When talking to authors I know, I hear frequently of that moment when several seemingly unrelated ideas come together. They become a “perfect storm” of sorts, and often lead to an amazing novel.
Unfortunately, BREATHLESS by Dean Koontz (Amazon), doesn’t meld separate ideas into a perfect storm. The result is more like… a perfect train wreck.
Let me state, for the record, that I actually enjoy some the stories that Koontz writes. I can appreciate the transition he made into straight-forward thrillers that he has published recently (VELOCITY, THE GOOD GUY, THE HUSBAND). Personally, I enjoyed ODD THOMAS. Are they the best novels? No. Do they serve a purpose in my reading schedule? Definitely. Every now-and-again I need light reading. Dean Koontz usually can usually fill that role.
But BREATHLESS? Man. It was just bad.
Surely you can hear the built-in marketing campaign that comes with the title of the novel? The new Dean Koontz novel will leave you… BREATHLESS! How I wish that were true. Bored? Check. Bewildered (in the bad way)? Check. Disappointed? Double-check. Breathless? Not even close…unless you count the aftermath of my screaming in frustration at having to finish this book.
BREATHLESS starts out fine…good even. We are introduced to a few characters that are decent, and that are put in interesting situations. The main inciting event deals with Grady Adams, an ex-military type, and his dog, Merlin (it’s a Dean Koontz novel, of course the PoV has a dog), as they discover a pair of unexplainable animals in the field by their (Adams’ and his dog’s) home. I don’t want to go into it too much, because the mystery behind these animals is the driving force of the story–well, what little of it there is. We also are introduced to Camillia Rivers, a local veterinarian with a dark past (are there any other kind in a Koontz novel?), who also gets involved with these two mystery animals. For the mandatory Dean Koontz creepy character, we get Henry. His opening chapters were great. All of this stays entertaining for approximately 100 pages.
And then we meander. Endlessly.
The pasts of the characters, rather than actually adding to the story, are just there as filler. They don’t actually influence anything. Being paper-thin would be an improvement over what we get here. As we move along, we are introduced to more characters that serve no purpose in the story, and whose resolutions are solved with Deus Ex Machina. On character in particular, Tom Bigger, reminded me instantly of the characters I hated in Stephen King’s THE STAND. You know, the ones that wander endlessly. Doing nothing.
Kind of like the last two-thirds of this novel I am reviewing.
The realization I came to upon finishing the novel, is that this was just a conglomerate of unrelated novellas and short stories that are forced together through contrived, thin plot threads. Leftovers (and not in the good, Thanksgiving way). Henry’s story meets with that of Grady and Camilla for a whole paragraph. Tom’s never meets that of the main characters (his resolution is the Deus Ex). It was infuriating, to say the least.
The writing? It was your typical Dean Koontz. If you like his writing style, then you will like the writing style of BREATHLESS. The book itself will probably only be enjoyed by the most die-hard Koontz fans, and even then it’s no sure-thing.
BREATHLESS just isn’t good. The idea is marginally interesting. The characters are worse than paper-thin. The cohesion between plot-threads is absurd where it even exists at all. The ending is anti-climatic and rushed. This should have been a novel to grab new readers, but instead it will push them away.
The good news? I only paid $8 for the hardback due to the ridiculous Amazon vs. Walmart price war (huzzah!). And no, it still wasn’t worth it (booooooo!). Also, this isn’t typical of Dean Koontz. BREATHLESS is an aberration. I fully expect a new novel shortly that will get him back on-track. At least I hope this will be the case. I need my simple novels after reading guys like the awesome Erikson.
That said, don’t read BREATHLESS. It just isn’t worth it. Be grateful I read it for you.
Content: I’ve simplified it for you this time. There’s nothing here that would offend a reader… well, except for the book itself.