Dean R. Koontz is one of those writers I read to learn the craft of writing. I followed him through the 1970s and watched him grow into the blockbuster writer he became in the 1980s. There’s something honest and real about his writing that seduces me nearly every time I pick up one of his novels. Because I’m so caught up in the story his prose is generally so smooth that I sail along without thinking about all the pages I’m turning.
Relentless starts out the same way. I love first person narration when I feel the character from page one, and Cubby Greenwich is one of those who commands instant attention. He’s just an everyday kind of guy who sits down and spins his story. As a writer, husband, and father, he seems to have the kind of life all of us would like to have: great job he loves, spouse who loves him, and a kid who's a total pleasure to be around.
I went with the ride this time when a scathing review of Cubby’s new book leaves him shaken and upset. I even bought the premise that the reviewer, Waxx, might be a sociopath or a supernatural entity bent on hellish torture for some unknown reason.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how Koontz took this novel.
But before I realized that, I’d gotten sucked into the story and ended up reading the book in a single sitting. My mind spun and bounced off the variable scenarios Koontz sets into motion during the novel. I was hypnotized by the action and the sheer terror inspired by Waxx and all the horrible things the man had done. This book felt as suspenseful as the author’s earlier work, and it promised many of the same kinds of puzzles.
The chase Cubby, Penny, and Milo go on is enervating and absorbing for much of the book. I felt anxious as I learned the other stories out there that involved Waxx, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Waxx was just too powerful, too knowledgeable. Plus – I couldn’t really fathom why the guy was going to all the trouble of killing so many people in the ways that he did. I mean, bottom line, a killer’s gotta get something out of murdering people.
Another thing that jarred me was Koontz’s presentation of six-year-old Milo. I know Koontz has a thing about children and always writes them as enhanced intellectually, emotionally, or empathetically. Milo gets all of the above and an innate scientific understanding — somehow — that just pushes him beyond belief on several levels.
Although I read Relentless at a frantic pace and seriously could not put it down, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed in the ending. I wanted more after such a build up, especially more of an understandable conclusion. However, I still have to acknowledge Koontz’s mastery of crafting prose that will keep readers glued to the pages. If you can suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride, you’ll probably enjoy this latest offering.