As a lifelong fan of Dean Koontz and his work, I have been privileged to receive his newsletters for many years. They provide a look into his mind as well as an opportunity to spend time with his family and beloved pet Golden Retriever, Trixie. In the most recent edition, Koontz spent a lot of time talking about his latest release, INNOCENCE. Most remarkable was the origin story.
Authors are often asked by fans where their ideas for what they write come from. Some even are curious as to whether or not these ideas originate from what the author dreams while asleep. Koontz claims that, until now, the impetus for a novel of his never came from within a dream. INNOCENCE defies that track record as he recalls a dream in which he is sitting and talking with Thomas Tryon, a part-time actor and author who passed away in 1991. Koontz admits to never having met Tryon previously, but in his dream, the late author describes for him his latest bestseller and vividly outlines scenes from that work. Thus, the imagery and ideas for his new novel were born.
"...a novel that is difficult to label and a work featuring many memorable images that will linger with the reader."
Now, on to the book itself. Having spent most of his career penning primarily suspense and horror novels, the Dean Koontz of the past decade or so has turned far more introspective. The end result has been works of fiction that deal more in characters, spirituality and faith than being driven by traditional good versus evil in supernatural settings.
INNOCENCE is primarily the story of two very unique individuals. Calling New York City home, but inhabiting a sort of netherworld of their own, the mysterious Addison meets up with Gwyneth on a snowy evening while most of the city’s residents are sleeping. Addison has lived in an underground series of rooms for most of his life and has an odd appearance that is constantly covered by a ski mask and a hood. Gwyneth sports a Goth look that strangely resembles the eerie marionettes both she and Addison fear and seek out.
The book is written in typical Koontz style with the “good” and innocent characters being chased by those who are evil or seeking to do them harm. The NYC that Addison and Gwyneth inhabit is unlike anything Koontz has written to date and possesses a very ethereal quality. There are many references to Dickens, and the two share an adventure throughout a snowy evening where evil characters --- many of whom are only visible to the two protagonists --- lurk and must be dealt with.
The end result is a novel that is difficult to label and a work featuring many memorable images that will linger with the reader. Could these have been the very images the dream-world version of Thomas Tryon described to Mr. Koontz? INNOCENCE is essentially about fear of the unknown and those who are considered to be outsiders, and the opportunity for these individuals to fully embrace what they are. It is a brief glance into those late-night hours when things are darkest and the rest of us sleep peacefully, while others are having adventures we can only dream about.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 13, 2013