From the Corner of His Eye - Dean Koontz Book Review
A Book Review of 'From the Corner of His Eye' by Dean Koontz
Spoiler free review:
This book is about maybe a dozen people across the western United States who are spiritually and circumstantially linked together; we follow these individuals and families as they try to discover how and why but most importantly as they try to cut these ties. The story has mystery, magic, murder, mutilation, but aims to tackle more introspective themes like morality, grief, I thought this book was alright. I liked it but probably wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. The author uses a lot of vivid imagery to shock the reader but also to contrast the more grotesque images with beautiful scenery and heartfelt moments. The issue I felt was that the Author prioritized this imagery over the story which made the book feel bloated. For comparison, I loved the lengthy descriptions in The Lord of the Rings but similar passages felt out of place in this novel. I also felt that the tone of the book wasn’t always consistent. This is a horror/thriller/mystery book rooted in reality with some, for lack of a better word, supernatural elements but it took me around halfway through the book to determine what was and wasn’t possible in the world. My preference, and maybe not yours, is to understand the rules quickly so I know how dire the consequences are. My experience with this novel was that the consequences were explained and you had to trust that the author would explain the rules afterwards that justify those consequences. There was a lot that I liked about this novel. Most of the characters were interesting, complex, and tied together in satisfying ways.
Minor spoilers here: there are a set of twins who both are obsessed with memorizing disasters, however one of them only focuses on natural disasters and the other on technological disasters and the two of them can’t understand how people mix the two of them up. I liked them a lot. Minor spoilers over.
I also thought that the author did a great job of building tension at key moments and finding creative ways to extend that tension. For example: setting characters on a clock without them realizing, and having to watch them patiently take their time while the reader knows they are in danger. The early parts of the novel surprised and thrilled me, the Author does a few things that I have never seen before that I hope that I see in future horror books (specifics in the spoiler section below). My largest complaint comes from the fact that I enjoyed the possibilities of these actions so much that my expectations weren’t, and probably couldn’t have been, met in the second half of the novel. For this reason I think others might enjoy this novel more than me, especially if they don’t make the same assumptions that I did. I would recommend this novel to you if you exclusively enjoy horror/thriller novels. The most similar media I can compare it to is The Jeffrey Dahmer Story slash Friday the 13th (the original). I would NOT recommend this book to you if you dislike gore and violence or if you are easily distracted during long allusions. My final note is that I found this novel interesting, every time I picked up the book I had no problem getting through 50 pages or more. I think this means the prose was good.
Maybe I’m missing something but the book seems to think it’s really important that Barty loses and regains his sight and I do not care at all. I reread the summary on the book jacket 10 times. I genuinely thought it was a misprint because the boy ‘losing his sight’ happens like ¾ through the book and he ‘regains it’ on the last page. This sums up my feelings on this novel, I had high expectations in the first half that were not met in the second. I’m still questioning if these expectations were the result of the writing or my own assumptions. Examples: Barty being blind, I thought it would have some sort of story impact but it doesn’t. I thought Vanadium died for real. I thought that the one person who could stop Junior was dead and the other characters were going to have to grow and work together to take him down. I loved that Vanadium died, it added so much pressure and when he returned it deflated my whole experience. I thought that because they were explaining so much of the magic that it would all be rooted in reality, nope the villain is killed by magic. Some stuff I loved, the untrustworthy narrator. Junior saying that he was a “deeply emotional person’ and that’s why he got sick after murdering his wife. Junior was a sick and twisted individual and the Author did a great job of showcasing that. I liked the worldbuilding, I wasn’t alive in the 60’s in San Francisco but you could really get a feeling for the country, the city, and its inhabitants. I maybe would have enjoyed the novel more if I understood more of the references though. The writing was very vivid, only a couple times did I think that the descriptions failed to help me establish a better mental image. The pacing was great for the first 80% of the novel, personally I would have been happy if the novel ended in Celestina’s apartment. I think the reason it didn’t, and this is another thing I enjoyed, was so that all the characters could find each other and the people who had lived good lives and still suffered could get to experience some more joy and family with each other. And in contrast we would get to see Junior turned into the disfigured monster that he always was on the inside.