Book Review, Intensity by Dean Koontz
Intensity is one of the most intense horror books I’ve ever read.
In the entire 308 pages, there was no letup from the terror. I kept reading it just to see. There wasn’t.
The story goes to our deepest fears, an intruder in the house in the middle of the night, a monster-person who appears to never go away, one impossible situation after the other.
It also deals with a tantalizing subject, sex, wrong sex, horrible activities done possibly for sex. Sex, as well as tension and terror, keeps you reading.
Laura, the daughter of wealthy vineyard owners Paul and Sarah Templeton, and her college friend, Chyna, are driving to the Templeton’s for a visit. Home for the holidays, and better for Laura, with a guest who had no home outside of college.
The plot hinges around the guest, Chyna, who while sitting up at night gazing out a bedroom window, hears a scream. Chyna’s childhood had been horrible, so the scream took her back to childhood.
“When she heard the first scream, Chyna was gazing at the stars, drawn by their cold light as she had been since childhood, fascinated by the thought of distant worlds that might be barren and clean, free of pestilence.”
You just know when you read that last sentence, that Chyna’s experiences in the near future will definitely not be “barren and clean” but will be filled to the horror-brimming point with “pestilence” in some form.
The paragraph continues, “At first the muffled cry seemed to be only a memory, a fragment of a shrill argument from another strange house in the past, echoing across time.”
Aha, a too-familiar type of memory to too many kids. Adults fighting, while you’re trying to sleep.
The deepest horror for you -- and for Chyna -- family fights, only in Chyna’s case, family fights between her mother and various boyfriends. Not even family family fights. The kind a child in a horrible childhood would know.
The story immediately gets worse and continues worse until the very end. Someone enters Chyna’s bedroom. She hides under the bed, as she had done numerous times in her childhood, the intruder leaves. Chyna so carefully and fearfully explores the house, fearing she will be attacked by the intruder at any second around any corner or on any staircase. (It’s a big house, of course, with lots of corners and several staircases.)
She finds Laura’s parents dead, horrible tortured death. Then Chyna sees the evil intruder carrying vainly squirming Laura outdoors to a motor home. To save Laura, Chyna follows.
The horror gets worse and worse and even worse. She discovers a teenage girls kept prisoner in the evil one’s house -- in the basement, of course, in a sound proof room. Laura is murdered in a torturous way, Chyna discovers a young man’s body hanging in a closet in the motor home where she is hiding during the long, scary ride to the bad guy’s house.
The climax is alongside a dark road, when the motor home rolls over, the teenager whom Chyna had rescued with her.
“The air was thick with gasoline fumes,” Chyna discovers.
But it is a cigarette lighter and those fumes that save her and the teenager, Ariel, from a horrible death at the hands of the evil one.
To show how powerful the evil villain is, at one point during this climax, he says, “God fears me.”
But the villain does dies, a horrible death, described all too well by Koontz.
In the final chapter, of course, Chyna awakes in a hospital. Ariel too is alive but emotionally disfigured and without hope.
On Christmas morning, Chyna finds four words, penned by Ariel, “I want to live.”
In a tense scene, Ariel grips Chyna’s hands.
“‘There’s a way,’ Chyna assured her.
“The girl’s hands gripped Chyna’s even tighter.
“‘There’s hope, baby. There’s always hope. There’s a way, an no one can find it alone, but we can find it together. We can find it together. You just have to believe.’”
So concludes Intensity, the most tense, intense horror story I’ve ever read.
Only Dean Koontz writes them like this.*
“Dean Ray Koontz,” according to Wikipedia, “(born July 9, 1945) is an American author best known for his novels, which can broadly be described as suspense thrillers, but also frequently incorporate elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire. Several of his books have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List, 14 hardcovers and 14 paperbacks reached the number one position. Koontz wrote under a number of pen names earlier in his career, including "David Axton", "Leigh Nichols" and "Brian Coffey".”
Wikipedia continues, “Koontz was born on July 9, 1945, in Everett, Pennsylvania. He was regularly beaten and abused by his alcoholic father, which influenced his later writing, as also did the courage of his physically diminutive mother in standing up to her husband. "In his senior year at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, he won a fiction competition sponsored by Atlantic Monthly magazine. After graduation in 1967, he went to work as an English teacher at Mechanicsburg High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. In the 1960s, Koontz worked for the Appalachian Poverty Program, a federally funded initiative designed to help poor children. In a 1996 interview with Reason Magazine, he said that while the program sounded "very noble and wonderful, . . . [i]n reality, it was a dumping ground for violent children . . . and most of the funding ended up 'disappearing somewhere,” which explains much of his writing.
For your own tension-filled time under Koontz artful writing, look online or in a bookstore for this suspense thriller published in 1996 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Enjoy your horrible, frightening, intense time reading. And be thankful it’s fiction.
*By definition, this story is a comedy because it has a happy ending. It’s a horror-comedy story.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012