by Dean Koontz
What will make a man despise all that is around him? What has happened in his life that he would rejoice in the drowning of a world, that he sees precious little of good in his fellow adults? What has happened that his love is now reserved only for children, animals, nature? I found myself wondering this as I read Koontz’s apocalyptic invasion of earth-cum-spiritual odyssey The Taking. I also couldn’t help but think of the protagonist of The Mosquito Coast and of Mel Gibson. The Koontz I read when much younger was a libertarian no doubt, and he filled his fast-paced narratives with typically feisty heroines, stalwart heroes, inherently evil villains – yet they all lived in a world that was not visibly a portrait of Sodom & Gomorrah before its fall. Clearly Koontz’s world view has changed – narrowed? Soured? Slowly transformed into something much darker? What happened to Koontz?
After reading his bio on-line, I couldn’t see anything that would have changed a man so utterly and am left only with the vague notion that too much time in the hands of a very rich man is often not a widening experience. Perhaps it is one where the man becomes so entrenched in his basic belief system that everything around him becomes a symbol – or symptom – of all that he loves and all that he despises. Idle hands are the Devil’s tools perhaps. Although Koontz is far from idle, he is practically a novel-writing machine. Still I can’t help but wonder what his thoughts would be if he were engaged in a more ordinary life, burdened by 9-5 work and by responsibilities and by simple things like saving money and making sure there's enough to pay bills and make mortgage payments; if he didn't have the isolation that a life of extreme wealth can bring - a life in which the everyday company of peers and the general flow of surrounding people have become diminished or even absent... then perhaps he wouldn’t have the time or even the inclination to brood so malevolently on the world and how sick to death it makes him. How the world should be remade, to his liking. It may be that the destiny of the rich and too-well-known is to eventually sink into a pit of their own making. There are no real world responsibilities to act as signposts in viewing how the world operates - at least from a realistic, complicated, ground-level point of view.
His targets remain the same, although here they have acquired a more sinister sheen. He still hates Hollywood, the “liberal” prison system, the “myth” of global warming, the mainstream media (odd, coming from one of the foremost supermarket paperback novelists living today), and he still enjoys defiling his own personal bugaboo – the liberal professor. In this novel, the liberal professor is actually an alien puppet of infinite malice. Literally. But now Koontz's targets are more than targets, they are the logical reason why the earth should suffer its second Deluge. At one point the protagonist realizes that they are in a time of Sodom & Gomorrah because murder is so easily allowed. Strange. It is the point of view of a person who only reads the paper and watches the news in order to see more and more evidence of the barbarity of humanity. Perhaps he doesn’t live in a world that is filled with people who also hate murder (now who do you know who is actually pro-murder?)... folks who make it obvious that not everyone is sick with greed and callousness. A world where a drink does not automatically equal debauchery. Or one where a liberal professor is not a figure of control and despair, but just a liberal professor. A world that includes sickening evil but is not simply sick and evil. You know - a genuinely complicated world, the real world.
This skewed perspective became stifling. Fortunately there were plenty of his trademark Dogs Are Special People type scenes to distract me. I love dogs. See, Koontz, we have something in common after all! Do you really want to destroy me?
The novel itself is interesting. Koontz has replaced his no-frills style with one that yearns for poetry and meaning. It is successful perhaps half the time and the other half is eye-rolling and even head-scratching. But The Taking does have its many moments of interest, of eerie horror and phantasmagoric tableau. There was a sequence relaying the final, terror-filled dialogue of a space station under unfathomable attack that was pretty riveting. And the spirituality is rather absorbing to contemplate and, certainly, it is passionately expressed! In a funny way, the story itself is the reverse of a Scooby Doo or Doctor Who plot: in the end, silly reader, it’s not the so-called rational science fiction answer, it is indeed the devil’s work! And the devil wants you and all your ilk because, well, nearly all humans suck and pretty much deserve to be swept from this earth. Time to start fresh, on The Mosquito Coast, in Mel Gibson-land.
oh, one more thing: a demonic storm with rain that feels and smells like sperm. wow! EVIL is literally seeding the earth! sperm is EVIL!