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Book Review: Breathless by Dean Koontz

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Dean Koontz is an amazing stylist when it comes to writing novels. I enjoy the way he puts words together and the energy of his pacing. When it comes to dialogue, he’s got a definite ear for the way people speak. He’s been in the writing business for a long time, and his passion is always clear. Primarily, he’s been lately known for his thrillers, but those readers also embrace his “feel good” novels.

For these kinds of books, Koontz usually plays his characters as innocents caught up in a macabre web involving criminals and heavy-handed bureaucrats with sinister agendas. That’s what Koontz was going for it in his latest book, Breathless, but somewhere along the way he dropped the ball.

Oh, there are innocents aplenty. The book opens with Grady Adams, a small time furniture maker living life at a slow pace with his wonder dog, Merlin. I actually thought the opening was very reminiscent to the opening pages of an earlier Koontz book, Watchers. Even the creepy noises and things that happened out in the forest seemed to echo that book.

Then there is Camille Rivers, the local veterinarian who has basically pledged her life to the protection of animals. Other than her medical practice, Cammie seems to have no life. Sadly, that really comes across in these pages as well.

The two main characters, our heroes, seemed to be shadows of Koontz’s normal characters. They never quite came to life for me in the novel. There were bits and flashes that were really done well, but the book just bounced around too much for them to take hold. I really believed Grady was going to be our go-to guy for this novel, but it was like he got edged out by Cammie, who ultimately didn’t do much at all.

I can’t say that this is a suspense novel in the truest sense. There was no chase, no sense of impending doom, no ticking clock. Curiosity propelled me through the pages more than anything else. I wanted to find out more about Puzzle and Riddle, two amazing animals that showed up in the pages. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked either. Koontz raised a lot of questions with his story, which is what writers are supposed to do, but he never got around to answering them.

Another semi-hero character is a casino-gambling mathematician who is an expert in chaos theory. We ended up getting more page coverage of his gambling in casinos than in his insight into the mysterious animals. It was like he was dropped in at the right moment to explain everything to our heroes, who didn’t really have a clue. And he was tied to our heroes by the thinnest thread woven out of left field.

Then there was a villain, a bad guy who didn’t have anything to do with Puzzle and Riddle at all. I read through several pages of him worrying that the brother he had murdered had come back for revenge. That concept never went anywhere either.

Rounding out the cast is a homeless guy named Tom who never meets anyone else in the book. I didn’t understand that subplot at all. I know it was supposed to tie into the arrival of the mysterious creatures and the fact that the world as we knew it evidently changed, but I just didn’t feel like much had changed by the end of the book.

I think the concept had a lot of promise. The whole idea of how things and creatures are created was deep, but Koontz only skims the surface of what might actually have taken place if these events had occurred. I wanted more. I think most readers will.

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About Mel Odom

  • http://runningbowline.com Chris Bancells

    It’s always a drag when authors give a great a idea the short end of the stick. Thanks for the review, Mel.

  • Joyce

    Yes, and that’s why I’m wondering if there isn’t another book coming out about this. I just finished Relentless (great!) & King’s “Under the Dome” (great!) and was surprised to see another Koontz book this year. I feel like you do, that some great characters needed more development — and others were “way out there” not really developed . .. There must be another one about Puzzle & Riddle coming up. I really hope so! Thanks for the review — thought it was just me!

  • Kevin H

    I agree with your comments. I was actually very disappointed with this book in comparison to his other stories. The new option for origins of species and it’s intersect with chaos theory was poorly described. While the humanoid furballs Puzzle and Riddle piqued much interest, the author’s promise of them changing the world basically went unexplained to my satisfaction. Also, as you mentioned, the characters did not intersect in a meaningful way as many Koontz ensembles do, and in general the book left you just wanting some of the posed questions answered.

  • Ron B

    I just finished the book, and while I would have liked more character development, I had no trouble — eventually — seeing how the main players related to one another. Their seeming separation and random relationships are part of the chaos theory that Lamar was trying to explain. Beneath the layer of order you find chaos, and beneath chaos you find another order. Koontz has “fate” moving characters forward to specific ends. True, it wasn’t tied up in a bow at the end. Some threads were left dangling. The murderous attorney and his next client, for example. Tom prevents the rape and murder of the attorney’s wife, and he was in position to do that because he was changed by seeing the emergence of a pair like Puzzle and Riddle. Henry, Jim’s evil twin, is the aide to the senator whose malfeasance caused the death of Grady’s friend and Lamar’s step-son. The idea Koontz was working with was that the emergence of these new creatures brought about change in humans. He’s a believer in cosmic justice, whether from God or whatever power. I agree not all loose ends were neatly tied up. But I wasn’t disappointed, either.

  • Anna

    I just finished reading ‘Breathless’. Unlike many of Koontz’s other novels, this story felt ‘unfinished’. There were too many layers and they were not very well explored. The end arrived too early and I felt that the story was rushed. There was not alot of explanation about the lives of the main characters and what made them tick……a very basic novel in terms of excitement and to be honest it is not one of his best. Having said that, the idea of Puzzle and Riddle was fantastic, but the forces of the cosmos and God could have been better explored.

  • http://blogcritics.org/books Beth

    After finishing this book, I told my husband it was strange. The Liddon Wallace character seemed unnecessary, as Tom was going to end up at Kirstens house anyway. And his odd experience in the woods was a singular moment no other character experienced. Why was Swithen Marlowe even introduced? Henry’s story line was all over the place; he was an evil crazy man, but why did he want to hide away for a year, and what did the government have to do with it? I too liked the Puzzle & Riddle characters, and I agree the end was rushed and not tied up.

  • DotBot

    I am an avid Dean Koonz fan and wait his books with eager anticipation. I bought this book 3 weeks before I actually read it as I was keeping it for a holiday weekend. I must say I was more than a little disapointed with it. While I felt that the characters were all necessary to the plot, their development left much to be desired. Their connection to each other was tenuous to say the least. The whole story of Puzzle and Riddle left more questions then answers and the story felt as though it was rushed towards the end. DK has written some fabulous, well plotted stories that I have read and reread but this will not be one of them I’m afraid. Perhaps there will be a sequel to tie up all the loose ends. I thoroughly enjoyed The watchers and thought this might have been some of the same but it was not. Hopefully his next book will be his usual high standard

  • Bill Owen

    Dean Koontz caught my attention a few years ago, but today it lost my attention. Breathless should have been named clueless. The story was fragmented and the ending was disappointing. Putting the pieces together was impossible and the last three pages sewed the parts together with the conclusion, it was a waste of time.

  • Menisa Marshall

    I finished Breathless tonight and have to say it left me saying “Huh??” I found parts of it riveting and parts beautifully written–Koontz is as ever a master of imagery–but this story was overall kind of disjointed and confusing. Not at all on a par with some of his other books I’ve read.

  • Bobby Brebeck

    There were so many mini stories within this novel that I felt had NO connection with the true plot – IF you could weed through the script! It could have been a good story, but I got lost along the way with all those strange mini stories! Then there was no real ending! Where does the universe go with these amazing creatures of love? And with Cammy and Grady and Merlin? I just got lost and confused by all those mini short stories that had no beginning and no end!!!!

  • Andrew Thomason

    I believe that the readers critiquing “Breathless” as one dimensional, as leaving the reader lost and wanting, didn’t see the big picture. In the novel, Koontz made corporeal the mystery and magic of the world. Koontz used some characters to illustrate how the events surrounding Puzzle and Riddle could change man and the world, or in contrast, could be ignored. Every character had a purpose…however small. The light that accompanied/brought Puzzle and Riddle into the world was more than light… and those that witnessed it were changed. Koontz writes everything with a purpose. For me, “Breathless” put a few things into perspective. I, for one, won’t ever take the love of my dog for granted again!

  • Nikki Jo

    Fail. I have loved every other Dean Koontz book I have ever read (almost all of them), but one just wasn’t up to par. I feel like perhaps Dean’s evil twin tried to write a novel under his name.

  • Angela Naugle

    I agree with your review, I am a big Koontz fan of old, but I was very disappointed with this book (as well as “Your Heart Belongs to Me”)… I think if someone else had written this book it would have never been published. Very sad.

  • Mshabiki

    I agree with most of you all. There were beautiful elements to this story. But I do feel it was rushed towards the end and too many loose threads left hanging. I get the whole big-picture things, see what he was trying to do. But it really was rushed, especially in the last 100 or so pages. I can see how a sequel might iron things out.

    All of that aside, Dean Koontz is an amazing writer. There are sections of this book where he really brings the scenes to life. I actually could imagine myself there experiencing the wonder…

  • pascal

    Frankly, this book is a waste of time. just so bad.

  • mtwallit60

    I was swept up in the almost ET like events around Puzzle and Riddle’s impending capture and I love how DK knows the thoughts of a dog,but this should have been a two-part story..allowing for more tying together of the plots and character development,as others have said. The book sped to the “conclusion” and I was left saying “WHAT”???? It just isn’t satisfying enough to say oh the world is changing and will always be in ordered chaos. Just didn’t feed my soul and left me feeling cheated

  • Lisa

    I completely agree with your comments. The story began with such promise. Tom, Rudy – all seemed to be interesting characters that would be able to merge the story. But then it stopped. It’s as though part of the story is actually missing. Most disappointing.

  • Nick

    Just like almost every person here, I was very disappointed with this book. I have read a couple of Koontz novels and had a general idea of what to expect. The first-half of the book helped make my morning train commute much more exciting. I loved how each of the characters was slowly introduced into the complex plot and I admit that I got quite excited to see how they would turn out to be tied together. I also fell in love with Puzzle and Riddle, being all cute and fluffy all the time, and promised myself that the next kittens that I will adopt from my local animal shelter will also be named Puzzle and Riddle. I quickly changed my mind on the naming plan. Three-fourths into the book something dramatically changed. I liked the potential storyline of genetic-engineering and I was quite sure that this had to do with something bigger in terms of Henry’s storyline and his obsession with the fall of the government (or whatever it was). Up to the point where Homeland Security shows up, the plot was very intense, but it went downhill from there. Not only was the spontaneous-divine-creation storyline very dull and misplaced, but the anti-evolution stance that Koontz took completely threw me off. Just like with many other religion-themed storylines, it asked more questions than it answered, leaving you wanting more. I honestly have never felt so empty before after reading a book. I have never missed more those couple of hours of my life that I wasted with this work of literature, and I have no idea what the positive reviews at the beginning of my edition of the book are talking about. This book will definitely go on my “Regret-that-I-ever-read” list, along with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.

  • George Harris

    This book is so bad I will not even give to any on else to readse I wii just throughi the garbage. How can any body put that out there and ruin there reputaion ( lazy bastard )

  • David

    Did no-one notice the rabid creationist propaganda that fuel led this story? I’ve never been more offended by a book. It treated the reader like a target, rather than an audience. I only finished it because I thought it was so transparent that there had to be a self-parodying sting in the tail but no, unbelievably it was actually serious.

    • Trevor Hayes

      I’m fifty pages from the end when the creation bat-crap crazy creationist nonsense came up. You expressed my sentiments exactly David