Review

The Face

by Dean Koontz



Surrender from the start --- that's the best way to enjoy this
book. Just let yourself go into the baroque, moody atmosphere
created by a master of his craft. You'll have no regrets, because
halfway into the 600+ pages of THE FACE, you will be completely
caught up and so absorbed that you will have forgotten you ever
wondered (as I did for a bit early on) where the heck the plot
was.

Dean Koontz has been writing for a long time. He has, if I counted
correctly, 40 books to his credit, this one being the 41st. In a
market long dominated by Stephen King, with occasional invasions
from Peter Straub, Koontz has nevertheless steadily built the kind
of faithful following that consistently puts him on the bestseller
lists. Nobody works harder, or is more deserving of success, than
this man who, from the start of his career, has never been too busy
to give help and advice to new writers. I've read about half his
books, but this is my first in five years, and I'm glad to be back
with Koontz. THE FACE has an enviable maturity of style. Not all
authors who write long and prolifically also write better as the
years go by; in fact, judging by many popular authors today, most
don't. If there is anyone who enjoys the horror genre but hasn't
read Koontz, THE FACE would be an excellent place to start.

The time is the present, the place is Hollywood --- in boldface
with a capital H. "The Face" is what an adoring public calls
Channing Manheim, Hollywood superstar yet all-around nice guy.
Channing is in the book's background, though. Like many of Koontz's
novels, this one revolves around a boy, Channing's son Aelfric,
whose age hovers just on the edge of the teens --- with all that
implies. Fric, as he prefers to be called (and so would you if you
had a name like that), is intelligent, brave and unspoiled. He has
pretty much raised himself, due to the continual absence of a
father who makes three movies a year, most of them on location, and
a mother who is a jet-setting superstar model. He's a great kid,
and a believable character too.

Ethan Truman is The Face's head of security. He lives on the star's
estate, in the big house called Palazzo Rospo --- which Fric, who
likes to know stuff and makes it his business to find out, tells us
is Italian for Toad Hall. Truman's suite is on the first floor,
while Fric's is on the third. There are a bazillion rooms in this
place, and hearing about it in great detail from Fric's point of
view is fun. There is a lot of Hollywood lore, in fact, scattered
throughout THE FACE and all of it is fun. The author, who has lived
most of his life in Southern California and has had several of his
books made into movies, obviously knows this territory well and has
a sense of humor about it.

But back to Ethan Truman: he's a former L.A. Robbery-Homicide cop
who decided to go private after his wife, Hannah, died a few years
before our story starts. He has a friend named Hazard who is still
on the police force, and another friend from childhood named
Dunnie, which is short for Duncan, who became a criminal but
repented. Dunnie was also in love with Hannah, and it was after her
death that he finally understood loving her could have saved him
from his meaningless life of crime; if he had only let it, he might
have married her instead of Ethan.

Both Hazard and Dunnie (yes, in spite of him being dead) are trying
to help Ethan Truman who, by virtue of his job, must protect The
Face from a creep who is sending some very odd packages Truman
intercepts. But nothing is necessarily as it seems, so is Dunnie
really dead and does he really want to protect Ethan? The Face is
off location somewhere, but the sender of strange gifts doesn't
know that. It's a few days before Christmas, and Fric expects Dad
to come home for the holidays. The big house is being decorated,
and Fric's wisecracks about that are as amusing as his observations
of his parents' lifestyle. Less amusing are the phone calls Fric
starts getting ... and less amusing still are the calls that come
in to the big house's one line of 12 that is dedicated to receiving
phone communications from the dead. Only Ethan knows about these
calls, due to his security job, but even he can't listen in --- he
can only see by an indicator light when that dedicated line is
engaged. Nobody except Channing Manheim and his spiritual advisor
has access to that phone.

We meet early on a man named Corky LaPuta, who is a professor of
English by profession and an anarchist by vocation. Corky has many
truly inventive ways to sow anarchy; he's a creative genius. He is
also, well, just plain evil. Koontz takes his time in showing us
how far Corky will go and how he ties in to those odd gifts for
Channing Manheim. He also takes his time in showing us the that
role Corky plays in the alteration of reality that slowly, subtly,
and very scarily builds as the book's pages mount.

Dean Koontz's real skill comes in the way he takes you in, so that
you believe these things could really happen, no matter how strange
they are. First you believe the people in the book can be real
people, then you begin thinking that they can believe these things
are really happening to them, and eventually you're believing it
yourself --- all of it. And you don't want to leave your cozy chair
underneath the reading light to walk all the way down that long
dark hall to the bathroom, and you especially do not want to look
in the mirror once you get there.

As I said at the beginning, surrender! You'll be glad you
did.

Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day on January 21, 2011

The Face
by Dean Koontz

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553584480
  • ISBN-13: 9780553584486