Dean Koontz leaves you…Breathless…

Of course there is a dog: Page 1—”Merlin led the way, seemingly indifferent to the spoor of the deer and the possibility of glimpsing the white flags of their tails ahead of him. He was a three-year-old, 160-pound Irish wolfhound, thirty-six inches tall, measured from his withers to the ground, his head higher on a muscular neck.”

Of course the hero has hidden strengths: Before retiring to the Colorado Rockies, Grady Adams was a military sharp shooter. He assassinated a lot of bad guys.

Of course his love interest had an abused childhood: Camillia Rivers, the local veterinarian was kidnapped and systematically tortured for years by her stepfather before she put an end to him, and went on to graduate with honors from Colorado State University’s renowned veterinary school.

Of course the antagonists are amoral villains. In this case we have a serial rapist who kills his victims; several agents, officers and scientists involved in a massive cover-up; an identical twin who offs his brother so he can take over his identity; and even (gasp) an unethical lawyer with murderous intentions.

And there are a lot more Dean Koontz trappings in Breathless that you can discover for yourself.

In his rapid-fire thriller Koontz takes on the government, religion, human rights, predestination and the theory of evolution, among other ideas and institutions.

Back on page 1, as Grady and Merlin are wandering through the woods, they spot a pair of white animals like nothing they have ever seen. Eventually the exceptionally bright and cute animals come to Grady’s home to play with his dog. When astounded Cammy, the vet, sends some pictures of the animals to her former teachers, the professors pass them on to the government.  Homeland Security gets involved, and the plot takes off.

Meanwhile, not far away, Henry Rouvroy kills his twin brother and his twin brother’s wife. He stole a lot of money and plans to hide out at their farm for a long time. He has inside information that something bad is going to happen to the world. Henry is paranoid: he hears voices; he sees things that aren’t there.

Also meanwhile, an expert in chaos theory plays blackjack in Las Vegas and wins significant amounts of money, but he always gives his winnings away. He is one of the few good guys who works for the government.

Also meanwhile, on a Seattle golf course, the nefarious lawyer arranges for the serial rapist he successfully defended in court to murder his wife and child.

And finally, meanwhile, a vagrant drug addict living in a cave next to the Pacific Ocean sees something that changes his life and begins a long walk.

All of this happens in the first few pages, so I haven’t given much away.

Like most of Dean Koontz’s 50+ novels Breathless is a fun and fast read. Although the book follows a similar pattern to most of the other books, this one has an element of science fiction—or maybe fantasy—that is unique.

I do have a few criticisms. As usual Dean has a plethora of seemingly unrelated subplots that are brought together at the end. This time there may be too many. And the book ends too quickly. With just a few pages to go, things are still unravelling, and, all of a sudden, most of them get “ravelled” way too fast, leaving a couple of loose ends.

Still, Breathless is bound to keep you reading, maybe even breathlessly. It may even make you think just a little bit.


Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper for over 20 years. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.

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