Become a Fan
I was put in charge of a book review column in 'The Sun' newspaper sometime last year, and this review was the first in the series. (Before I come under fire, I apologise to Koontz fans who liked this book. Man, is journalistic integrity severely overrated.)
Title: From the Corner of His Eye
Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam Books
Dean Koontz’s latest novel is full of miracles, omens, ghosts, illusion, parallel worlds and a twisted protagonist hell-bent on eradicating an enemy he knows nothing about. Hot on the heels of his number one bestseller False Memory, Koontz dishes out a tale of wonder spanning some 700-odd pages long –
– And seemingly interminable at times.
The story begins grippingly enough: 23-year-old Junior Cain brings his beloved wife up to a viewing tower and, in a move completely unprecedented, shoves her off just to watch her die. This starts off a series of events which leads to Junior believing that somebody named Bartholomew is a great threat to him, and without any idea of who this Bartholomew is, where he resides or why he is dangerous, Junior embarks on a twisted and savage journey to seek out his enemy and destroy him.
Along the way, Junior is tormented by Thomas Vanadium, a former priest turned rogue-hunting policeman who seems to know every single detail of Junior’s life, all the way down to his being guilty for murder and his plans to seek out the mysterious and elusive Bartholomew. Armed with the uncanny ability of making coins appear out of nowhere and disappear just as inexplicably, Vanadium stalks Junior as the latter searches for his quarry, eliminating those who stand in his way.
And who exactly is Bartholomew? He is, as we are told from the very first page of the book, a child born during a time of trial and tribulation. An automobile accident which occurs even before he has left the womb rids him of the opportunity to meet his father, and he only enters the world after his mother has had a brief encounter with the afterlife. But as he grows up, it is clear that Bartholomew is no ordinary child – he is, in fact, a prodigy, blessed – or cursed – with a mentality that supercedes that of an adult.
Elsewhere, teenager Seraphim White, the victim of a brutal rape, passes away after giving birth to the child of the perpetrator. Her sister Celestina relinquishes responsibility of the baby. By doing so, she inadvertently involves herself with Junior Cain and Bartholomew Lampion, who, at the age of three, is stricken with a cancer that results in him being blind. At the age of thirteen, he regains his sight, thanks to the intricate intertwining of the three plots, which eventually come together to culminate in a climax – which lasts for all of two pages and fails to be viscerally exciting.
The problem is that the story runs out of steam somewhere after the first 300 pages. Koontz employs a method of writing that is more artistic than descriptive, causing this reviewer to quickly get tired of the adjectival style. Also, despite an exciting and promising opening, Koontz’s methodical technique of ending a chapter every time it reaches a crucial point tends to make for some laborious and longwinded reading. Granted, it creates tension at certain instances, but I began to lose patience after too many strategic cutoffs in the middle of suspenseful moments.
Another setback to this novel is the rushed feeling towards the ending – inappropriate after the slow pace of the buildup; almost as if Koontz had realised he had a deadline to meet, and had been forced to quicken the pace by letting the plot skip through time and allow it to reach a climax which is less than titillating.
A fourth grievance is the premise of the book in general. I won’t give anything away, but the overall feeling I got was cynicism and a lack of impression. A hint: the phrase ‘quantum mechanics’ crops up frequently – and even the sound of it is a turnoff..
Despite all these, the book does have its moments. Bartholomew’s uncles Jacob and Edom are darkly comic, adding a touch of macabre humour to the tale, while Junior Cain is as psychotic as any of Koontz’s previous monsters. The story does have a happy ending – albeit a somewhat fairy-tale one – and the lengthy journey through the novel is occasionally thrilling and entertaining.
Nevertheless, despite being a fan of Koontz’s previous works, I find this novel a let-down, lacking in succinctness and overdosing on the histrionics. One has to wonder why Koontz felt it was important to put as much detail as possible into the novel to the point that readers such as myself might be repelled. Diehard Koontz followers might find this an enjoyable, if slower, read, but if you’re trying to convince a non-fan that Koontz is the master of the genre, this is one book which should be given a miss.