanges between Jimmy and Lorrie as they seemingly face death. It’s a dire authorial misstep: the second act of a Grand Guignol bloodfest is no place for Nick-and-Nora–style repartee from The Thin Man. True, a genius could get away with it, and Koontz has genius—but not for humor. Doubtless he amused himself, but his lines are forced blooms. Since logic dictates that Jimmy must survive at least the first four ghastly days (three of which turn out to be humdrum melodrama), the suspense is minimal despite all the guns and dread. The climax turns on incest, but we’ll say no more. Readers will need all the suspense possible to keep them wading through the comedy lines.
Koontz is a topflight suspense writer, but this error only the fans will love.