I don’t know if it should come as much of a surprise to anyone that I am much belated on posting this review (particularly if you listen to the podcast). Such is the life of someone with many, many ideas, but low executive function and personal discipline. Plus, writing is so much scarier in my head. This is, admittedly, a subpar introduction, so let’s get onto the book!
From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz was the first book Eric chose for me in my personal reading challenge. I read it quite soon after my last post, so you can see for yourself the disparity in time frames. Fortunately, I took some notes, so I am prepared to discuss this with you still. Go past me, but only sort of.
To give you, dear reader, a few details and some summary without spoilers:
From the Corner of His Eye is listed on GoodReads in the genre of horror, fiction, and thriller. Personally, I would list it as a supernatural thriller. Two characters, Barty Lampion and Enoch Cain “Junior,” are entwined in a timeless struggle of good and evil, with it being alarmingly clear who falls on which side. Barty, a young boy borne of unfortunate circumstances, loses his sight at a young age, regains it a still fairly young age, and must ultimately confront his nemesis, who he seems lightly unaware of in a vague sort of way. We have a nice, but not overwhelming, cast of supporting characters who aid Barty in this endeavor and all suffer, in one way or another, at the hands of the obviously sinister Cain.
I have never read a Dean Koontz book before this one. I’ve always meant to pursue the Odd Thomas series, which I have been recommended several times; however, I’m a book snob, and I tend to avoid pulp novels. Not by active practice, mind you. It’s an implicit bias stored deep in my brain.
As I navigated through this first Koontz novel, I instantly liked the concept. I always love to hate a character, and the villain in this story, though obvious, is so easy to loathe. Within the first 15 pages of the book, I had a legitimately jaw dropping moment that I did not see coming (probably should have in retrospect – alas, we can’t always be as sharp as we once were). Through Junior, Koontz goes on to weave a sense of dread, suspense, and revulsion throughout the multiple narratives juggled in the book.
It is in this that I took my first issue with the story. Once I moved into the main story line (the life and times of Barty Lampion), I lost interest in the progression of the book. Barty and his mother are such wholesome characters, it was hard to believe they would ever experience authentic danger. Sure, they experience hardship and loss, but I never thought they wouldn’t be victorious by the end of the story.
Additionally, this is a thick boy of a book. The copy I read tops out at 729 pages. That’s a fair bit of time and investment in some entertaining media, and I can’t honestly say this book deserved it. I think there were about 200 pages that I could have easily seen cut and not lost any of the impact of the main plot or development of the characters. Part of this unneeded length stems from the undeniably preachy overtones of Koontz’s text.
Beginning this story, I had no idea that Koontz would be considered a religious/spiritual author. While I’ve read many stories with religious characters, Koontz, as the author, has a clear message he’s communicating to his audience, and much of it revolves around Christianity. After doing nine years in Catholic school, it was easy to pick up on the implications of character’s names (Enoch Cain – of the brother-slaying variety; Bartholomew, Agnes, and Thomas – of the saintly folk), but the overall preachy tone of the text became, frankly, overbearing and simplistic. It took me out of the story and caused the story line to wander in a way that I did not find beneficial. I’m also not inherently opposed to an author with an overt agenda; however, I would like to be trusted to discern the message for myself, instead of having it so blatantly repeated as it was throughout the second half of this book.
All this to say, I found the book entertaining enough in the beginning, but I thought the plot, character development, and tone to be lacking in the second half of the story. In an effort to avoid too many spoilers, I haven’t discussed the plot holes in the conclusion, but I did find them to be rather… gaping. Had the entire novel proceeded with the momentum established in the first half, I might feel very differently about the experience.
Overall Rating: Three out of five stars.
Recommendation: Go for it if you have time? I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it. I don’t think I would ever want to read it again, which is why it can’t receive more than three stars for me personally. Lots of people seem rabid for Dean Koontz books, so if you know you already like his style, you might really enjoy this. You might also like this if, unlike me – no judgement, you’re into Christian messages.
I would like to note that we spend a lot of time in the villain’s head at the beginning of this book, and he is truly awful, as I have indicated in this post. If you are someone sensitive to material focusing on sexual assault, I would not recommend this book at all.