Dean Koontz’s Relentless

Want to write a Dean Koontz novel? I can give you an outline. Over the years I have reviewed over 30 of Dean’s books. Most of the time, but not always, my reviews have been positive, even though most of the time, but not always, the stories follow the same formula. Here it is:

  • A man and a woman are, or soon will be, in love;

  • One or both of them have a lot of money;

  • Both of them are fantastically good looking, but the woman is super-fantastically good looking and may be a martial arts or weapons expert (or both);

  • The guy is probably a man of peace, but he is tough and has a hidden aptitude for martial arts or weapons (or both);

  • The guy can’t believe a woman as super-fantastically beautiful, smart, funny and popular would go for him, but, of course, she does;

  • Even with all these attributes, the man and the woman have strengths they don’t know they possess;

  • One (or both of them) has a dark and violent secret in his or her past;

  • Despite the past violence both are honorable, good people and loyal to a fault;

  • One or more amoral villains, who enjoy torturing and killing folks, are after one or both of them;

  • The villain or villains also have a lot of money and resources the average sadistic serial killer would never have;

  • The couple may or may not have a child, but, if they do, the child is not normal—he or she (usually he) has a disability, is autistic, is a prodigy, is a super-genius or has some combination of these traits;

  • Most of the time the couple has or gets a dog, and the dog may or may not be normal, but, by the end, you will want the dog or one of its puppies really badly, because no one can write dogs like Dean Koontz;

  • There may or may not be an element (or elements) of science fiction or fantasy or both, but, usually those elements are minor parts of the story and not revealed until near the end.

One of the reasons you have to read all of these novels is that you never know whether the protagonists will make it through the book. You can just about guarantee that the bad guys will find poetic justice by the end, but the good guys may or may not live happily ever after.

All of this brings us to Relentless, which comes out this week. Since Dean’s latest novel follows the formula to the letter, I’ll just fill in a few incidentals and then you can read the book to find out whether author Cullen “Cubby” Greenwich, his beautiful wife Penny, their genius son Milo, and their faithful dog Lassie make it to the last page.

Cubby is a very successful author, and his latest novel is a bestseller, but the nation’s most feared critic, Sherman Waxx, has panned the book with amazing and unexplainable vitriol. Soon Cubby discovers that previous authors Waxx has denigrated in the same terms have ended up slaughtering their families and killing themselves.

When Waxx shows up at the Greenwich’s home in the middle of the night, tasers Cubby and Penny, and blows the house to smithereens, the fun begins.

Fortunately for Cubby, Penny has unusual parents who not only are in the demolition business, but who have an astounding cache of weapons in a secret underground hideout, and the precocious Milo has been working on a few secret projects (expect some science fiction and/or fantasy here) of his own.

If Waxx were working by himself, it would be no contest, but soon Cubby learns that Waxx’s hunchback assistant is just one of the agents of death and distruction that seek to destroy his family.  The game is on.

As he did in Tick Tock, Life Expectancy and a few other titles, Koontz mixes humor with horror in Relentless.  The story of how Penny’s parents first met is a hoot, and the antics of Lassie, the non-collie dog with a talent for teleportation, are good for a laugh or two.  But the tension that comes from the family’s brushes with death and graphic details of about what has happened to the other authors will wipe the smiles off readers’ faces quickly.

Like nearly all of Koontz’s works, Relentless is a fun, fast read, but in the pantheon which includes well over 50 titles, it would rank as average.  However, an average Koontz novel is still pretty good.  While not in the same class with Watchers, Strangers, The Bad Place or Odd Thomas, this latest Koontz work is still superior to most thrillers being published today.


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