Monday 25 January 2010

Relentless, Dean Koontz

For several years've had Dean Koontz on my to-read list, an author whose book blurbs have been appealing and intriguing, but until this weekend I had never got around to reading one. This time, I got past the back blurb and flicked open the book. The first three lines made this author and specifically this book shoot right to the top of the pile:

This is a thing I've learned: Even with a gun to my head, I am capable of being convulsed with laughter. I am not sure what this extreme capacity for mirth says about me. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Immediately I wanted to know more. I already liked this guy and wanted to know more about him, and how he came to be doubled up with laughter with a gun held to his head.

I wasn't quite sure what category Dean Koontz's novels came under. At work we file them under "Horror," but according to the back blurbs I've always understood them to be thrillers, though of course you can't know until you read one.

I was very impressed with Koontz's authorial voice. Relentless is written from the point of view of Cubby Greenwich, a happily-married family man who writes books and who cannot be trusted with the most basic of appliances. He has bonkers in-laws who call themselves Clothilda and Grimbald and seem to like living in an apocalypse bunker more than in their own home. His wife, Penny, is refreshingly normal, but his six-year-old son is a scientific genius.

The story begins when Cubby receives a vicious review for his latest novel, from a man who is well-known for writing vicious reviews. He's not so well-known for hunting down, torturing and murdering the subjects of his reviews, along with their families. From there on, the novel turns into your fairly standard staying-ahead-of-the-psycho-serial-killer story, but written with constant humour that keeps the story fresh. Being a serial-killer novel, there are gruesome, claustrophobic and desperately tragic scenes, and of course Cubby Greenwich is hiding a secret from his past. But there is more than just constant suspense which can become oppressive if not relieved.

Relentless is not at all what you would call a realistic thriller, what with an organisation dedicated to destroying people who don't write the sort of books they approve of, and a couple of unexplained science-fiction elements that don't quite seem to fit in (teleporting dogs, anyone?) But it was great fun to read, genre boundary-breaking, a mixture of intelligence and incredulity. I shall certainly be reading Koontz again.


  1. I went through a phase of reading a lot of Dean Koontz; I recommend Ticktock as the one that got my pulse racing the most. Terrifying, macabre stuff. Maybe I should pick some up again!


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