Ashley Bell - Dean Koontz
Source: Barnes & Noble
Original Review: February 4, 2016
There is something about Koontz's writing that never fails to drag me in. Granted, this is only the second book of his I have read, but his writing is so distinct that you could never mistake his for any one else's.
I was terrified to pick up another book after reading Innocence, afraid that I would be disappointed. That Innocence was a fluke of Koontz's writing that struck me so deeply. Early on, I was happy to say I was wrong. That a writer like Koontz is lucky to come around once a generation - if that!
So, imagine my surprise when - every third paragraph or so - our lead's mother starts spouting surfer lingo. Which is then promptly identified as surfer lingo, and a definition of what she said given.
Um... am I really reading the same Dean Koontz that wrote Innocence? The master of "show, not tell"? His ability to walk the subtle line between too much and not enough seems horribly compromised. I am used to seeing things that don't make sense early on in a book, but when these nonsensical things are completely disparate from the situation they are put in, they go from "confusing" to "pointless."
At only page 60 out of a 500+ page book, I was sorely tempted to return it and add it to my small (but growing) DNF list. Even that aside, I have never returned a book so early on before and, in fact, I have only ever returned a book to the store once before in my life. At that point, however, my desire to know the outcome was enough to keep me going.
Now, perhaps I read this too soon after finishing American Sniper. But reading a book in which the heroine's love interest is a Texas-born former cowboy Navy SEAL overseas on a blackout mission to take out a terrorist, while the heroine sits at home dealing with cancer with no one but her parents at her side... uh-huh.
The dialogue discourages me even more. Issues with the mom's dialogue aside, Koontz does a fair job of capturing how a person in various situations might actually speak. Hell, beyond the dialogue, he does a good job capturing how they might act as well. There just isn't enough of it!
"I need you to help me understand... You think the golden retriever cured you?"
"No. Maybe. Hell, I don't know. The dog had something to do with what's happened. It must have. Listen, I'm not saying it's a miracle dog. What would that mean, anyway, 'miracle dog'? Sounds ridiculous. But the dog and the man who brought him - they must know something. Don't you think so? I think so. Well, the man might know something. The dog wouldn't necessarily know. Who knows what dogs know? And even if the dog knew something it wouldn't be able to tell us what it knew, because dogs can't talk. So, we need to talk to the man." (p.88)
Perfect dialogue for someone inexplicably cured from a supposedly incurable disease. Absolutely brilliant.
So where's that brilliance in the rest of this incoherent mish mash?
And oh, my fucking god. She's in a coma. She's been in a coma this whole time, ever since all of the crazy shit started. We've been reading nothing more than a god-damned coma dream.
Even if it's not that... has Koontz started to rely only on his name to get people to keep reading? Using something so cliche... even if it's not really that - I'm having a hard time convincing myself to keep reading. In fact, I'm only still reading because I have nothing else to do except watch re-runs of Numb3rs, and listen to my eight year old ramble about her upcoming vacation. Both of which sound 100% more preferable to finishing this book.
But I'm more stubborn - and apparently more masochistic - than that. So, I press on.
Koontz still displays an impressive level of skill in portraying human behavior. However, his almost lyrical method of writing I became accustomed to previously is conspicuously absent from Ashley Bell. In fact, the style and method varied greatly throughout the book - almost as if Koontz wasn't the only one writing, and the voices just didn't blend.
I wish I could say the ending made the last week of reading worth it. It didn't. If anything, it just made my disappointment all the more absolute. There is no taking those hours back, and no redemption to be found for this book.