77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz (2011) – Book Review
I am the one, and there can be no other. They come to me, and I receive them as the meat they are. In time, all will come to me, and then what must be will be. Thereafter only I shall know the sun and the moon. (One, 77 Shadow Street)
Dean Koontz’s latest offering, 77 Shadow Street, is more science fiction than Koontz’s usual horror. In saying this, Koontz does manage to elicit many moments of stalking terror. Many have said that this is a return to vintage Koontz, prior to his near death experience. It is hard to disagree as the story itself is quite brilliant, however the writing does seem to meander a little.
Most of the story takes place in a luxury apartment block called the Pendleton, which stands on the top of the hill at 77 Shadow Street. The building was constructed in the 1800’s and has experienced some form of horrific occurrence every 38 years since 1897. Whole families have gone missing, workmen scared off the site, people indiscriminately slaughtered. We join the residents of the Pendleton in December 2011, just on the 38 year mark, the next 451 pages is their story.
The book is narrated rather cryptically, in part by a character referred to only as One. The singularity and omnipotent nature of this voice is quite chilling, and borders on biblical at times. One gives an overwhelming sense of dread throughout the books, and I actually found myself excited, when I would see a One chapter approaching. The other characters in the book are very well done, but the problem I had is that there were so many of them, and they were jumped between quite rapidly at times that it was both hard to keep track and hard to form empathy with them. When Koontz spent time on a character they became more human and it became easier to feel for them and the horror, confusion and tragedy which they endure.
Similar to this is the descriptions of the Pendleton itself. At first it is vivid, and the writing develops a resonance and sense of old grandeur. However too much time is dedicated to the descriptions and not enough to the characters. So while you get a great idea of the location, the characters are in a way ignored. I understand that the Pendleton itself is a character in the book, however there are several occasions where the same description is rehashed more than once and it becomes quite tiresome.
That is the bad. The good, is quite excellent. The changes that the Pendleton undergoes and the relentless pursuit of the residents is quite chilling, made even more so when plot points are revealed later in the novel which give the whole thing a very human feel. I will not go into too much detail as it would be spoiling it; needless to say there is a very good twist which explains everything that has occurred prior.
77 Shadow Street is about the human pursuit for perfection and domination over the natural order at any cost, and the consequences of actions unchecked. Koontz delivers a readable and chilling novel. Even though at times it can drag a little, definitely give this one a go.
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