Categorized | Features

Innocence, by Dean Koontz (published 2014)

HERB JOHNSON
GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
The first thing to deal with is the old concept of “willing suspension of disbelief.” This is not a crime thriller where all the bad guys are a familiar composite of the all the bad guy clichés we’ve ever run into and all the good guys are tall and lean and live clean. This is a world where all the characters (except a couple of bad guys) are strange and mysterious. One has to suspend a great deal of disbelief just to get past page 13.
Let’s take a look at Addison Goodheart, the main character. When he is born, the midwife wants to smother him. And it just builds from there. Everyone wants to kill him, everywhere he goes. And the mystery of why this should be so is not revealed until the very end. Koontz is very adept at sustaining our interest into why this is happening, without actually dropping any substantial hints. One wonders . . . and maybe figures it out just before the big finale where all is revealed. Or maybe not.
Gwyneth, the female lead, is right up there with Addison in the strange and mysterious department. She is a recluse who dresses in Goth garb and cannot allow herself to be touched. She is also rich. For reasons that are not immediately apparent, they hit it off right off the bat. Love at first sight, although they refrain from mentioning it.
So here is Addison, who survives by living in a concrete bunker deep below the city, travelling largely through the sewer system and coming out only at night . . . or when the weather is so bad nobody is out on the streets. (There is a significant amount to bad weather in this novel, perhaps a necessary plot device so Addison can get out of the house and keep the plot moving, or possibly because Koontz is preoccupied with the many ways to describe snow.)
And there’s Gwyneth, who is lovely (despite the Goth garb and the weird marionette makeup) and who has to deal with a very bad man who pursues her with the idea of raping her and then killing her. So she has problems. Good thing she’s rich and smart and has Addison for a friend.
Added to the mix are the Fogs and the Clears. Here the fantasy level goes up a notch. These guys are not from the real world. The Fogs are swirling chunks of fog who can climb down your throat, thereby increasing your capacity for evil. They enjoy doing this. The Clears are basically transparent people dressed in hospital scrubs who simply hang out on the streets. They look harmless, but Addison has been told to never look then in the eye, so he avoids them.
He avoids everyone. He has learned that if someone sees his face they will attack him and make every attempt to kill him. Something about making eye contact. He gets by with a hoodie pulled down low, a ski mask a lot of the time and looks at the floor if there are people around.
So why should this strange mix work as a book? Because Koontz is a good writer. He’s been dealing with the battle between Good and Evil in his novels for many years and he always manages to make it readable, even when you know Good is going to win. The struggle this time is less clearly delineated than it might be, but the final triumph is unequivocal. Might even be a bit too much. Koontz’s vision of what the world looks like when Bad is vanquished is a little over the top. But it’s a comfort to know that just maybe it might come true someday. Maybe.

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