Relentless: A Novel
by Dean Koontz
Review by Andrew Brooks
Bantam Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553807141
Date: 09 June 2009 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Dean Koontz has made a career out of writing taut, exciting thrillers that, while they don't always live up to the hype, are nonetheless entertaining and often times chilling. Relentless is no exception. Koontz has put together another solid addition that harkens back to his earlier days. Gone are the annoying trying-too-hard-to-be-eccentric characters (for the most part), and present are chapters ending in cliff-hangers and good vs. evil and near impossible escapes. If you've read any of Koontz's old stuff, but have been put off my some of his more recent works (Odd Thomas, immediately comes to mind) then you're going to be a fan of Relentless.
Cubby Greenwich, best selling writer and narrator of Relentless, lives a charmed life. His latest novel has just come out, he's been able to do what he loves for a living and he has a seemingly perfect family. But when he gets a scathing review from book critic Shearman Waxx everything starts going horribly wrong. Ignoring everyone's advice, including warnings from his son and wife Penny, Cubby decides to get a look at the notorious critic whom he discovers dines regularly in a nearby restaurant. It's this encounter that sends the novel's pace off like a rocket, the rest of the book rarely slowing as it hurtles towards a fairly decent conclusion.
Koontz has a knack for taking seemingly random and harmless situations and wringing the terror from them, and he wastes little time in the book's opening scenes doing so. Waxx, after pronouncing "Doom" on Cubby, immediately begins stalking and harassing the family. Walking through their home in the middle of the day, attempting to blow them up inside said home and seemingly appearing everywhere at once, figuring out why Shearman Waxx is the way he is at once becomes half the novel's fun. Koontz has always done this well. Setting up an apparently all-powerful source of evil and then letting his characters run rampant, trying to figure things out while staying alive is what this author does very well. And that's the basic structure of this novel's relentless (had to) plot. Waxx hunts the Greenwich family across the country while they try to discover why he's doing so. Anymore would give the plot away, as each new revelation behind the critic's actions drives the plot onwards.
What Koontz still tries to do, however, is inject his every-man characters with a little too much eccentricity. The son isn't just a normal boy, the dog (of course!) isn't just an ordinary dog, and the wife and husband out fox and outsmart ex-military guys when it's the convenient way out of a impossible situation. I know it's fiction, but at times it was a bit much. However, this isn't the only thing that bothered me about the novel. As with other Koontz novels the ending is a little contrived. Not what I was expecting, which is good, but it still felt forced. It was a better ending than Your Heart Belongs to Me, but thatís not saying much.
Relentless is a good but not great thriller that makes you wish Koontz would get back to writing books like Twilight Eyes and Phantoms. It's better than his more recent novels, but only a shadow of is earlier stuff. Recommended to those who've read most all of his novels, but for newbies my recommendation is that you try his earlier stuff instead.