Johnny's Reviews > Phantoms

Phantoms by Dean Koontz
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Nov 19, 10

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** spoiler alert ** "Phantoms" is a very terrifying story. The town of Snowfield falls victim to an evil force. Almost everyone has disappeared and the ones that remain are not only dead, but have been horribly mutilated. It’s the kind of monster story that speaks to the imagination. What if it was real? Humans are fascinated by death and when a new and quite original “way to go” is introduced, it’s not only chilling but it also instils a sick curiosity of sorts. To me, that’s the appeal of this novel.

The main characters are the Paige sisters who discover the town in its current state, the local sheriff as the male hero, and in a slightly smaller role but not any less important, a scholar who unravels the truth. There are many extra characters, each very interesting, but the attention mostly remains on the mystery and the action. Koontz is often labelled as a horror author, but for this book that’s actually true for a change – even though he really wanted it to be science-fiction story, which is still apparent in the use of the plot device Biosan-4, the only thing that made me realize this story wasn’t taking place in our real world.

Koontz never really picks a definitive point of view to tell this story. The two leading roles are Jenny Paige and the sheriff, but many other characters get their own scenes. This switching is nice to get a bigger picture, but usually there’s too little time spent with each character to really feel an attachment with them. It’s almost the same feeling as with a slasher movie, where the camera follows each character for a while until they’re ultimately killed off one by one.

As a scary horror novel, “Phantoms” surely delivers. Atmosphere feels a bit like “Night Chills” and “Midnight”; rather dark, filled with terror, a small group of common good people pitted against a seemingly invincible evil. All characters have their own background and motivation, but experienced readers might miss that extra inch of depth.

One other thing about this book: there are many elements which return in Stephen King’s “It”. For starters, everyone in “Phantoms” calls the evil force “it”. Lisa Paige explains the missing people by suggesting that “maybe it spun a web somewhere, down in a dark place, in a cellar or a cave, and maybe it tied all the missing people into its web, sealed them up in cocoons, alive. Maybe it’s just saving them until it gets hungry again.” Scholar Timothy Flyte talks about the disappearance of Roanoke Island colony and that the nearby natives believed in “an evil spirit, a source of all evil … He Who Can Be Anything Yet Is Nothing”, the same way Pennywise the clown can take on any form he wants. One of the dead people found in “Phantoms” even wrote a partial message on his bathroom wall, only in iodine instead of blood, and voices are coming out of drainpipes.

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