When it comes to reading novels by Dean Koontz, I always have the same issue. I’ll pick one up and within 20 pages I find myself with a remarkable sense of deja vu. Koontz’s novels are all so remarkably similar in style and writing voice that it’s hard to really remember details about them, even moments after you’ve put them down. I refer to Koontz as the bubble-gum writer–his books are memorable while you chew them but the flavor fades quickly and you’ll forget them within a few minutes of spitting them out.
So, when I saw the premise for “Relentless,” and read the first few pages, I was happy to see that while there were several standard Koontz cliches at work in the book (a smarter than average dog, the everyman narrator, the guy who out-kicked his coverage in marriage), I became more and more annoyed that he’d wasted all that creative effort on this novel.
To say that “Relentless” requires a big time suspension of disbelief is an understatement. Our narrator is Cullen “Cubby” Greenwich is a best-selling author and regular guy. He’s got the requisite great wife, a precious son and they’ve got a hyper-intelligent dog. Greenwich’s latest novel is reviewed by reclusive and acerbic book critic Shearman Waxx. The review is less than favorable and Cubby begins to obsess about it. To the point that he discovers the critic eats at a local restaurant and he heads there to get a look at the guy. An incident in the restroom where his son accidentally pees near the critic leads to Waxx telling the family the word “Doom,” and then leaving.
The set-up along requires such a huge suspension of disbelief alone due to a series of coincidences. Waxx’s column appears in a national paper, published in another city but he happens to live near our hero. Not only that, but he goes to a restaurant our hero knows and can visit and the waiter has tipped our hero off on when to see him.
Then things take a turn for the stranger. Cubby begins to see Waxx around his house. Apparently Waxx has some kind of superpowers because he can sneak in a house with an alarm system and not wake said dog that is repeatedly talked about as this great protector. He tazers our hero and his wife and then blows up their house. At this point, I was rolling my eyes and wondering how much more insane the book could get. It also made me wonder if Koontz has had one too many negative reviews and if “Relentless” is meant as some kind of purge of the negative feelings he has toward those critics. Maybe so, but next time he should leave the book with his therapist and not inflict it upon the rest of the reading world.
From there, the novel continues to have one baffling turn after the next as Koontz piles onto this already outrageously unbelievable story. You may keep reading, hoping that it will all somehow make sense in the end, but you’re going to be disappointed.
“Relentless” is a terrible book that will sell well based on name recognition. I suppose every writer is entitled to publish one bad novel. But this one really sets a new standard for bad books.