Yep, we’re talking about Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Dean Koontz’ 77 Shadow Street.
We’ve been fans of both authors for a long time. We think King will be read and discussed for the next, say, hundred years or so. Maybe longer. So why aren’t we interested in the newest effort by this literary master? It’s so damn LONG. It rings in at 849 pages and – sorry, Steve – we’re guessing it could have lost 100 pages and we'd have enjoyed it more. King's Under the Dome was good but, whittled judiciously, it would have been better. We’re not saying that Steve doesn’t still see an editor's red pencil now and again but we doubt the pencil is as sharp as when he started in the game.
So that’s the Kingster. But what’s wrong with 77 Shadow Street? Maybe nothing. It could be a stunning hit and Koontz could entrance us again, as he did with Lightning and Midnight. We’d be so happy if this was the case. Unfortunately, we think DK’s best years are behind him. We understand if you disagree and we may be wrong but we keep seeing the same elements in his latest works. Again and again, there are marvelous, often beautiful, intelligent and successfulgood guys, marvelous, beautiful and intelligent life partners, marvelous, beautiful and intelligent pets (dogs), and pathologically evil villains. There aren’t many Brady Bunch'ers in his stories – he favors small family groups – and we don’t remember seeing any good but slacker liberal atheists in his novels of the last two decades (Dean wears his faith, and his conservatism, fairly openly). We’d be okay with all of that if the novels remained as interesting and intelligently plotted as his previous winners. For our money, that hasn’t happened lately.
Mostly, we're not buying 77SS because of the last DK novel we read. The title of that tome? Relentless.
Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Even though Relentless came out in 2009, if you’re still planning to read it, STOP NOW. Otherwise, we may give away a few surprises you might like to discover by yourself.
In Relentless, the lead character is a bestselling writer named Cubby Greenwich, and Cubby leads a sweet life. Every book he's written has been a bestseller. His wife, Penny, is gorgeous and a hotshot writer/ illustrator of kids books. They have one child, Milo, and Milo is six years old and beyond brilliant. (Which you might expect of a child who, at birth, arrived smiling and humming a tune. Seriously.) Completing the family unit, the Greenwich trio “rescue a doggy”, an Australian shepherd mix called Lassie. Unlike our mutts, Lassie is wonderfully well-behaved and instinctively knows not to bark for any superfluous reasons. So, yeah, life is swell…until Cubby gets a bad book review.
"Filled with fascinating, eccentric, lovable characters, Relentless is aptly named" -- The Novel Bookworm
The searing review comes from Shearman Waxx, and he’s the senior critic for the nation’s premier literary critic. That’s not saying much ‘cause Waxx doesn’t actually read the books he reviews. He reads and reviews the novels off of their publicity letters. In Cubby's case, Waxx goes a little further. He sneaks into the writer's house, tasers Cubby and Penny, then burns down their house.
When Waxx doesn't like a writer, he really doesn't like that writer.
"Part mystery/thriller, part horror and part science fiction, this book delivers" -- Kentucky Literacy Examiner
Like all of the other premier literary critics, Mr. Waxx is also a sociopathic serial killer in league with the government. Angered to distraction because Cubby isn't a member of the intellectual elite -- we're not kidding -- he will go to any lengths to destroy his enemy. And, because he has the full resources of the federal treasury at his fingertips, he's fairly certain he'll succeed.
"This is an exquisite crafting of the thrilling, the unexplainable, and the personal" -- Library Journal
But Cubby & Co. have a few tricks up their respective sleeves. Six year old Milo has managed to create a quantum electrodynamic salt shaker, capable of altering the time-space continuum. Plus, Lassie the dog has mastered teleportation -- again, not kidding -- so it's not such an incredible surprise when good triumphs over evil.
"God-awful" -- Esquire
Since we didn't love Relentless (and, before that, failed to properly admire Your Heart Belongs to Me), we're skipping Dino this year. But if he ever returns to form, you'll let us know, won't you?