Lisa (Harmonybites)'s Reviews > Intensity

Intensity by Dean Koontz
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Mar 22, 11

bookshelves: contemporary, horror, suspense, popular-fiction, fiction, novels
Recommended for: Those Looking for a Good Thriller
read count: 2

When I was younger, I devoured Koontz's novels, reading close to a dozen, although it has been over a decade since I had last read his books. I remember the plot and characters of very few of them. Two stand out to me. One is my favorite, Watchers, whose most memorable character is a golden retriever. The other is Intensity, with one of Koontz's most sinister villains in Edgler Vess and most courageous heroine in Chyna Shepherd.

What's so striking about this suspense novel (and boy does it deserve that name) is that this is structured as a duel between these two characters whose perspective we share, both at different times stalking the other. And they're interesting in their differences and similarities. Both feel they make their own fate, Chyna believes that you choose whether or not to be a victim. Vess's philosophy is reminiscent of Skinner; he believes humans are "motivated and formed solely of sensory stimuli." He craves intensity and cares little if it's pain or pleasure he experiences. Chyna, having escaped the chaotic and violent childhood her psychotic mother gave her, craves safety--her fervent prayer is to be "untouched and alive." But events in the novel push her beyond fighting for only personal survival.

Reading this made me think about why I can enjoy Koontz, and yet found I have no taste for noir. I think it's that for all the horrific elements in Koontz's novels, he's not cynical. He's not afraid to create heroes--sympathetic characters willing to take risks for others. Somehow Koontz misses impressing me the way, say, Stephen King does. There's something a bit formulaic about his plots and flat about his characterizations--he's very black and white--but the part of me that craves heroes in fiction is satisfied by his novels.

While this is no literary classic, Koontz is definitely a cut above the usual thriller writer. I never feel like reading him is an insult to my intelligence. His prose often has a lyrical quality and this is one of the rare novels where I needed to frequently consult a dictionary: tenebrous, pule, cornichons, lagniappe, carabiner. If you're looking for a gripping read, a tautly written intelligent thriller, this novel shouldn't disappoint.
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