Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein

I have a secret.  I like Dean Koontz’s books.  Or at least most of his older stuff.  His newer stuff is just a bit too weird (weird with no purpose weird, not weird in general.  I can handle weird in general) and a little too preachy (I can handle preachy, if done right, but bang-you-over-the-top-of-your-head preachy? Not so much).  But Dean Koontz is a guilty pleasure in which I occasionally imbibe. I like his questioning of the human condition, and how his stories are pretty clear good vs evil.  I like his everyman main characters

and his twisted sense of how evil can rear its ugly head.  I even enjoy his sometimes over-the-top poetic lyricism.  All of these things are things that make some people cringe, shake their heads, and steer clear of Dean Koontz, but I like this writing from him.  I even like his preaching when it’s not too loud and obnoxious. So I like Dean Koontz.  I can like what I want.

I’ve wanted to read Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series for a while, but back when I first became interested in it I was on a buy-everything-instead-of-checking-it-out-from-the-library kick, and I was broke.  So I passed over it, told myself I would read it someday, and bought the next book in the Odd Thomas series instead.

Odd Thomas is a good series in that it has self-contained stories with an overarching theme and characters that follow from one story to the next.  Frankenstein: Prodigal Son is…well, let’s say that when I came to the last page and realized the next ten pages were promotions for other books, I was angry.  Actually angry.  There was one bad-guy character that only travelled from one location to another (and the build-up of him making the decision to go from one location to the other) in an attempt to build up tension.  And that’s it.  That’s at least fifty wasted pages, because who knows if the tension will still be in place at the beginning of Book 2.  Plus, including Travelling Bad Guy, there are four separate bad guys in this book.  Four, all working mainly separate storylines with separate motives that interact in peripheral ways (Oh wait, if you look at it a certain way, there are actually five bad guys).  And only one of the bad guys’ stories is resolved—by Bad Guy 1 being murdered by Bad Guy 2.  It’s like Spider-Man 3 on steroids.  Too many stories, too little resolution. Me no likey stories that are structured as total and complete cliffhangers with not one iota of resolution. Cliffhangers are okay, but let me have a little bit of closure!

What about the rest of the story?  I enjoyed the two main detectives, Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison.  They had a good back-and-forth banter that I really enjoyed, and there’s obvious setup for a future romance that both of them want but neither of them will admit because they don’t want to be reassigned to different partners.  Dean Koontz is good at creating relatable characters with dialogue that mainly flows naturally.  For some reason, though, Koontz didn’t describe the physical characteristics of Carson.  I picture her as a redhead with a long ponytail and a spitfire personality, but that’s just me.

The main, overarching villain, the villain who is the reason all the other villains exist (except that one that died), Victor Helios, is wonderfully Koontzy.  The highbrow sophisticated intellectualite looking down on all the rest of humanity villain with an absolute lack of moral conscience is completely classic Koontz.  One thing about Koontz’s villains: there are no redeeming qualities about them.  They are most definitely Evil with a Capital-E.  You love to hate them, and you hate to love them.  I’d love to learn more about how Victor Helios, aka Frankenstein, managed to stay alive for the past two hundred years.  And, if I continue the series, I can’t wait to see Carson and Company take him down (unfortunately, I have the feeling that other villains will take away from any metaphorical game of chess between the two groups).

One thing I wished was in the book more: Frankenstein’s original monster, Deucalion.  What with all the villains and crime-fighting going on, Deucalion barely makes an appearance.  And as he is probably the most morally complex and three-dimensional character in the novel (at least as far as I can tell, from what little we can see of him), and as he has quantum physics superpowers (err, I think they’re related to quantum physics), that is a shame.  It’s like having a Dresden Files book with hardly any Harry Dresden. Again, if I continue the series, I hope there’s more Deucalion in the future.

All in all, I’m glad I checked this book out from the library instead of buying it.  I still may buy the series after finishing it, but this is one book that I would have been disappointed I’d paid money for if I had opened my wallet.  If you like classic Koontz, you’ll like it.  Just be prepared for too many cliffhangers and too little appearances by what at first glance looks like the main character.

Points for Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son: Koontz does have some compelling questions about humanity.  What makes a person human?  What are the moral implications of “programming” someone’s personality?  There’s science vs. God, agency vs. fate, whether artificially created beings have a soul.  These are all themes that make me interested in seeing where Koontz goes with the series.  I would love to see him continue with these moral themes.

Points against Frankenstein: Prodigal Son: Koontz, once again, has a child with autism in his book.  And, as always, they’re on the practically nonverbal end of the spectrum, and are completely personality-less aside from being a precious, pure person that Protector must protect.  I don’t know why Koontz has this fascination with people with autism (and I understand that this is an older book, and so his sciencey bits about autism don’t really pan out, but that can be forgiven).  I haven’t really researched his life, so maybe he knows someone who is autistic or whose child is autistic.  Maybe he just learned about autism somewhere and has decided, however naively, to be an advocate to spread awareness through his books.  I just wish he’d do a bit of research in between books if he insists on making these characters.

The first book I ever read of Koontz’s, By the Light of the Moon, had an adult with autism, but at least that character had more personality (at least from what I remember.  It’s been years since I read it).  Maybe Koontz doesn’t realize that children with autism have personalities too.  Maybe he doesn’t realize that autism is a spectrum.  Maybe he should spend some time with different kids with autism.  I have.  I taught two kids with autism directly and one kid indirectly.  All three of them had different social skills, different tics, different -abilities.  All three were unique.  They were all verbal.  One was delayed verbally, but he had the best sense of humor and loved to draw Wimpy Kid-style comics for his homework.  One didn’t talk until he was three, but his mom worked with him so much that by the time he entered my classroom you wouldn’t know he had autism.  He was the most popular boy in class and socialized with the best of them.  Another had Aspberger’s, but he also said he had whatever was on the tv commercials the night before and would try to get out of homework because of it.  He was my most frustrating student, since he wouldn’t listen to instructions, would always make excuses, complained loud enough for the whole class to hear, was always pumped full of sugar and simple carbs, and had a hard time focusing.  He most certainly was not a little angel.

If Koontz continues making books with angelic autistics (since he still insists on calling people with autism “autistics”), I may have to drop him as a simple pleasure.  Or at least research his books to see if there’s an “autistic” in it before reading it.  I’ll let it slide for Frankenstein, since it’s one of his older books, but new books Beware!

Big Freakin’ Edit: Upon doing a little extra research, it has come to my attention that Prodigal Son was co-authored by Kevin J. Anderson, who is a childhood favorite of mine. For reasons unknown, his name was removed from later editions of the book. For shame! (Unless Anderson no longer wants to be affiliated with it)

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What Immortal Hand

what immortal hand coverDo you ever read a book with the honest intent to write a review right afterwards, but life happens and then a couple of weeks pass and whoops, you haven’t written the blog yet?  Or is that just me?  Whoops.

As you may know, I am a fan of Johnny Worthen’s work.  I signed up for his email list last year at Salt Lake Comic Con, and this year, when he asked for readers and reviewers for his new book, What Immortal Hand, I immediately responded, “Yassss!” (If you’re tired of my reviews of Johnny’s books, get used to it.  I’ll probably end up reviewing all his books over time)

What Immortal Hand follows Michael Oswald, private investigator for an insurance company eager to prove disability fraud or other ways customers violated their plans and thus don’t have to pay out any insurance claims.  Michael doesn’t like working for the insurance company, but it pays his bills and allows him to travel endlessly. Continue reading “What Immortal Hand”

Memory Wars: Locked Within

locked within

Paul Anthony Shortt’s Locked Within, the first book in his Memory Wars trilogy, is an urban fantasy set in New York City.  While you may start reading it and go, “Oh no, vampires again?” (Like I did), if you keep reading past the character’s first introduction to the magical world teeming beneath New York’s skin then you will find a fascinating world of “reborns” versus immortals, the Conclave versus the Council of Chains.  Vampires do exist in this book, but I got the feeling they were more of henchmen to the big baddies instead of the big baddies themselves.

Locked Within follows Nathan Shepherd, an office clerk who likes to do some unofficial crime investigation on the side. When he receives paperwork he’s supposed to process for requests for more information on mysterious groups of deaths that occur every ten years, the investigative bug bites Nathan, and he goes out to investigate what he can about those past deaths. He finds himself in a deadly situation involving vampires, barely escapes with his life, and discovers a body of a woman who died with a look of pure horror on her face. Continue reading “Memory Wars: Locked Within”

Blog Tour: Lies and Letters

lies and letters blog tour

I don’t usually like romances.  They’re too formulaic–beautiful, feminine woman falls for gruff man with a bad history.  Man breaks the woman’s heart, but the man eventually overcomes his faults and the woman and the man live happily ever after.  Or the author writes the woman as an empty shell with very little personality so that the reader can place herself (the reader in romances is usually a woman, though not always), and then the romantic interest is so stunningly handsome that the reader falls madly in love with him at the same time as the heroine.

I was a little bit nervous to take part in the blog tour for Lies and Letters by Ashtyn Newbold.  I didn’t want to be disappointed by another poorly-written romance taking place in what I now know is called the regency era in England.  But as I read, I was drawn in from page one.  You see, this romance isn’t like any other I’ve read: the woman is a shallow, selfish jerk, and that is plain to see from the very first page.  On page one, I was drawn in by the crisp writing, and by page two I absolutely hated Charlotte. Continue reading “Blog Tour: Lies and Letters”

Planet of the Red Dust

planet dust

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” –Genesis 5:24

When James Adams crash-lands on a planet he believed to be uninhabitable, the last thing he expects is to find intelligent life, let alone human life.  At the opening of the book Planet of the Red Dust by N. Tolman Rudolph, James is burying his dead crewmembers from the exploratory spaceship the Wayfarer. He is surprised to find breathable atmosphere, and he sets about burying the dead.  As he performs what little funeral services he can, he looks up to see two people–an old man and a woman in her twenties–garbed in old-style clothes and speaking a strange language. Continue reading “Planet of the Red Dust”

Rereadable: The Book of Three

Book_of_ThreeI remember when I was little watching Disney’s The Black Cauldron.  During it, I fell in love with Gurgi (as a character–don’t judge me) and was terrified of the Horned King’s army.  Imagine my dismay when I finally read The Book of Three, quickly followed by The Black Cauldron and found that 1. Gurgi isn’t a cute little dog creature, and 2. The Horned King isn’t as creepy in the book as in the movie (although movie Horned King didn’t burn people alive in baskets as part of a pre-war macho exercise), and that movie Horned King was more a representation of Arawn.

With Disney picking up the rights to film the entire Chronicles of Prydain, I decided to buy the entire box set and start rereading them (and, honestly, I’m not sure why I never did finish the series.  I think The Castle of Llyr was checked out at my school’s library, and at the time I was too shy to put anything on hold…and then I moved on to the next Harry Potter book).  I must say, I am still in love with these books and am ashamed that I never did finish the series as a child/teen. Continue reading “Rereadable: The Book of Three”

Monster Boy by Ruth Fox

monster boy cover artGood evening, fellow readers!  Tonight, I’ve got a special treat for you.  It’s my first-ever review of a book I received free for the select purpose of writing a review.  You may be used to my old format of rambling my way through my impressions of the book.  This will continue, but I’ll also give a brief biography of the author at the bottom.  I’ll also give links to pages where you can purchase the book.  In that way, it’s slightly like an advertisement, but it’s the least I can do to show my appreciation for the free book.  And, as much as I like reading books, I love sharing the works of up-and-coming authors!  This will be the only time I give this so-called disclaimer.  From now on, I’ll assume you can figure it out for yourself.  Author bio + links to purchase = I got a free copy.  Anyway, on to the book!

Welcome to Silvershine! This city, on a little island in between New Zealand and Australia, is pretty much cut off from the rest of the world.  It has its own television programs, its own car manufacturers, its own smartphone factories.  It also has its own secrets.  You see, a vast wall cuts Silvershine in half.  North Silvershine is an idyllic city with safe neighborhoods where kids often run off to play Monster Tag at night.  South Silvershine, on the other hand, is cloaked in a dense yellow fog that corrodes metal and destroys any technology that’s exposed to it.  Monsters lurk within the fog, peering out through a hole in the wall, and North Silvershine’s residents wonder when the monsters will come through. Continue reading “Monster Boy by Ruth Fox”