After last year’s Odd Thomas, well-shaped but less than gripping, the amazing Koontz hits some brilliantly stylish pages, but just some, those among his best since 1995’s Intensity.
A winner, yes, many will think, especially after its superb opening that will keep many deeply riveted for the distance. But as one bloody horror piles onto another, others might ask: Do I really want to read this? At which point finishing the last half becomes a slog through strongly chiseled details, all the more disheartening because so well done. Molly and Neil live high up on California’s San Bernardino Mountains near the town of Black Lake. She’s 28, has published four well-received novels that went nowhere. Her mother wrote even better novels but died of cancer at 30. Neil is a lapsed priest turned first-rate cabinetmaker. One night a thunderous Niagara of rain hits their roof, rain so heavy that it drives coyotes onto their porch. This is a supernatural rain, luminous, scented with varied fragrances, including semen. On TV they see dozens of gigantic waterspouts forming on every ocean, global cities collapsing. Strange black figures dart about the landscape. Power fails. Radio is poor, darkness visible. Molly feels something colossal flying above the rain clouds, and it doesn’t take long for them to accept that ETs are wiping out humankind. They go to Black Lake to join neighbors in fighting off the ETs, but they’re overwhelming—and ghastly in their killing. For once, Koontz needn’t introduce a serial killer or child murderer into his narrative—but does anyway, in Molly’s father. In any case, the second half groans with messy killings as Molly and Neil save children. Molly’s face-to-face with the first ET is delayed until the last few pages. By then, all interest has faded.
One prays that this genius will write the great novel he has in him, something like A Death in the Family or The Violent Bear It Away.