But then something happened after I graduated. I discovered the Internet, and shortly thereafter, I discovered fan fiction. Novels started to feel old fashioned to me. Fan fiction was interactive, it was democratic. I started writing, and it felt good to have an outlet for my thoughts and ideas. And it felt really good to hear positive reviews from my peers on what I had written. There were so many interesting ideas floating around, seemingly endless, and no matter how bizarre a concept you could find a story. Sure, a lot of it was crap, but some of it was fantastic. And it was rewarding, sifting through all of the noise to find the gems.
But eventually the novelty wore off, and sifting through all the garbage was no longer fun. But the real defining moment came when I got a new job where I couldn’t get on the Internet at work anymore. I had to find something to fill in the lulls again, so I turned back to my old friend, books. I was reminded how much more rewarding an experience it can be to read a story by an experienced, talented author who knows how to weave a narrative as opposed to just someone who has an interesting idea and may or may not know how to turn that into a readable story. I rediscovered Star Trek novels (more on that in future reviews, hopefully) and I’ve become just a little obsessed with Dean Koontz.
Some have called Koontz a poor man’s Steven King, but I think that’s an unfair assessment. The two may write in the same genre on occasion, and be neighbors on the bookshelf thanks to the alphabet, but Koontz has his own unique style that I think sets him apart. His protagonists tend to be quirky and quick-witted, his dialogue pithy and almost Joss Whedon-like at times. His villains are dramatic, theatrical even. Confident and powerful, yet often times childlike. His settings often have as much character as the people he fills them with. He seems to have a gift for describing vast, abandoned spaces. And of course, his love for dogs has been expressed again and again with many a canine character, always portrayed as noble and heroic figures in his books.
Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein started its life as a television series for the USA network, with Koontz and Martin Scorsese signed on as executive producers. Koontz left the project after creative differences with USA, and the network ended up producing the pilot as a movie instead (available now on DVD). Koontz then developed his original idea for the series into this trilogy of novels.
The first book opens with our protagonists, New Orleans homicide detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison, on the trail of a serial killer called The Surgeon, who removes body parts from his victims. Carson is a dedicated, hard-nosed female cop with an autistic brother in her care. Michael, in a lot of ways, reminds me of Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He provides comic relief at times, but he’s a good cop and he’s dedicated to Carson. When during the autopsy of the latest victim of The Surgeon they discover that the man had two hearts, among other oddities, they find themselves on the strangest case of their lives.
Meanwhile, across the world in Tibet, living in a monastery, we’re introduced to Frankenstein’s monster, who now calls himself Deucalion. He’s been alive for over 200 years, traveling the world, trying to come to terms with what he is. Centuries prior, he killed his maker’s wife, and became horribly scarred when Victor tried to kill him in retaliation. Deucalion thought he was alone, but a letter from an old friend reveals that his maker is somehow alive and well, and living in New Orleans. The monks tattoo his face to cover his scars, and he travels to the Big Easy to seek out his former master.
Victor Frankenstein, or Victor Helios as he now calls himself, is a villain unlike any other the world has ever known. Megalomaniacal, completely self-absorbed, obsessed with his own brilliance and his twisted view of the world, Victor has made himself nigh immortal and seeks to replace humanity with his own New Race of man made monsters. No longer cobbled together from corpses, the New Race are created from scratch in a lab and programmed with total obedience to Victor. On the outside, they look completely human. But on the inside, each one of them is a ticking time bomb.
Another element of Koontz’s style is that he likes to spend as much time in the head of his villains as he does his heroes. This is especially true in the Frankenstein books, as we spend more time with Victor then probably any other character. We’re treated to every aspect of his cruelty and depravity, especially with regards to Erika, the new wife that he creates for himself. Perhaps this is why his eventual meeting of Deucalion in the second book seems so short and anticlimactic. The two meet face to face only twice in the entire trilogy.
Deucalion and the detectives meet in the first book and become allies against Victor, just as his New Race is starting to collapse. Some are driven insane by their programming, others experience complete physical breakdowns. Victor of course is too egomaniacal to see any fault within himself, as each step of the way he shows total denial in the fact that his empire is crumbling around him.
In the third book there’s the requisite appearance of a dog, as we build up to the final climax of the story. With three entire books of build up, maybe it can’t help but feel a little anticlimactic at the end, but it just seems to me like things were wrapped up a little too quickly at the end. Another trait of Koontz’s books is incredibly short dénouements, and this one has to be the shortest one yet. Still, Koontz manages to throw in a reference to his Odd Thomas series, which made me smile.
All in all, I think this trilogy is a great continuation of the classic horror story, with interesting characters and classic Koontz tropes along the way. But you don’t have to take my word for it!