I figure if folks can get all defensive about putting out their Christmas decorations well before the dang Thanksgiving turkey has even been plucked from the freezer case, much less trussed and brined, I can sure enough jump the gun on Halloween. Shoot, the stores are already awash in pumpkin spiced whatever-they-can-think-of and my farm is festooned with the webby gore of thousands of mosquitoes who rose from the swamp to meet their sticky doom. Never mind that the temperature still climbs to the nineties every afternoon. It’s time to dial up the spookiness!
I kicked off the season with a horror novel from veteran author Dean Koontz. It’s been awhile since I’ve visited with Koontz, but I knew to expect a high octane speed ride. Intensity did not disappoint! Now, I’ll admit I like my frights more along the “oogadah boogadah” tack than a good ole predator/prey thriller, but this book has much to offer.
So, what do you get with Intensity? A snaky antagonist who is complex, calculating, and savors his craft with the nuance of a sommelier. Koontz gives readers enough of a glimpse into Edgler Vess’s psyche to recognize similarities in philosophy. His perspective makes sense, which adds to the horror of a plotline riddled with graphic violence. Vess is not a thoughtless monster, but a man who thrives on the havoc he wreaks with frightening attention to detail.
The protagonist of the story is a psychology major—this threw up a “cliché alert” for me, but Koontz thankfully took things in a different direction—who has the misfortune to be a houseguest at a lovely farm targeted by Vess. A cat and mouse situation ensues where Koontz keeps up, pardon the pun, an intensely suspenseful pace. Through a series of conflicts I won’t spoil, Chyna Shepherd struggles to stay “alive and untouched”.
Koontz places more obstacles in Chyna’s path than an American Ninja Warrior course, and in the process, titillates readers with enough heady brutality to quicken the heartrate. But it’s the undercurrent of chance, futility, and despondency that really gives this horror some depth. Koontz flirts briefly with the supernatural in the story, but stark realism easily overpowers it. I thought the push to the climax of the story lost a little steam. I found myself impatient rather than anxious for the inevitable showdown.
Overall, I thought this was a solid read. Yes, it was frightening. Yes, it was gory. Yes, it was a good way to start “decorating” for Halloween, even if it’s the middle of September.
Rocky Rates It Scare-O-Meter
3/5 ★★★ 3/5 Screams