Think of someone who has been exemplary in their field of endeavor.
Take Tiger Woods, for instance. I can't recite all of his
accomplishments, but he is acknowledged as being an incredible
golfer. Now, suppose, in the course of his next tournament, Tiger
steps up and to the tee and hits a hole-in-one --- not once, but 18
times in a row. This would be an unheard-of feat. His previous
accomplishments, however, would not be denigrated; they would be
regarded as important, incredible, and as natural progressions
toward an undreamed-of event.
Anyone reading Dean Koontz's new novel is going to have to evaluate
his previous work in a similar light. Koontz has been writing
memorable novels since before the time that a majority of his
readers was old enough to hold a pencil properly; and he has a
loyal, solid base that grows with each new book he writes. Harlan
Ellison predicted great things for Koontz over 30 years ago and he
was absolutely right. Nothing that Koontz has ever written,
however, will prepare his new or established readership for FROM
THE CORNER OF HIS EYE.
Koontz, as befits a veteran author of his stature, boldly begins
FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE with three conundrums: 1) Barty Lampion
is blinded at the age of three when surgeons, in order to save him
from cancer, remove his eyes. Barty regains his sight at age 13; 2)
Barty's mother, Agnes, a woman of great faith, selfless charity and
quiet strength, with the capacity to move the world without a
fulcrum, dies on the day Barty is born --- but lives long enough to
make him proud of her before she dies a second time; and 3) the man
who changed Barty's and Agnes's lives forever, on the day of
Barty's birth, is a stranger whose destiny is inexorably linked
The first of these is presented and resolved relatively early in
the game. The second and third take awhile. All are the subject of
plausible resolution. Along the way we are introduced to Junior
Cain, an individual of such monstrosity and unpredictability that
he can only be too real --- a man who regards Barty as an enemy
almost from the moment of his birth, without knowing who he is. We
also meet Angel White, whose existence is the result of an
unspeakable crime and unconditional love. The lives of these
people, separated initially by thousands of miles, are linked to
each other in ways that are simultaneously profound, beautiful and
horrific. And it is here that Koontz demonstrates the breadth,
depth, and magnitude of his talent. Although the reader's instinct
is to read this magnificent tale as quickly as possible, Koontz's
prose demands that it be savored slowly. This is not merely a novel
of suspense; it is also a story of belief and reflection, of hard
choices and the beauty that can blossom from doing what is right,
rather than what is easy.
In his introduction, Koontz quotes from THE MOMENTOUS DAY, by H. R.
White, to the effect that each small act of kindness reverberates
across great distances and spans of time; this philosophy permeates
FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE. And Koontz, while dazzling the reader
with magnificent turns of phrase that will evoke simultaneous
admiration and envy, alternates the mood between tenderness and
suspense. Barty is in terrible danger from Junior Cain; yet the
selflessness and kindness of Agnes and the White family are
presented in such a gentle, nonintrusive manner that when Koontz
focuses on those aspects of the narrative, they are not a
distraction but are, instead, uplifting.
Koontz closes FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE with a very short Author's
Note concerning how human relationships reflect Quantum mechanics.
The reader does not have to understand either area to appreciate
where Koontz goes. It is enough, rather, to know that underneath
each apparent chaos there is some strange order. Koontz beautifully
and vividly taps into this with a novel that is absolutely perfect
from opening word to closing sentence.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011