F.R.'s Reviews > The Face

The Face by Dean Koontz
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Mar 14, 2011

liked it

At last, I get to read a Dean Koontz novel which doesn’t prominently feature a golden retriever.

One would have thought that a writer as prolific as Koontz – at least two novels a year – might suffer from the odd shortage of ideas. But if anything, the main problem with ‘The Face’ (which is a horribly bland title) is that it just has too many ideas. It is of course always wrong to criticise ambition in fiction, but Koontz doesn’t quite manage to make all these strands work together and so the whole thing is a bit of a mess.

Plot-wise we have an ex-cop whose broken heart has led him into private security work, when trying to solve an odd little mystery he experiences a terrifying visitation; there’s the son of the world’s biggest film star, whose loneliness at home is being eased by calls that don’t seem to originate in this reality; an anarchist/killer who is plotting an audacious act of kidnapping in the most ruthless fashion (I liked this character, but Kevin Spacey in ‘Seven’ is written large through his DNA); roaming LA is another cop, who has also experienced a vision from beyond; and there’s an ex-con, who died that morning but is now walking about in a nice suit. On top of all this there are various visits to the lowlifes of LA, and a scathing portrait of the narcissism of some top models and actors.

The problem is that this book starts out as a crime thriller (the opening chapter, where the ex-cop receives an apple which has been cut in half and then sewn back together – a plastic eye placed at the middle – is a brilliant start with a brilliant image), but then the more supernatural elements are gradually pressed onto it and the two don’t really gel. I’d have liked it to have been a straight story about the attempt to kidnap Hollywood royalty (even if that would have been slightly derivative); or, I’d have liked it to be the tale of an actual guardian angel (although that would be more comic-book) – as attempting them simultaneously just creates a book as sprawling, long and sometimes silly as this one.

However, I can’t say I actively disliked it. I read it across a couple of plane journeys, and for that kind of setting it’s absolutely fine. As long as you can disconnect your higher mind and not think about the implausibilities too much, then ‘The Face’ does build up the tension nicely and ensures that you cling on tight to see how it all plays out. Not brilliant, but perfectly passable.
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