August 25, 2006
From the Corner of His Eye
From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz
Finished on 8/24/06
Rating: C (3/10 Ho-hum)
I started keeping a reading journal about 10 years ago and have recently begun my 10th book. Some are very simple, wire-bound notebooks with a pretty cover and others are specifically made to keep track of the books read, including sections for favorite passages, book group notes, books lent/borrowed, book stores & services, and recommendations. These are charming journals with literary quotes sprinkled here and there, making for enjoyable reading as well as writing. Up until my recent leap into the blogosphere, these journals have been a great source of valuable information to this bibliophile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred back to an earlier entry, looking for a specific quote or my thoughts about a particular book. My favorite excuse for sitting on the guest room floor, reading journals scattered about me, lost in my long-forgotten words, is the pursuit of a list of titles to recommend to an inquiring friend or relative. I’m always flattered when I get a phone call from my daughter (as she waits to board a plane in the DFW airport) or the son of a good friend or an email from a friend who needs a list of titles to recommend to her face-to-face book group, all asking, “Hey, Les (or Mom in the kid’s case), I need something to read. What do you recommend?” Eeeek! I’m supposed to come up with suggestions at the drop of a hat? I need preparation! I need at least an afternoon searching for the perfect titles for the specific taste of each reader. I need more time!! These things can’t be rushed.
One thing I’ve discovered is there’s nothing worse (ok, that’s a bit extreme – we all know there are worse things in life) than raving about one of your favorite books to a fellow reader, eager for her to share your joy and enlightenment in the lyrical prose of your favorite author, only to hear months later, “Oh, ya. I read that book you told me about. Gawd, it was the worst thing I’ve read in ages. The author yadayadayada…” and so it goes. Not only will this person never call you again for a book rec, but your credibility as a well-read individual has just been shot to hell. Sigh.
But wait. We all have our own specific reasons for enjoying a book. Sometimes it’s simply the right time or the right place. Or we find something with which to identify that another wouldn’t (or couldn’t), based merely on our particular life experiences. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why some books strike us so powerfully when others are fodder for the recycle bin. So why take it personally when a recommendation is stomped all over?
Which brings me to my point. (I know, finally!) What happens when a very dear friend (whom I’ll just call "Heidi" because...well, that happens to be her name) not only raves about From the Corner of His Eye, but gives me a copy for my birthday and I finally get around to reading it and about halfway through, I start thinking, Oh, no. I don’t like this book. What am I going to tell Heidi when she asks? Do I tell her my husband left it on an airplane and I haven’t had the time to get another copy? Do I write an honest review, but change my Blogger address and accidentally forget to give her the new one so she can’t read it? Do I fudge a bit (ok, lie) and say it was good, but gee, I have so many books to read and thanks but I really don’t need any more recommendations for, say, another five or 10 years?
I think I’ll just tell the truth. (Who knows, maybe she’ll never ask, and since she’s one of the busiest people I know, she’ll probably never read this blog anyway!). I didn’t love the book. I didn’t even really like it. The first few chapters were good and the closing chapters were satisfying, but that leaves about 600 pages that I struggled through for two whole weeks! Why? Because I had to see how it ended and I’m not a skimmer. And besides, some of my most favorite books took anywhere between 50-200 pages before I got hooked. So I figured I'd better stick it out. This book (a mass market – hard on the eyes, but easy to hold up in bed) is a whopping 729 pages! I don’t usually mind long books, but this one really needed a more stringent editor. If Koontz really felt compelled to drag the plot on for that many pages, he should’ve increased the tension just a notch or two. I liked the main characters and came to care about them (especially the two young children) and their individual plights, but got a little frustrated with the constant introduction of new characters far into the narrative, making me wonder if and when all the separate storylines would converge. The plot-related particulars about quantum physics and parallel universe theories were intriguing, but I had to suspend disbelief many times over, and couldn’t help but wonder if Koontz truly believes in what he describes.
One final note: I’ve never been a huge fan of Koontz. I think Whispers was the first book of his I read (back in the early 80s, if I remember correctly). I never gave him much consideration until the summer of 2004 when I read Odd Thomas (which I read again this past February). It turned out to be one of the best books I’d read in a long time. Eager for more, I checked out The Taking from the library. Good, but not as good as Odd Thomas. I was thrilled when Forever Odd was released, but deeply disappointed that it failed to live up to my expectations. And now this dissatisfying read. So, are we through? Do I banish him to the list of authors I’ll never read again? (I just discovered another title, Velocity, in one of my previous blog entries. So unimpressive I'd forgotten I'd even read it!)
I suppose that all depends on whether a well-intentioned friend or relative raves about Koontz’s future release of Brother Odd. I’m pretty sure I won’t get a copy for my birthday or Christmas this year. However, gift certificates are always greatly appreciated. ;)