[Book Review] Dean Koontz’s ‘Innocence’ Is A Fall From Grace

Innocence Cover

Dean Koontz’s newest novel, Innocence (December 10; Bantam), is virtually guaranteed to be a runaway holiday bestseller. With a primo release date and the tried and true name of Dean Koontz stamped on the cover, grandmas everywhere will be salivating to slide this gift-wrapped treasure into the soft hands of their bookworm grandsons. After 30+ years of repeated bestsellers, Koontz is no longer an author, he’s a brand. He represents something you buy because you’ve always bought it, like a particular type of canned chili––he’s not particularly good, but you stick to what you know. And when it comes to Christmastime, a new Dean Koontz hardcover is like a strangely familiar glitter, winking at you from a Barnes and Noble easel rack.

At its core, Innocence is nothing more than a stifling, sluggish retread of Beauty and the Beast. Addison is a 26-year-old recluse who favors face-rags and hidden bomb shelters––the mere sight of his freakish visage results in rabid attempts on his life. Gwynyth is an 18-year-old Goth girl pursued by the man who killed her father, a rare book thief with rape-y tendencies, perhaps one of the most ridiculous villains ever put to paper. The two outcasts join forces in a revenge tale that’s as poorly paced as a health clinic pamphlet, padded out with unnecessarily detailed flashbacks, and capped with an overtly-religious last-minute twist that is certain to leave more than a few readers in an eye-rolling stupor.

Speaking of flashbacks, Innocence is a novel so flashback-driven, nothing ever really happens to the characters––or more accurately, stuff has already happened as the novel begins, and a bunch of boring flashbacks fill in the gaps. Rather than depict a character’s journey in real time, Koontz would prefer to divulge their destination, and then bore the reader with details of how they got there. As a first-person narrative voice, it’s certainly ill-conceived, and if the flashback padding is intentional, it’s downright egregious, an author taking advantage of his doting fan base. This isn’t the Dean R. Koontz behind heartfelt page-turners like Watchers, Lightning, or Strangers. This is latter-day Dean Koontz, a master of treading narrative water.

I have a secret Dean Koontz theory that I’ve been harboring for years. I don’t share it with many people, but what the hell, we‘re all friends here. I hypothize that Koontz actually stopped writing novels back in the 1990s and the rights to his name were purchased by a nameless multinational corporation for millions of dollars. There were two stipulations: Koontz must go into hiding forever, and the middle initial R. could never be used again. This anonymous but undeniably evil Corporation then employed a sweatshop of heavily bearded, hyper-articulate college professors to take little sliver ideas of stories and, through the power of minutia and repetition, transform them into 300-page, triple-spaced Koontz hardbacks that do huge sales over the holidays, particularly amongst baby boomers. I’m telling you, it’s all part of a complex corporate plot. I know in my heart the real Koontz is shackled in some sort of sub-basement, heavily sedated and fed through a tube, occasionally roused to sign various legal documents, even as his good name is being tarnished by a vast corporate conspiracy involving greedy imposters. I’m just saying, when the story finally breaks and the real Koontz emerges in chains, all bearded and squinty-eyed, ready to start writing quality shit again, just remember that you read it first at Bloody-disgusting.com.

 
  • LukeOz

    I’ve been feeling the same about Koontz for years. His once “must reads” have now become tired retreads of what he used to be. In fact, i’ve got his last 4 books I’ve yet to even read as I’ve become so bored with the “template” – the most glorious wonderful pretty creative good natured heros dealing with the badie who thinks he’s riding the world of trash. I’ve moved on in the last few years to really enjoy Jeremy Robinson aka Jeremy Bishop with his quirky genre bending books. I do live in hope that Koontz will write another classic one day. Odd Thomas is great the first few times, but it does get very tired after a few books…