Monday, October 29, 2007

Watchers (and peripherally The Good Guy)- Dean Koontz

Koontz wrote Watchers in 1987, and it's so similar to The Good Guy (2007) that you really need to read only one of these books. If you're a real "dog person" (like me), go for Watchers. I chose it for the RIP2 challenge and added Good Guy to my TBR just because I like Koontz. I had enjoyed The Taking, relishing the theme of good versus evil and Koontz' metaphysical bent. Watchers qualified for RIP because of its supernatural element, taking "supernatural" in its purest sense - being "above and beyond what is natural." It's this element that distinguishes Watchers from Good Guy. Travis Cornell finds a very special dog and at the same time becomes the prey of a genetically altered, highly intelligent killing machine. He meets and falls in love with a young woman - a loner burdened with a tragic past, and they spend most of the novel attempting to elude not only the beast that psychically pursues them, but also a human psychopath - a contract killer who savours his work and whose latest job is to find them and the dog.

Summing up plot similarities between the two books:
  1. Both male protagonists are former military with superior combat skills.
  2. Both men have avoided close relationships.
  3. Both female protagonists have also experienced trauma and have avoided society.
  4. They fall in love and are relentlessly pursued by a sadistic hit man.
  5. The hit men both think they are somehow superhuman. Invincible.
  6. Both books deal with the battle between good and evil.
  7. The fleeing pair is also pursued by law enforcement/government agency.

Now, about the dog. All of Koontz' dogs (that I've encountered) are wonderful. You'll find some in The Taking. They are the embodiment of good, loyal and often brighter than the humans. With Watchers, Koontz has created the most lovable and intelligent of puppies. Everyone should have an Einstein, the result of genetic experiments (I'm not giving anything away - you'll figure this out from the jacket cover). I must admit I kept reading mid-book (which dragged a bit), simply because of the dog. I did become frustrated with Travis and Nora who appeared really slow to realize the full extent of Einstein's brilliance. Their experiments became tedious and I found myself shouting, "For Pete's sake, he's trying to tell you he can spell!!!" - or some such.

The beast is truly terrifying - not just in its bloody focus and canny intelligence, but also because you know a similar being could possible be created in some secret lab. He's a monster that really could exist. And, in the end, you wonder who the real monsters are - the beast or his creators.

Good book - thought-provoking, slows down in middle, but has enough bangs to keep you going

Recommended - 3.5 stars

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

PLOT After reading two books set in possessed places and experiencing both the gravity of Ghostwalk (a bit of a pun here) and the suffocating terror of Lost Boy Lost Girl, I was ready for some humor with my horror. Hooray for Charlaine Harris who makes scary delightfully fun! Dead as a Doornail is the fifth book in Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie, a waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana, is pretty, self-reliant, telepathic, and lusted after by a pack, ummmmm, pride, or is is colony, of supernatural, handsome male beings. There's Bill, her vampire ex-boyfriend; Eric, the blond Viking vampire; Alcide Herveaux, the sleek werewolf; Sam, who can shift from friendly dog to stalking panther, and a zoo of other suitors. Danger and mystery enter the scene when a sniper begins shooting shapeshifters, seriously wounding Sookie's boss Sam. When her own brother, Jason, a newly made shapeshifter, falls under suspicion, Sookie knows she must find the real culprit. Enter Charles, the new vampire bartender with a murky past, and abusive, violent Mickey, vampire boyfriend of Sookie's childhood friend, Tara. Now, throw in a real fairy godmother and a struggle for werewolf leadership, and you have fun and chills right until the last page.
COMMENT I had read Grave Surprise from Harris' Harper Connelly series and thoroughly enjoyed it. Harper can find where people are buried; she can tell who is interred and how they died, leading her into the age-old mystery of "who done it." Harris is a master of snappy dialogue and her plots never bog down. With Sookie and Harper both, each book is a great ride until the end. Recommended for those of us who like a little levity peppered with jolts of supernatural (and human) danger.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lost Boy Lost Girl by Peter Straub

WINNER Bram Stoker Award
PLOT Late one night Mark Underhill discovers his mother sitting on the edge of the bathtub, staring forward with empty eyes, "an expression of dazed incomprehension" on her face. A week later she commits suicide. The week after that Mark disappears - just like three other boys from Millhaven.
Mark had never noticed the empty house across the alley, never really looked at it, but once he does, his obsession steadily grows as his mother becomes increasingly exhausted and distracted. It's Mark who discovers her body and becomes convinced that the house had something to do with her death. The house is one the book's main characters as it entangles Mark in its dark history. Writer Tim Underhill, the boy's uncle, returns to Millhaven to help in the search for his nephew. Uncovering a serial killer in the present, he also finds a bloody past and the story of a girl who drew Mark into her world.
COMMENT Lost Boy Lost Girl shifts between past and present and among points of view. Although initially confusing, this constant shifting blended horrors present and past while blurring the fine line between reality and apparition. I had a difficult time getting into the book, but eventually settled into its hypnotic cadence. I must say this is like no other book I've ever read, and by the end - the hopeful, surreal end - the house had grabbed me too.