Seriously one of the worst books i have ever had the misfortune to pick up. i really do not understand why Rice is such a success. she can write - in...moreSeriously one of the worst books i have ever had the misfortune to pick up. i really do not understand why Rice is such a success. she can write - in the sense of transferring words onto the page - but in the sense of being able to create a story, build characters or even set a decent scene, she fails miserably.
By all accounts, she just gets worse after this!(less)
**spoiler alert** Molly Sloan, a successful writer with a dark event in her childhood, and her husband wake to a strange rain in the home in a small C...more**spoiler alert** Molly Sloan, a successful writer with a dark event in her childhood, and her husband wake to a strange rain in the home in a small Californian mountain town, the precursor of what appears to be a strange alien invasion. The invaders themselves remain unseen, seeming instead to attack with fungal spores contained in the rain and psychological warfare – for example, the survivors gathered in a tavern are assailed with images of their grisly deaths in the mirror behind the bar.
The Sloans, led by a strangely intelligent German Shepard, begin to scour the town looking for children to rescue, and it becomes steadily apparent that the children are being spared whatever weird fate is befalling the adults.
I'll be honest upfront; I didn't like this book, but I'll to be fair in my review and give Koontz his due. The events are certainly horrific, and often made my skin crawl so, I guess I ought to say that it succeeds as a horror novel. But, but, but...
I disliked the writing. Koontz jumps straight into the action, which is often a good idea, but he attempts to keep a level of terror and weirdness that is simply not sustainable for 400 pages, even if it is well written. He has an annoying tendency to leap for the thesaurus to express description (“it was slimy, glutinous, muculent”) which just sounds like he can't decide which word to use.
The characters and narration constantly reference science fiction movies, only to dismiss the images 'fed' to us as misleading; “forget that, it's how they want us to think.” Likewise any problem with the lack of internal logic is banished by quoting “some science fiction author”: “any sufficently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic”. I'm sure it could be argued that the speaker themselves didn't know who said this, but not referencing Arthur C. Clarke suggests a disrespect for the genre Koontz appears to be writing in – although it soon becomes apparent that this is not an SF novel in any way. Molly constantly realises what is going in in what are not so much deductions as revelations, and the plot is frequently advanced by instances of deus ex machina (I use both terms advisedly).
The characters are two dimensional at best, even the lead players, and offer no room for development; Molly is strong, intelligent, focused, organised – her husband Neil is strong, calm, thoughtful, manly. By the end I realised that this was largely because neither the characters or any other aspect of the book has room for moral ambiguity – not just right and wrong but Good and Evil. And this leads to one of the biggest problems I had with this book, but also the reason I'm cautious about outright condemning it, because my dislike is based partly on a conflict of beliefs.
From very early on I realised that the author was coming from a morally absolute standpoint, and that this was his standpoint as much as the protagonists' (largely because the character and authorial voices are interchangable) and this turns the novel into a tract. The end was not a disappointment, largely because it was in no way a surprise and because I didn't care about the actors. Molly realises, in he last of a series of revelations, the reason why the invasion ended as suddenly as it began, why some people were taken and some where not (why also those seen lifted bodily away reacted with joy while others that seemed to sink through the floor reacted with terror) and why the children were exempt from this 'sifting'. Have you guessed yet? It is all because it is the rapture, disguised in a way that would be believed in a godless age. Forget the question of why belief would be necessary as it was actually happening, or that the theory that this was an alien invasion was simply one they came up with in the bar.
Dean Koontz obviously has imagination of a gruesome sort but, if The Taking is anything to go by, lacks any literary instincts or, more importantly, compassion. I'm tempted to read something else of his to see if his style works better on a smaller, less apocalyptic stage (as I occasionally thought it might while reading this book), but feel that that, as on eating a strange fruit and finding it unpleasant, don't really want to be left with the same bad taste in my mouth. (less)
I guess this book can be seen as a companion piece to The Body - published in Different Seasons and filmed as 'Stand by Me'. Both are about a childhoo...moreI guess this book can be seen as a companion piece to The Body - published in Different Seasons and filmed as 'Stand by Me'. Both are about a childhood summer, and a group of friends going through an experience that both bonds them together and, as it marks the point when they begin to leave childhood behind, forever separates them. The two stories share the same themes: the loss of childhood and the gaining of something else, the strength of friendship and promises, how children live in an entirely different world to adults, full of horror and wonder - and, of course, the setting of a small New England town and the dark secrets that lie beneath its surface.
There is a great deal of discussion about whether King is a 'great' author, but I do think that this is a great book. The horror here isn't just to give us the thrill of fear - although it certainly does that - but serves a purpose. IT, the evil that lives under the town of Derry, Maine, is pure evil. It feeds on children and kills wantonly. It encourages violence and even enters people's minds to make them its puppets - but with Stephen King, as with all great horror, these are never simply the evil acts of the devil made me do it, we see how evil is bred by weakness and intolerance, by selfishness and fear rather than being imposed by an external force, but that there are always powers that are ready both encourage and use the small evils in people's hearts.
And while King does not give us an ending of entirely unspoiled happiness, it is perhaps all the sweeter and more hopeful because it is not wholly without darkness.(less)
This book is a bit of a mess, frankly. Characters are introduced and then disappear without explanation, sometimes to turn up again chapters later. Th...moreThis book is a bit of a mess, frankly. Characters are introduced and then disappear without explanation, sometimes to turn up again chapters later. The narration is a mix of first, second and third person, and the tenses are all over the place, which I suppose is due to the fact that it is the product of innumerable authors and sources, and repeated translation.
The cast of characters is huge but, frankly, none of them are likable. The main character in the first half - the Old Testament - is quite seriously the most unpleasant character I've ever come across. This God character is venal, spiteful, petty, self-aggrandising, controlling, dishonest, murderous and constantly demanding. He sets impossible tasks for people and then punishes them for failure; he encourages (even orders!) the genocide of whole peoples that are doing nothing so much as living peacefully on a patch of land that he had promised generations earlier to a different bunch of people; he personally arranges the destruction of whole cities for violating rules that he has set down, even though they are nothing to do with him, the death of children for calling one of his followers names, the execution of an old man for collecting firewood on the wrong day - the list goes on and on.
The second part starts more promisingly. The main character here is God's son, Jesus (although there does seem to be an issue of parentage; Jesus is described as belonging to the bloodline of King David through his 'foster father' Joseph) who, when we rejoin him as an adult, is preaching some pretty nifty ideas about peace and brotherly love - curiously rather consonant with some Buddhist teachings that probably arrived in the Middle East in the first century BCE, but that's another story. Jesus has obviously inherited a few of his dad's less pleasant aspects; he has a temper on him, and can be seriously controlling - he tells his followers that they have to give up (indeed "hate") their families to follow him, in the manner that has been beloved of modern cult leaders, and he reinforces the earlier injunctions ("commandments"), although i was never clear on which set of sometimes contradictory orders he meant. But maybe that's just me.
Then, after Jesus is killed by the Romans for being a trouble maker, it gets seriously weird again. It's interesting that the four witnesses to the execution that write about it give massively contradictory accounts, both of the execution and Jesus life (kind of a Rashomon difference of perception thing going on there, I guess), then it rapidly gets weird and nasty again. Paul, the guy who takes over Jesus' work, is frankly a nutter. I think he's one of these "operating psychopaths" that you sometimes find in senior management positions, with a healthy dose of misogyny and self loathing thrown in. The drugs he must be taking probably don't help. I mean, you can see how bipolar he is in some of his letters to the Corinthians, but then by Revelations he's completely lost it. The apocalyptic rantings here fail as horror, mostly because they just don't make any sense. A decent horror writer knows that terror works when it connects with the reader, touches something in their psyche, but this just seems like random, drug-fuelled imagery.
Perhaps I'm being a little unfair. This book should probably be approached as a massive collection of (sometimes loosely) connected stories. Some of them are obviously meant to be parables - although sometimes you have to wonder just what lesson the reader is meant to take away - and probably not take it too seriously. And the saving grace, in this edition at least, is that some of the language is simply wonderful, he imagery occasionally breathtaking. It's interesting to compare to The Epic of Gilgamesh or the Mahabharata, books from different cultures on similar themes, although I think both of those are told better.(less)