Author: Dean Koontz
Innocence is the latest release of Dean Koontz, a prolific and accomplished author whom I have loved for many years. I have missed quite a few of his more recent releases so I was very excited to have this title come across my desk and knew that it would be at the top of the pile because I wouldn’t be able to wait to sink my teeth in and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It has reignited my love of Koontz and I can see me heading out to buy some of the titles I’ve missed in recent times.
It took me a while to get fully immersed in this one because, at least for me, it bore a strong resemblance to one of my favourite 80’s TV shows Beauty and The Beast. This resemblance started out quite strong with our hero Addison living in subterranean chambers under the city and only coming out at night because his countenance strikes fear in the hearts of all who see him. He comes across a damsel in distress and risks himself to save her. Even thinking about it now has me wanting to go back and watch the show again. It turns out that the similarities are quite superficial as the story begins to unfold.
Addison Goodheart is not like other people, the reaction he invokes in all who lay eyes upon him is extreme. It begins with fear that rapidly morphs into homicidal fury, and has almost been the death of him on more than one occasion beginning with the midwife present at his birth. He wasn’t born in the city, rather he made his way there after being turned out of his home at 8 years old. He met another like him when he reached the city and made a home with him in underground chambers.
Innocence unfolds in the present over a short space of time but alongside present events we have alternate chapters where we learn about the past. There is a very mystical feeling to this novel and at times it gets quite odd. The battle between good and evil is often prevalent in Koontz novels but for the most part it is on a very human scale, it’s the good guy against the psychopath. Innocence tackles them from a much larger scale, a much more spiritual scale.
I think the flashbacks are important to give us a clearer picture of who Addison is, of what makes him tick, but they can be very frustrating in that the time shift is so sudden and so often; though they are always relevant to the point in the present they flash from.
The writing is very polished and some of the wording was a little archaic, I pride myself on having an extensive vocabulary but in reading Innocence I had to head to the dictionary on more than one occasion, which is something I rarely have to do. Apart from some of the word choices this book is written with simplicity which I think has much to do with it being narrated by Addison who has had very little real experience of the modern world. His infrequent interaction with other people has never ended well, living below the city Addison had no television or radio so he has only kept up with what’s going on in the world on his midnight sojourns to the surface. He is knowledgeable because he is very well read but that hasn’t given him the life experience that would be necessary for a more complex point of view.
The night that Addison comes across Gwyneth in the library is going to change everything; within hours of meeting her he is doing things he had never done before. He recognises something in Gwyneth that speaks to him. He lives in the shadows and allows no-one to see him, she suffers from a social phobia and allows no-one to touch her. Their differences draw them together and it isn’t long before Addison is in love, early on it seems that this is born simply from the knowledge that she hasn’t run from him and she respects his wish not to look at him.
As Gwyneth coaxes him further into the world above the two embark on a cross city chase in the middle of a snowstorm trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guy, who seems to have discovered more about Gwyneth than should have been possible.
Addison soon realises that coincidence plays no part in the events that are unfolding, he ran into Gwyneth in that library for a reason and only time will completely reveal what that is.
In the beginning I was reminded very much of Beauty and the Beast but as the story progressed there were moments that felt very much like City of Angels to me but overall I think this was quite an original and intriguing premise.
Addison and Gwyneth’s differences make them quite similar and the two leads demonstrate the profound way in which a child can be affected by their upbringing. I don’t really want to delve too far into this because of spoiler risks.
I loved reading Innocence and I thought it was interesting to see a video today in which Dean Koontz states that this is one of his favourite books that he has written. There were moments that I was blown away by how strange things got, and in the way everything was connected but they were nothing compared to how blown away I was by some of the revelations. The ending was a little disappointing, it felt a little rushed and more of an epilogue but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment I took in the story, and in the lead characters.
Innocence certainly rekindled my love of Koontz and I won’t be neglecting his work the way I have done in recent years.