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Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Koontz Novella

Dean Koontz likes big houses.

In his novella, “The Moonlit Mind,” Crispin lives with his mom, brother and sister in a three-floor, forty-four thousand square foot mansion called Theron Hall which belongs to his stepfather, Giles. The novel to which this novella is attached, “77 Shadow Street,” takes place in a luxury, three-floor apartment building called The Pendleton which used to be the private residence of a very rich family. Other Koontz books have had very large homes and buildings featured prominently as well. Nothing good usually happens in any of them.

Fortunately, Koontz lets Crispin escape into the nearby city as he tries to evade his stepfather’s agents. Why? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s just say that Crispin is to be the guest of honor at a very special ceremony. A ceremony that Crispin wants no part of. So off into the city he goes, living by his wits and hiding in parks, stores, and abandoned warehouses. Of course, this being a Dean Koontz story, he hooks up with a very cool stray dog he names Harley. A boy and his dog, loose in a city with no one to tell them what to do? What kid hasn’t imagined what that would be like?

Using a clever story device, Koontz uses flashbacks and flash-forwards between the 9 year-old Crispin and the 12 year-old Crispin, effectively showing the reader how he came to be in this predicament and how he finally deals with the events put in motion by his mom’s marriage to Giles. Along the way there are the signature Koontz jabs at modern American culture (a nightclub named Narcissus; a televangelist program called The Wide Eye of the Needle), and quirky, deftly drawn characters (the children’s tutor, Mordred; Crispin’s friend and fellow runaway, Amity, who lives in a department store and is known as the Phantom of Broderick’s).

Koontz’s newer novels all deal with the nature of evil and this novella is no different, though, being essentially an extended short story, there’s not much subtlety in its depiction. And that’s alright. Koontz clearly meant this tale to be a quick, fun ride, and he succeeds in providing the reader with a good time along with some creepy twists (you’ve heard of voodoo dolls; how about a voodoo house-model of the aforementioned Theron Hall?).

And, yes, there’s a lesson here. With Koontz there always is and, honestly, that’s one of the things I like about his works. In his earlier series of Frankenstein books, two of his characters come to the conclusion that fighting bad ideas is a life’s work. Koontz’s novels engage bad ideas, and evil, head-on and grant no quarter. This is good because there is no shortage of bad ideas in our world today.

In the Moonlit Mind, we relearn the old lesson that things, and people, are seldom just what they appear to be. Face value could very well be a mask. There’s more here, but I’ll let you read this tale to get at the rest.

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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Book Review

 

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The Myth of Progress

there is a “widespread assumption that ever since the rise of the modern Western world we are acting out a story of ‘progress.’ This is the so-called Whig view of history writ large: history is the story of movements of progressive freedom, and we must go forward and make the next one happen, and the next one after that. Despite all the tyrannies of the last century, people today still believe this myth of progress . . . ”

 

N.T. Wright, from “Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters,” (HarperCollins, 2011)

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Quotations

 

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Liebster Questions, My Answers

As I reported the other day, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by fellow blogger Jubilare. In order to receive this award I need to answer some simple questions. So here we go!

1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like.

Holy cow! I can’t remember all the places books have taken me over the years. Now I have to pick one to live in? Oy! Well, at least at this point in my life, I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings and within that book I’d select someplace in the Shire, perhaps Hobbiton, though Pincup in the Green Hill Country looks good. Willowbottom sounds a bit enticing as well.

I definitely want my own Hobbit hole, snug into the side of a nice green hill. Great insulation you know. A good size larder would be nice, as well as a fairly spacious study and library. I think it would be fine as far as size goes. I mean, if Gandalf can fit in Bilbo’s home, I’m sure I can be comfortable too. Oh yeah, and a sizeable dining hall with a large fireplace would be necessary for entertaining guests and for gaming night.

Whichever village I pick will need to have a local pub with an Olde Pub name like “The Board and Bone” or something similar. Oh, and it needs to be within crawling distance of my new abode. For convenience, you understand. I really like pubs.

As for who (or what) I’d try to befriend, probably just the locals from the pub. We’d more than likely have much in common. Good food, stout ale, some aromatic pipe weed, lots of books and interesting conversation; what more can a man ask for in the golden years? If I should see any tall, gray-bearded types with staffs wandering through, I’ll head to my cellar to check on the wines and brandies. If I can’t hear them knocking, oh well.

2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest?

Most of the books I read don’t have food in them, although George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series described plenty of meals. Of course I don’t remember a thing about them. I will say that I’ve always been curious about ancient cuisines. What did the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians or Huns eat?

But then, maybe I don’t really want to know.

3. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much?

I never thought about this much. I guess if I had to pick a plant, I’d pick ivy. I love the shape of the leaves and seeing it growing and covering walls and fences reminds me of libraries and books and warm, cozy houses with fireplaces and reading chairs. So yeah. Ivy.

4. What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why?

My favorite hero in fiction would have to be John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. MacDonald was one of the best pop fiction writers in America in the 1950s and 60s and he wrote a lot more than just the Travis McGee series, but the Florida beach bum was sort of his trademark. McGee lived on a house boat called The Busted Flush, so you can guess how he acquired it. He was in the “recovery” business, which meant that if someone screwed you out a great deal of money or other property, he would get it back for you for a percentage of the recovered item(s). You just didn’t ask him about his methods. He was also something of a keen observer and critic of  modern America. A public philosopher, if you will. Treat yourself to a Travis McGee novel sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

As for what villain really scares me, I’m going with the incomparable Preston Maddoc from Dean Koontz’ “One Door Away From Heaven.” Maddoc is a PhD in philosophy and claims to be a utilitarian bioethicist, but what he really likes to do is dispatch people he deems not worth living, like his nine-year-old crippled step daughter, Leilani Klonk (hey, it’s a Koontz novel). Koontz has distilled and concentrated the essence of the secular-humanist-utilitarian mindset into this one character and what makes him so frightening is that there really are people out there who see the world this way and are trying to spread their ideas. Ever hear of Peter Singer?

A close second would be Koontz’ new, improved Victor Frankenstein from his five novel series based on the Frankenstein story. I really do believe in mad scientists.

5. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why.

Ah, yes! The Happy Wanderer game. Let’s see. I’ve never been a big city-type of person, and farmland is useful but doesn’t have a lot of variety in the vistas department. Now, the mountains with the forest and ferns sounds really nice but at my age the steep-climb-thingy is a deal breaker. Heck, that may have been a deal breaker in my younger days, too! So that leaves the home and hearth option, which, if I were to have my very own Hobbit hole, would be just peachy by me.

There IS another direction I wouldn’t mind going: up. I’ve always thought that if a race of advanced aliens (friendly, of course) were to stop by and ask if I’d like to come for a ride I would probably answer yes. To see our planet and solar system retreating from the ship as we head out into deep space would be amazing! Maybe even see a new world or two.

I guess one could also include the option of going down. Think I’ll pass on that one, too.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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