Thriller author’s latest novel proves thought-provoking

Carol A. Wright

By A Contributor

Do I possess such a naive innocence in thinking that Dean Koontz has all the time in the world to send me a letter, post card or even a simple sticky note? It’s always a pleasure to read his novels, novellas, critical reviews, e-Books, screenplays and anything else that I might forget to give him credit for.

It’s no secret that he has inspired his company of fans. His beautifully written prose, dark poetry and supernatural imagery have thrilled me and other devoted readers for many years.

But, lately, something has changed. Maybe Koontz has changed. Or perhaps I am getting a tiny bit restless as this wise man challenges me and others to follow the storyline in his newest creation, “Innocence: A Novel,” while at the same time he encourages us to try and keep up with so much symbolism.

Not only that, but the characters sometimes mislead or play tricks on us. At first, we think we know what they mean, what they might be saying or how they think.

I suppose it’s healthy for us, for me, to wonder and speculate the meaning of the sinister marionettes which mostly arrive later in the novel and greatly in-depth. And there’s a kind of evil relationship shared by both the puppets and a crooked archbishop, law enforcement, powerful, hateful greedy men and, naturally, the two main characters, Addison and Gwyneth, who are, by the way, exquisitely portrayed in this novel.

It’s the story itself that grabs readers from the very beginning. A young man with a heart of gold, Addison, was born with severe disfigurement. He lives underground below the city and only goes above ground at night. He hides himself from the public, wearing a hooded jacket so nobody can get a look at him. If someone does, that person is revolted by his appearance, becomes excessively scared or shocked.

People hunt down Addison. He is beaten, almost killed. The fear, it seems, has something more to do with Addison’s eyes. When certain people look into his eyes and realize they’re dying, they somehow see themselves, their past guilts and sins, maybe even a glimpse into a horrifying future.

When Addison was born, the midwife had wanted to end “its” life. Addison’s mother feels shame and guilt and forces him out of home when he’s still a boy. His mother does not do well in coping with her own emotions. She drinks and is addicted to drugs. The father was apparently no good, a traitor, who didn’t want anything to do with his family.

Sadly, even though mother feels her own kind of affection for her boy, she commits suicide following her boy’s departure.

Which brings me to another point: I had no idea until after I finished reading “Innocence,” that Koontz had written an e-Book, “Wilderness,” that served as a prelude to “Innocence.”

It probably details a lot of Addison’s life and adventures in the wilderness and his association with animals. It might be better if I had read “Wilderness” first. In some respects, Addison is an “animal,” or is viewed as such by some outsiders, although he considers himself an outsider.

A man whom Addison refers to as “Father” saves his life one night and they become close, living for a while in a small area under the city, within the drainage system, among pipes, adapting successfully to the maze of tunnels, learning how to keep out of sight, trying to dodge danger. Koontz shines here as he takes readers on a journey through the shadows and beauty of the underground. Believe it or not, there is a type of harsh and lonely beauty to life under the city streets.

Addison eventually meets Gothic girl Gwyneth. She dresses in black, appears tough, but is smart, sensitive and careful.

She, too, knows the ins and outs of the city. She tries to protect herself from a man who murdered her father. She’s very much aware that her life is in jeopardy, as well as Addison’s. Thus, Gwyneth and Addison team up, come to trust each other (though not right away) and work at solving her father’s murder.

It seems armageddon lurks everywhere in this novel. A life-threatening virus just might be responsible to put an end to the city and the entire world. This did not sit comfortably with several fans.

I came across a couple of statements by a few disappointed fans online. They believed that Koontz’s end of the world virus was too common, as many other authors have incorporated deadly viruses in their novels instead of thinking of another source to do damage to or kill off the human race. However, Koontz’s version turned out to be potentially convincing to me.

As I mentioned, there’s much mystery (too much, in fact) regarding all the religious, political and environmental symbolisms in “Innocence.”

However, I must say that Koontz writes with compassion and allows his readers to feel the sorrow, loneliness and bravery of Addison and Gwyneth. He’s extremely passionate about his characters.

But something about those marionettes still bugs me. Could Addison and Gwyneth be manipulated so easily by those who only wish to harm? I just kept remembering the song, “Marionette,” by Mott the Hoople: “...All dressed in black so nobody sees you….I’m just a marionette,” with a touch of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

On the whole, I admire Koontz, for he has had his own share of suffering in real life, and although I still toss and turn in bed late at night, picturing those creepy marionettes and other missing pieces to the puzzle in my head, I will always think highly of his writing style and how many of us can identify with the trials and triumphs of his characters.

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