Friday, February 25, 2011

Watchers by Dean Koontz

Synopsis From Title Page:

From a top-secret government laboratory come two genetically altered life-forms.  One is a magnificent dog of astonishing intelligence.  The other, a hybrid monster of a brutally violent nature.  And both are on the loose...

This was the book that made me fall in love with Dean Koontz as a teenager.  I don't remember how I came to read this one but the first time was magical for me.  I couldn't put it down, I didn't want to eat or sleep until I was at the end.  Something about this book grabbed me and would not let me go.

I'm always a little hesitant to go back and read a book that I have such fondness for in my head.  I'm never sure if it will be as good as I remember or if the "greatness" I experienced with the first reading will have faded, leaving me with tarnished memories.  Thankfully, though this book didn't live up to that euphoria, I still loved it and found myself getting lost once again.

The first time around I really found myself getting lost in the story of the dog, Einstein.  The fact that he turned into such a blessing for both Travis and Nora really hit home for me.  Dogs have always held a special place in my heart and I've always know that they can "save" a human in ways that can never fully be explained.  The fact that Einstein is not only as smart as a human but has the same emotional needs made it all the more special for me.  Add in the action of running for his life from both the government and The Other, and the story was just mesmerizing.  I still loved them and what Travis and Nora were willing to do to protect him.  I got lost in all the minute details of their discovering his intelligence.  From the wedding magazine, to the flash cards and Scrabble tiles, I smiled when they smiled and felt fear when things got hairy for them.

What really grabbed my attention this time around though were the bad guys of the piece.  It really wasn't the government officials that I found myself gravitating towards, though Samuel's conversion at the end was a great thing to read.  What I really paid attention to this time around was the contrast between Vincent, the hit man hired by unknown employers to take out the scientist involved, and The Other. 

Vincent is a homicidal maniac who has no qualms about killing.  He enjoys it and feels he gets life energy from his victims.  He never questions the hit and has no problem taking out women or children if they are in the way.  Actually quite the opposite, for him the younger the victim the stronger the life force he takes into himself.  This time things are a little different though, he does start to question why he is being told to kill these particular people.  He breaks his own rules and start to torture them to find out why the are being targeted.  When he discovers the truth about Einstein and The Other, he quickly figures out how to capitalize on the information he has and does everything he can to hunt Einstein down.

The Other, on the other hand was created to kill by the scientist who designed him.  Part baboon, dog, and who knows what else, The Other was created for one thing and one thing only, to kill.  Where Einstein  was designed to act as a spy, The Other was designed as a soldier.  Where Einstein is both physically adorable and has a loving nature, The Other is physically hideous and knows nothing but anger and violence. 

What breaks my heart about The Other is that he still has the emotions of a human.  He knows he is hideous to look at so he breaks mirrors and gouges out the eyes of his victims.  He knows he can't control his urges and hates himself for it.  The only joy he feels is by watching Mickey Mouse cartoons, something that Einstein loves as well.  He is a damaged character, one that I felt so much empathy for despite his actions and desire to kill Einstein, who he hates more than anything.  Einstein is the golden son, loved by everyone and taken care of by Trevor and Nora after he escaped from the laboratory.  The Other is the reject, the creation that is neither loved or cared for,  He is black sheep of the family, and he knows it.

The contrast between these two "killers" is fascinating.  One human, but not human in any way that counts.  The Other, a genetically created killing machine that is more the more human of the two.  One you want to die because he is a disgusting person, the other you want to die so he can quit living in such self hatred and anger.  I wanted to kill Vincent myself where I would have wanted to take care of The Other, though I know that would have been futile.

I'm so glad that I've reread this book as an adult.  I think I like it even more now, though for different reasons.  I think that's the best thing to happen with a reread, discovering new sides of it that for whatever reason you never saw the first time around.

Challenges: M&S


bermudaonion said...

How scary is this? I read one Dean Koontz book a while ago and loved it, so I picked up another one. The second one scared the pants off of me, so I've been hesitant to read another one.

Heidenkind said...

I've read Koontz's Odd Thomas series and really liked it, but nothing else. This one sounds kind of scary!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I have always been a fan of Dean Koontz, reminds me of my youth. I haven't read this one but his earlier stuff is the best. He had a weird run in the 90s but then got good again in the last 8 years or so.


Unknown said...

While Koontz is hit-or-miss with me, this book is definitely one of my all-time favorite horror novels. I'm a dog lover too, so this one hooked me. And the Other was a very cool villain, a bit of a classic Frankenstein character with a serial killer edge.

Ceri said...

Oh wait, I suddenly remember they made this into a film with a young Corey Haim. Will have to read this book now. :D

Yvette said...

Ryan: Thanks for the great review. I like when a reviewer really thinks about what they're trying to say - wants to make sure I 'get' what he's saying. I read this many years ago but for whatever reason, all I remember is the good dog. I think the whole premise upset me and possibly I put it out of my mind.

I was a late convert to Dean Koontz, didn't read his books until just exactly a few years ago. My most favorite Dean Koontz book remains ODD THOMAS and one of the sequels, BROTHER ODD. Koontz also wrote a book that was published right after ODD THOMAS that I liked very much as well. But damn if I can remember the title.

Koontz is one of those funny writers who either seems to write a great book or a totally awful book. Nothing in between.

I'm with you on 're-reads'. Mostly I love them.

Alexia561 said...

Great review! This wasn't my first Koontz book, but it is one of my favorites! Really cemented my love of his books. While he includes dogs in several of his stories, I think that Einstein is one of the best!

Anonymous said...

This was my first Koontz book ever and Einstein was what kept me riveted. I was scared by The Other - those scenes at the house still make me shudder.

Trisha said...

My mother has read every Koontz novel published, and I have to say that I too enjoy his books. They are perfect for when I'm in the mood for a fun and dark read.

Jill Buck said...

My parents are both really into thrillers and I know they have read all his books. I had some from a yard sale in a box in the basement but somehow never get around to getting to them. Probably a matter of too many books and too little time. Glad you enjoyed your reread!