I am listening to Dean Koontz’ book on tape One Door Away From Heaven and I am enjoying it entirely too much. I have one big problem with Koontz and that is that he believes in Evil (capital letter intended). His bad guys are very bad – too bad. They scare me a little too much. Often they disgust me or are so repelling that you don’t want to keep reading.
Koontz on the other hand is a real writer’s writer, creating rich believable characters that you care about. I find myself not wanting these nice people to confront the Evil in the stories. I love his use of language and the way that he injects reality and a piece of himself into the dialog. I feel that I know Koontz and I would like to meet him, except that he has this very scary side, almost twisted.
Another defect, which may just be me, is that his books tend to be overly choreographed. There is always a sense that each character must have a geographically and chronologically precise location, almost as though Koontz outlines exactly the movement of each character through the book, arranging meetings and guiding them through a maze. I think that he outlines things a little too much. He should be a little more organic in his plotting, allowing his characters to get lost, and then find there way back on track in a more natural manner. He should throw out his road map and let himself be surprised at where his characters wind up.
One Door Away From Heaven is a real thriller involving aliens, adolescents, a homicidal maniac and personal redemption. I would recommend that you don’t listen to the book on tape, but read the book so you can skip past the nasty parts.
From a genre viewpoint, Koontz is not a Science Fiction writer. The stories that he writes are without a doubt speculative fiction, yet he does not appear as a Hugo nominee or in the Science Fiction section of the book store. There may be some resentment in the Spec-Fic community that Koontz writes best sellers and as such he is labeled a writer of popular fiction (as opposed the unpopular SF kind of fiction).
Koontz has much in common with Heinlein, Clark and Asimov, except his characters are richer, his prose more readable and his stories deeper. He is, though, darker. I think Science Fiction and to some extent fantasy need a real sense of wonder to be successful. Koontz has this to a certain extent, but the over all mood of his books can be overpoweringly grim for long sections.