Watching that author fall further and further down your list of favorites while you stand helplessly by is no picnic, either. Once upon a time, Dean Koontz was one of my very favorite authors.
When I was in high school I somehow came to hold the fervent belief that one couldn’t be a fan of both King and Koontz, so I checked out a book by each from the library to help me choose a side. The King book was Cell, which was pretty terrible. I never made it past the first thirty pages. But the Koontz book was The Taking, which I’ve since read nearly half a dozen times and still consider a favorite. It was intricate and disturbing and beautifully written, and it had quotes from my favorite poet (T.S. Eliot) sprinkled throughout. I fell in love with the book, and with Koontz’s writing style. My decision had been made, and I was definitely not a King fan. Koontz was the author for me.
Fast forward to this time last year. I decided to give King another chance, and I’ve somehow fallen in love with his sparse style and chunky novels. If you follow my reviews, you know that I read and loved IT and The Stand. Before I started reviewing, I read and really enjoyed 11/22/63, The Gunslinger, and Revival, the last of which had one of the most terrifying endings I’ve ever read. Since then, I’ve read one new book by Koontz that I liked (Ashley Bell), and I’ve tried and failed to reread some books by him I used to love. After reading The Silent Corner, I’ve come to think that my teenage belief that one couldn’t love both authors might have some truth to it, at least for me. Because this book left me disappointed.
The sad thing is, I can tell it’s a good book. The plot is compelling, the main character interesting, the supporting characters sympathetic, the bad guys completely evil, and the overarching premise laden with dread. These are all hallmarks of the Koontz I loved. But the beautiful writing that enchanted me in my youth, the prose I could mull over for hours, now seems forced and ill-fitting to a plot without the supernatural elements present in most of Koontz’s books. The dialogue was stilted. And while the characters were interesting, they never felt quite real. I couldn’t make myself connect with any aspect of this book, despite my best efforts. I just didn’t care. The only reason I managed to finish reading it at all was because he’s been one of my favorite authors for so long.
All of that being said, I think this might be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” As I said, all of the components necessary to make a book good are here. Even the writing, which felt so off to me, is still objectively superior to the styles of many popular authors. It just didn’t work for me. But if you’re looking for a tightly woven conspiracy thriller, with a kickass heroine and healthy doses of suspense and espionage and firefights, give this one a try. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it much more than I did. And who knows, maybe someday I'll manage to love both King and Koontz at the same time.