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The Big Dark Sky


The Big Dark Sky

Twenty-four years ago, Joanna Chase was overcome with indescribable grief over the sudden loss of her mother, who always called her Jojo. She was promptly taken away from Rustling Willows Ranch in Montana to live with her aunt in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But Joanna kept getting messages from her mother in different forms, including in her dreams: I might reach out to you many years from now and ask you to come home.

Joanna grows up to become a novelist, and her Montana ranch has long faded into her deep memory. But that all changes at the age of 34 when she begins receiving very clear, odd and direct messages. One strange phone call from a voice she cannot place asks her if she remembers Jimmy “Two Eyes” Alvarez. Joanna doesn’t but is assured that she will never forget that name again and is told: I am in a dark place, Jojo. Please come and help me.

"After a half-century of writing, there seems to be no quit in Dean Koontz.... I am so glad to see that he is not slowing down and still has more literary tricks up his sleeve."

The trouble that is brewing is being directly caused by a madman named Asher Optime. You cannot have good without evil, and Optime is as evil as it gets. He is convinced that he is on a mission that will impact all creatures, and nothing will stop him. Meanwhile, when Joanna asks her aunt about Jimmy, she is told that he was a special-needs child who grew up with her in Montana. He is still alive and living there with his father, but he has not spoken in years.

While Joanna recognizes that she must return home, Optime is keeping a young woman chained up in an abandoned church and has sick visions of his own agenda. Sides are being drawn for what looks to be a showdown under the big dark sky in Montana. Private investigator Wyatt Rider has rented the very same property where Joanna grew up. He knows that others will be coming as well, and they must be prepared for a final battle.

Joanna is on her way there, motivated by more messages: Jojo, I am spiraling into Bedlam. The big dark sky, The terrible big dark sky. Only you can help me. Regardless of whether these pleas are coming from her mother or someone else, she knows that she must be in Montana for the reckoning to come. When she sees Rustling Willows after so many years, she is initially hit with grief over the loss of her parents, both of whom perished there. Yet she somehow understands that their deaths have something to do with her return and what she will be forced to do under the big dark sky.

One of the book’s best scenes is the meeting between Joanna (who briefly becomes Jojo again) and Jimmy. I will not spoil it here; all I will say is that it really connects the past with the present, as well as informs what must happen in the extremely near future with the great evil that is bearing down on all of them.

After a half-century of writing, there seems to be no quit in Dean Koontz. His last few novels, including THE BIG DARK SKY, have been a nice mix of the many genres that he has dabbled in over the years, with touches of horror, science fiction and suspense at nearly every turn. The gathering of sides here, particularly the team on the “good” side, called to mind classic Koontz works such as STRANGERS, which had a similar theme in which people who did not know each other would be fated to stand together when it counted most. I am so glad to see that he is not slowing down and still has more literary tricks up his sleeve.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 22, 2022

The Big Dark Sky
by Dean Koontz