Friday, May 22, 2009

The Grown-Up Books of My Childhood

You cannot tell me this is not the worst cover ever. Well, maybe not the worst EVER (I'm accepting additional nominees--with links--in the comments section), but really, just awful.

I read a lot of Dean Koontz when I was young. I remember in seventh grade, he was THE author to be reading--grown up books, novels, come on. Everyone had a copy of Whispers or Watchers or one of his other one-word sometimes-supernatural thrillers on top of their social studies book and notebook. Him and V.C. Andrews, baby; we were not YA readers.

I read almost everything he'd written on through high school, and then a couple of his newer ones in college. And somehow, I've moved on, and he keeps cranking these books out.

I think they're getting worse. It's always tough to go back to something you've read in childhood, but it's even harder to move on with it. Mercedes Lackey and I, for example, have grown apart. I loved her first books when I was a teenager; when I go back and read them now, I still love them, but partly in a nostalgic way. I'm a more critical reader, and they're simple books--satisfying in many ways, childish in many others. Her current books are much more complex and very different, and I have to admit I don't like them as much. She's retained her fondness for a firm grounding in fairness--seriously, her world is so fair that if you get rained on, you're likely to find a quarter in a puddle. I can't count her uses of "she would pay for that later," because anyone could do any physical feat--it's just really tiring. In her older books, this sense of fairness was simple and charming. In her newer ones, the world has to twist itself around to make things work out, and it's just weird.

But I'm talking about Dean Koontz. I just reread a few pages of Watchers, the one about the superintelligent dog. It's definitely still good. Maybe a little overly fond of lavishing you with the details that his research has uncovered on things like how to get a fake ID or how a vet's office works, but overall good and well-paced and charming.

But oh, Your Heart Belongs to Me. It's hard to explain--it's not as charming a story, but a puppy who can spell things with Scrabble tiles is hard to beat. No, it's more that the details, the characterizations, are supposed to be appealing to me, and are failing. He gives you these details about his super-rich main character--his elaborate garage, his swim trunk collection--that I think are supposed to endear me--doesn't he have good taste? Isn't he down to earth?--that actually do the exact opposite. A 12-car garage is not endearing, even if it's charmingly outfitted. Anyone who describes his swim trunks as having "a palm tree motif" is irritating. That's not how I'm supposed to feel.

I'm not yet sure if I'm supposed to think the main character's motivation is nonsensical. I mean, he says himself that he's being irrational, but in the way you apologize to a store clerk for bothering them when you're really requesting that they do their job, thankyouverymuch. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to follow him down this irrational path, or keep thinking that maybe he's going crazy. I hope the latter, because that's what I do think.

Also, almost no paragraph is more than two sentences long. There were four pages of two-sentence-and-under paragraphs in a row just a minute ago. No dialogue. Urgh.

We all remember the good old days, though, right? Lightning, that was great. Dark Rivers of the Heart. Twilight Eyes. Man, those were the days.

1 comment:

JMLC said...

I completely remember Watchers. That may have been the first one I read. After that, they all blurred together as I was reading him when I was reading Stephen King. I think I hit my gore/horror limit around that time- I read Christopher Pike around then, too.
I think after that, I moved on to the Robert B. Parker Spenser books and was much, much happier with those...