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  in brief
by the light of the moon
dean koontz
the good: some interesting plot development. the beginning of the book is pretty good.
the bad: recycled characters, stupid motivations, bad writing, bad humour, and a horrible ending.
we say:
in depth

The popular media's love affair with Dean Koontz is truly mind-boggling. Granted, he's written a few good books. However, it doesn't take a genius to figure out they're all the same. His cookie cutter characters are based on just a few simple templates. The most common one is usually a female, who's had a horrible childhood. However, she's managed to overcome her past, and has realized her true artistic potential. At this point however, something terrible happens to her. Luckily, her difficult life has given her the tools to cope, and she's ultimately succesful. While we're at it, throw in a male character who falls desperately in love with her, and they go to eat at a trattoria a bunch of times. There you go, 90% of Dean Koontz's work.

'By the Light of the Moon' isn't much different. The female lead, Jilly, has had a traumatic childhood, and has learned to deal with it by becoming a stand up comedian. Unsurprisingly, this is the exact same character as Thelma in 'Lightning', down to their shared sense of (decidedly un-funny) humour. Regardless, she's staying at a motel when she's accosted by a mysterious man, and injected with copious amounts of a strange substance.

Down the hall, Dylan O'Connor and his autistic brother Shep are jumped by the same man. While Shep works on completing a puzzle, Dylan works on getting pumped full of dubious fluid. His assailant tells Dylan that what's he's been injected with isn't necessarily bad. Chances are he'll benefit from it enormously, if it doesn't kill him. The mysterious man leaves him with a warning, that he's being chased by more mysteroius men, and they'll be determined to kill whoever he's injected. So he'd better run.

Dylan hooks up with Jilly in the parking lot, and they flee the motel one step ahead of pursuit. Before they leave however, they witness their shared assailant perish in an explosion, and are forced to untangle the mystery of their circumstances or die trying.

The premise of the book is actually very intriguing, and the first few pages manage to live up to it. After that things quickly begin to fall apart. Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the novel is the sheer stupidity of the characters. They tend to make the exact decisions that will keep their pursuers only one step behind them throughout the entirety of the novel. If this is intended to build suspense, it fails horribly.

The nature of the substance they've been injected with is explained in due time, and it's fairly interesting. Koontz quickly wastes whatever advantage he might have gained by not delving any deeper, and opting for a character driven drama. It's a pity the characters are flat, and the drama is laughable. The nature of Dylan and Jilly's pursuers are also revealed, and it kills any sense of momentum in the novel. Their motivations are completely unbelievable in relation to their methods.

The technical quality of the writing is pretty bad throughout. Through Jilly, Koontz insists on inserting completely unfunny jokes into every other line. The juvenile humour serves to destroy any sense of atmosphere the novel might have had to being with. In addition, his writing is peppered with dubious constructs and non-sensical metaphors. Consider for instance the line: '...where tarantulas as hairy as the maniacal mullahs of the Taliban scurried in search of prey.' What the hell is that supposed to mean? If he's making a commentary on the political nature of today's world, it has no business in this atrocity of a novel.

It's obvious Koontz is trying to make a statement about the essential good in humanity. He constantly rails against the cruelty of a few bad apples, while beating us over the head with the angelic nature of the protagonists. There's no subtlety to the message however, as it's practically screamed out on every page. Instead of invoking a sense of hope, all it serves to do is depress us with the fact that our angels are unquestionably stupid.

The ending is just a horrible finish to an already bad novel. It's like something out of a third-rate comic book, but without the pretty pictures to distract you. The entire book is a disjointed read, with Koontz trying to deliver a message about the nature of humanity buried in a veritable avalanche of bad storytelling. You can't be sure if he's trying to editorialize, or entertain.

Whichever it is, he does a bad job of it.


reviewed by dragonsworn staff
  in closing
if you want to read Koontz, read 'Intensity'. it's his best novel, and once you've read it - you've read them all. don't read this one though. that'd just be stupid.