Reviews for Innocence

Booklist Reviews 2013 November #1
*Starred Review* Addison Goodheart, who must never be seen, and last-nameless Gwyneth, who must never be touched, meet sensationally cute at the end of evading a big, enraged man shouting that he'll kill her. Confronting one another by the Dickens collection of the grand central library of a never-named American metropolis, they realize, as he says, that "we're made for each other." Love at first sight, though heavily impeded (by his clothes and her makeup), saves both them and the story time, which they need because her would-be rapist-murderer is about to find her, no matter her many hideouts, and which the reader relishes because this is as speedy a chase-thriller as any Koontz, a past master of the form, has ever constructed. Written in Koontz' late mellifluent and reflective manner (Addison ponders as well as reveals his backstory in many flashbacks), the book is also another of his moral thrillers, fueled by deep disgust with the world's evils--especially abusive violence, especially against children--and by definite, though idiosyncratic, Christian hope for redemption. And so this entrancing romance resolves, like Koontz's The Taking (2004), apocalyptically, in a new Earth. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2013 December
Finding hope in life's dark side

There are three things you may not know about free-range thriller writer Dean Koontz, who has sold hundreds of millions of books during his rise to the publishing stratosphere:

1. His new thriller, Innocence, a paean to nonviolence, was inspired by a dream about a long-dead best-selling author;

2. His abusive alcoholic father tried to cut short his literary career with a homemade switchblade; and

3. The night before the attempt on his life, his mother called from beyond the grave.

And true to the one-man genre that is Koontz, the mild-mannered 68-year-old golden-retriever fancier manages to find wonder, humor and hope in all of it.

Few authors have managed to produce so many novels (I lost count at 120) under so many pen names (10 that I know of) across so many genres with as much success as Koontz. Since breaking in as a science fiction writer with 1968’s Star Quest, the one-time Pennsylvania English teacher has turned out as many as eight titles a year by cross-pollinating suspense, horror, romance, fantasy, space opera and even comedy. Along the way, he became one of only a handful of authors to top the New York Times bestseller list 14 times.

Genre? Koontz don’t need no steenking genre!

“I started out sneaking comedy into my suspense novels, and as I moved around genres, I realized that I have a low boredom threshold,” he says by phone from his home in Newport Beach, California. “If I’d had to write the same thing book after book, I would have quit long ago.”

Case in point: Innocence, a ­fantasy/thriller/love story about star-crossed outliers, has something for everybody. What sets Innocence apart from his past works is its poetic use of language and the fact that Koontz dreamed up the story—literally.

“For years, fans have asked me if I get a lot of ideas from dreams and I always said no, I’ve never had an idea from a dream,” Koontz recalls. “But early last year, I sat up in bed at 4:00 in the morning from a very odd and vivid dream. I was having lunch with [actor-turned-best-selling author] Thomas Tryon [The Other]. I never knew him but I’d read a few of his books. It was a celebratory lunch because he had a new novel coming out. Some of the moments were very vivid and in color, and I don’t dream in color ordinarily. I couldn’t wait to start putting the story on paper.”

The resulting chase-packed love story between societal outcast Addison and fugitive Gwyneth is just the sort of left-brain/right-brain head-scratcher that Koontz fans love to tackle.

Growing up in Everett, Pennsylvania (pop: 4,000), was anything but a dream for Koontz, who suffered beatings and abuse from his alcoholic father, Ray. The author credits his knack for horror and suspense, as well as the unapologetic optimism in his fiction, to his early exposure to the dark side.

“If my father hadn’t been a violent alcoholic who held 44 jobs in 34 years, I might not have the career I have,” he says. “I’m not thankful that that was my childhood, but it wasn’t a bleak one by any means because I was determined that it wouldn’t be.”

Unfortunately, Koontz’s dark past followed him west. Shortly after he and his wife, Gerda, relocated to California in 1976, circumstances brought his father into their care. The couple supported Ray in psychiatric care facilities for the remaining 14 years of his life. He was ultimately diagnosed as a sociopath.

That kind turn almost cost Koontz his life—twice in one day.

“The care center called one morning because [Ray] was down on the lobby floor shouting at people,” Koontz recalls. “I found out later he had developed a tolerance to his anti-psychotic medication and had honed his fishing knife into essentially a switchblade.”

Koontz talked his father back to his room, but Ray’s agitation worsened.

“He kept pacing the room, opening and closing a dresser drawer, until finally he pulled out his knife. We struggled into the hallway, where all these people were returning from lunch. I managed to get the knife away from him without being cut and asked staff to call 911,” Koontz recalls.

It turns out the staff had already called the police. Unfortunately, when they arrived, it was Koontz who was holding the knife.

“The police yelled, ‘Drop the knife!’ and I said, ‘No, it’s not me, it’s him; I took the knife away from him!’ They both drew their guns and yelled, ‘DROP THE KNIFE!’ I finally realized I was going to get shot and dropped the knife. They made me lay face-down on the floor until they got the situation straightened out. It was a memorable day.”

As was the day before, when Koontz encountered one of only two unexplainable experiences in his life (the second he’s saving for full novel treatment).

“The night before my father pulled a knife on me, the phone rang. I picked it up, and this woman’s voice said, ‘Be careful of your father,’ and I swear it was my [late] mother; I recognized the voice. She said that twice and was gone,” he says. “The very next day, if I had gone in there unaware instead of edgy about that call, he probably would have succeeded. I often wonder about that.”

Reconciliation was not in the cards for this father and son. “A sociopath is never going to change and they’re not going to see that any of the problems in their life have been of their own making,” Koontz says. “It’s a very sad thing to never have a relationship with your father, but there was no way to have one.”

As for happiness? Well, that’s another matter.

“Happiness is a choice,” Koontz insists. “That sounds Pollyanna-ish, but it’s not; you can make it or not. Readers over the years say what they love about my books is that they’re full of hope, and that’s the way I see life. If you always dwell on what went wrong in the past, it’s almost hopeless. So I just don’t dwell.”

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 November #1
In a shift from his usual exploration of the fantastical and supernatural, Koontz's (Odd Apocalypse, 2012, etc.) new book contemplates an apocalyptical confrontation between good and evil. In an isolated cabin, Addison Goodheart is born to a drug-and-alcohol-addled mother. The midwife takes one glance at the newborn and attempts to smother him. The mother intervenes. Addison must be raised in isolation. As he grows, he takes to the woods, almost able to fend for himself. At age 8, near self-sufficient, his mother forces him to leave and then kills herself. Addison treks to a metropolis (think New York City), each stranger he meets attempting to kill him. In the city, he meets a man he will call Father, so like Addison that one glance at his face sparks murderous intent. The two lurk beneath the city, venturing out only at night, but 18 years later, Father's murdered as the two frolic on seemingly blizzard-isolated streets. Enter Gwyneth, heir to an immense fortune, isolated by "social phobia." Addison meets Gwyneth while night-exploring a magnificent library. Gwyneth's being pursued by Ryan Telford, a sexual pervert who also purloined millions from her father. Koontz's tale is no "Beauty and the Beast." Laced with fantastical mysticism, it's an allegory of nonviolence, acceptance and love in the face of adversity. Addison and Gwyneth are the driving characters, their tales spinning out from Addison's introspective point of view. Each has a tenuous link to Teague Hanlon, former Marine, parish priest and catalyst for the denouement sparked when a virus is deliberately released by a rogue state. The narrative is intense, with an old-fashioned ominousness and artistically crafted descriptions like "[t]he fallow soil of loneliness is fertile ground for self-deception." Koontz's allegory on morality and love (agape rather than sensual) probes the idea that evil is woven through humankind. Koontz fans shouldn't be disappointed, especially with an optimistic and unexpected conclusion mirroring his theme. Something different this way comes from Mr. Koontz's imagination. Enjoy. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #1

Most often, offerings from the thriller/horror genre force an everyman character to confront an extraordinary circumstance, compelling the reader to wonder, "What would I do if this were happening to me?" Koontz (Deeply Odd) has, of late, taken the opposite approach. His "Odd Thomas" series chronicles a young man endowed with a sixth sense--and more--while his "Moonlight Bay" trilogy features a hero who lives under the cover of darkness because of a rare genetic disorder. Now Koontz introduces Addison Goodheart, a grotesquely deformed young man who has remained in the shadows for all of his 24 years. The story he tells, in the elegant prose of one whose understanding of language has come more from reading than from conversation, is that of his venturing forth into a fuller life than he had ever imagined for himself. It is Addison's encounter with Gwyneth, a Goth girl who boldly embraces her own solitary existence while she seeks to prove that her father's seemingly accidental death was actually a murder, that draws him into the light. VERDICT Fans of Koontz's previous series will be left hoping that Addison and Gwyneth, too, will return. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]--Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #2

In this imaginative, mystical thriller from bestseller Koontz (77 Shadow Street), Addison Goodheart, a 26-year-old man so "exceedingly ugly" that his appearance causes "the most terrible rage" in regular people, lives alone in a hidden part of an American metropolis, but views his solitude as a gift that has enabled him to recognize "reality's complex dimensions." An unexpected encounter in a deserted library with Gwyneth, an 18-year-old Goth girl who's the target of the rare-book curator's lust, throws him for a loop. Addison bonds with Gwyneth, who suspects her nemesis, J. Ryan Telford, of murdering her father by sending him poisoned honey. The interactions of the isolated leads and the meaning of their existence overshadow the crime elements, and the language can be vague (e.g., "Who we of the hidden were, what we were, why we ever existed, explained the mystery of music issuing out of the ether"). Still, this is the most satisfying Koontz standalone in a while. (Dec.)

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