The reader may rightly wonder why, in this second-ever WBD book review, I have shifted both genre and levels-of-fame in our subject. The answer is that I review what I read, plain and simple, and I enjoy a variety of different styles, genres, and voices. Dean Koontz is certainly a well-established name, with dozens of bestsellers and a big publishing house at his back, but, doubtless, there are readers who have never heard of him. Or, if they have, have never actually read his work. If you know of a new novel that needs a signal boost and an impartial opinion, feel free to reach out. If you missed our review of The Emperor’s Blades, you can find that here.
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Berkley Books, 1986
In every corner of America, apparently disconnected men and women suddenly develop distinct and terrifying neuroses. A military veteran is deathly afraid of the dark. A surgeon cannot stop fleeing and shaking. A writer sleep-walks. A variety of lifelong beliefs and values are lost in an instant. As their new mental illnesses and changes increase in strength and frequency, the strangers investigate their own lives and find inconsistencies in their memories all relating to a single event. What happened at that event will change not only their lives, but the trajectory of human history.
Why this book might be for you:
Lovers of a slowly-unfolding mystery will eat this text up. Mr. Koontz draws out the revelation piece by bite-sized piece and leaves the reader guessing between two or three front-running possibilities until nearly the end. If you love a book that is not afraid to tackle big ideas, this book is for you. The story is not satisfied to stop at the mere fact of the phenomenon, it dives headfirst into the implications for human psychology, religion, government, and society. Set in the present day at the time of writing, this book also has some nostalgic appeal for a pre-internet era.
Another positive quality of Strangers is its strong representation of women. Every female character is well-rounded, capable, and has a unique voice. Their roles are more than equal to the males at the table. It feels sad to call that out as a strength – as George RR Martin said, ‘I’ve always had the strange impression that women are people’ – but unfortunately, we still cannot take for granted that women get the full 3-dimensional treatment, especially in science fiction.
Why this book might not be for you:
If you like your mysteries with a little more action, Strangers may fall flat for you. Despite the heavy-hitters involved in the events, heart-pounding scenes are few and far between. If you think that authors should stay off of their soapbox, or if you don’t agree with Mr. Koontz’s particular take on the world and cannot tolerate dissenting opinions, this might not be the book for you. We definitely see the author’s worldview and opinions about the state of things come through in the reactions of society at large to the phenomenon.
Where can you find more?