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Books–The Husband, by Dean Koontz February 16, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other, statistical analysis.
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I wasn’t feeling well on Wednesday, so I read a Dean Koontz novel while trying not to throw up.  The Husband is easily the best Dean Koontz novel I have read for some time. Suspenseful and thematically interesting, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Still, there were a couple of sentences that were just, well, jarring. I don’t know whether Koontz does his own editing, or whether he sometimes ignores the advice of others, but surely there must be some way in the future to avoid things like this:

“Remember coming to my wedding three years ago?” Mitch asked.
“Sure. You had great seafood tacos, but the band was woofy.”
“They weren’t woofy.”
“Man, they had tambourines.”
“We were on a budget. At least they didn’t have an accordion.”
“Because playing an accordion exceeded their skill level.”

It’s that last sentence that I find so troubling, I guess. This little snippet of dialogue was only five pages in, but it had already become clear the person speaking was not bright.  But even if he were, this is simply not the sort of sentence that a normal person utters.

How about “playing an accordion was too hard for them.”?
Or “too complicated, too many buttons.”?

I’ve sometimes thought that sentences like this must serve some purpose in Koontz’s books (in some, like the Odd Thomas series there are a lot of them). Maybe it’s like when poets want to draw particular attention to a word, so they mess with the meter. If so, they don’t really serve their purpose, because they often run counter to the other purposes these sections are attempting to serve: establishing the tone of a particular relationship, explicating some back-story, etc.

Another troubling phrasing that Koontz often uses is of the following type (for which I will now coin the term Koontzian simile of central tendency:

“Finally she pulls up her sweater and secrets the nail in her bra. She isn’t as extravagantly endowed as the average female mud wrestler, but nature has been more than fair.”

Why “the average female mud wrestler? I guess it’s not much of an analogy, not effective except upon those who watch female mud wrestling and can sum up bust sizes and then divide by the number of busts.
But I don’t think that Koontz is depending upon our knowledge of mud wrestling. I think he’s relying on stereotype to get the point across. But if so, why the average?  It boggles the mind.

Finally, another one of his descriptive passages, which seems, other than dialogue, to be where his editors have the most difficulty.

“Mitch drew slow deep breaths. The heavy fragrance was so sweet as to be narcoleptic.”

Probably the word there should be “narcotic.” But I love the image of a fragrance falling asleep and hitting its head on the desk, spilling its coffee. I would have marked that one “stet,” too.

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Comments»

1. silverneurotic - February 17, 2007

Wow, I thought only my friend and I could rip apart a Koontz book like that.

2. caveblogem - February 17, 2007

silverneurotic,

I thought I was being helpful for Mr. Koontz. I really enjoy his books. It’s just that after reading so many of them I’m starting to get irritated by little things.

3. maryjunebrown - February 19, 2007

Absolutely…a great post…this kind of thing just bugs me to death. It’s such a sorry thing that writers…rich and famous and successful writers…seem to start to write poorly. It’s like they don’t need to try anymore…they don’t do the agonizing, the self-assessment. They don’t do the heavy lifting.
So…note to self…when I’m rich and famous and successful, I’ll keep the quality up. See? This is one of the (many) reasons why i DESERVE success! hee hee

4. caveblogem - February 20, 2007

maryjunebrown,

Thanks, I think that Koontz has gotten better, overall. The few quirks like the ones I mention stand out all the more, unfortunately. I recall a couple of novels where he seemed to be doing product placements, which seems like a bad idea for books. Ten years from now the type of beer a character is said to drink won’t tell us anything about the type of person he is (if it does now).

And thanks for holding the line on quality. We should all take the pledge, for when we are rich and famous. We could remind each other.

5. Joshua Shear - January 28, 2008

Koontz tends to include Pepsi and McDonald’s in most of his titles. Also, his over-descriptive analogies are one of the things that make his writing so great.


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