As a stand-alone Pendergast book, this one was very good. But after some of the larger scale, slow-burn builds that the Diogenes and Helen trilogies pAs a stand-alone Pendergast book, this one was very good. But after some of the larger scale, slow-burn builds that the Diogenes and Helen trilogies provided, this one almost felt like an obligatory, 'hey, we're still writing Pendergast books' entry from Preston and Child. Don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative of all Pendergast books, but it was almost too short to have the same pay-off as the longer story-lines.
I DID like the tie-ins with Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. That was an extra degree of fun, plus it contained a fictional "never-been-published" Holmes manuscript. ...more
**spoiler alert** I really liked Phantoms. I wanted to love it, but by the last quarter of the book, the story weakened (to me) considerably.
It began**spoiler alert** I really liked Phantoms. I wanted to love it, but by the last quarter of the book, the story weakened (to me) considerably.
It began with wonderful Lovecraftian atmosphere, with an entire town wiped out by an unseen entity. The characters feel as if someone or 'something' is watching them. A heavy sense of dread is weighing on the reader, which keeps the pages turning. The story builds well, bringing in several likeable characters (one being a very Koontz-ian ex-Marine). I would almost pick up the book again just to experience the mystery and creep factor of the first several chapters alone.
As I'm sure you can tell, the first half was nearly perfect to my taste in a horror story.
But the latter half turned to a typical B-grade sci-fi thriller. After the unseen entity, eventually named 'The Ancient Enemy' finally shows itself things begin to slide downhill a bit. Though The Ancient Enemy was not entirely disappointing (even while being very obviously inspired by Joseph Payne Brennan's 'Slime' and John Carpenter's 'The Thing'), it was a painfully obvious metaphor that Koontz used to bash readers over the head with. Yes, humans are evil - we're the reason why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. Another detriment - to me - was the weak side-stories that included a punk biker and an insane prisoner who had murdered his family. Yes, all the loose ends were tied up in a neat little bow at the end (which was a little too tidy and a little too easy) - if not to just bash the reader of the head again with the "hey, somebody is up there watching over us" sort of speech.
With those complaints aside, I actually did really enjoy the story. All the bits about the mass disappearances tickled my fancy. I've always been interested in such phenomena - such as the Mary Celeste and the Roanoke Colony mysteries. Additionally, I enjoyed the characters Tal and Flyte. They were sort of the unsung heroes that gave the story enough 'umph' in the second half. Whenever Flyte began with his mass disappearance theories, I sat moon-eyed thinking 'tell me more'. Couldn't get enough.
I had to give it four stars; couldn't bring myself to give it any less (due to the amazing first half) or any more (due to the unraveling of the last half).
I'd still recommend it to anyone who enjoys horror, science fiction, and Koontz fans (or even non-Koontz fans since he didn't absolutely Koontz all his books up at this stage of his career)....more