Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fiction Review: Breathless

Years ago, back when I read mostly suspense and thrillers, I read lots and lots of Dean Koontz books; most of them dealt with scary, horrific themes, populated by psychotic or paranormal characters who wreaked havoc on the world around them.  My husband recently read a newer Koontz novel, Breathless, and told me, “You have to read this book. I know you’ll love it.” He was right! 

Breathless is wholly unique, different from other Koontz novels I’ve read.  It is mystical, magical, and thought provoking. When I asked my husband what the novel was about, he said, “Um…I really can’t tell you much or it will give it away.”  He was right about that, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises in this book for anyone else, so I will try to tell you just a little about it.

There are many different characters in Breathless, and the book begins with each chapter following the life of a different character. You get the sense immediately that their stories will somehow come together at some point, but you can’t see how for a long time. Grady Adams walks through a park in the Colorado mountains with his big, lovable dog, Merlin, and comes upon an amazing sight. Cammy Rivers, a veterinarian, is called out to investigate some very unusual animal behaviors.  Meanwhile, Henry Rouvroy drives to visit his long-estranged twin brother.  In Las Vegas, a scientist who specializes in chaos theory goes from one casino to the next, raking in big winnings, with some unusual ideas on what to do with them.  Out in California, a homeless man who has spent much of his life drunk and stoned suddenly sets out on a determined quest. 

The reader is introduced to these characters – and more – one at a time, and their stories gradually develop.  True to form, Koontz does include a couple of psychopaths, though it’s hard to see how their stories will intertwine with the rest. Gradually, bit by bit, Koontz pulls you in, making you care about the characters and introducing some very mystical events that have a dramatic impact on them.  There is ample suspense, which you’d expect from a Koontz novel, but also philosophical musings, which I didn’t expect.  I found myself marking pages and writing down quotes, on topics as diverse as hope, despair, and the process of scientific discovery.  At the very end, when things finally do all come together, I felt satisfied and enlightened, filled with wonder and thoughts of what might be possible. 

394 pages, Bantam Books

P.S. Do NOT read the Booklist review of Breathless, posted on - the reviewer not only gives away all of the surprises in the book, taking away that wonderful feeling of discovery, but also totally misses the point of the novel. In fact, don't read any other reviews - I noticed that almost all of them give away too much! This is a novel that is best discovered bit by bit, as intended.

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