Dean Koontz originally released The Face of Fear in the 70s under the pen name Brian Coffey. This was during his struggle to find a genre and persona that would lead him to fat stacks and his own personal library of Chester the Cheetah porn. He was Aaron Wolfe and David Axton and Leigh Nichols. He even wrote as a female author under the pseudonym Deanna Dwyer. He wrote screenplays, too, one of which was turned into the cheese-fest The Funhouse, wherein a disfigured man terrorizes, you guessed it, a funhouse. Later in his career, he released the novel version, and it is one of my favorite books from him, although many Koontz fans hate it. Finally, in 1980, Koontz struck gold with the success of Whispers and decided Dean R. Koontz would be the name he’d ride until the fucking wheels fell off. Sadly, he’s been riding on nothing but axles since 2002. After peaking in the 90s, he dropped the R. from his name, losing some mojo along the way. It’s been a decade since I fan-flailed over a Koontz novel, and two decades since he was consistently good. Nowadays, his work is a literary death rattle. He’s replaced concise prose with rambling philosophical dribblings and breakneck-paced storylines with meandering diatribes about how shallow and violent society has become.
The Face of Fear is from what I call Koontz’s Black/Neon era, meaning it has a black cover, a simple image that fits the story, and a neon-bright title and byline. Every single book by Koontz with cover art like this is at least worth a read. Not one of them rates under three stars for me. Some of them aren’t quite as awesome as I remember, but they are still good. This one was is no different.
All right, enough history lesson. Let’s talk about this book. Ready? Onward!
Graham Harris is a psychic who has a fear of heights due to injuries he sustained whilst falling from Mount-Fucking-Everest. D’oh! Lately Graham Cracker’s been having visions of some rape-y-stabby bastard known as The Butcher. Graham’s visions are public information, so The Butcher decides to kill Graham and Graham’s subservient live-in girlfriend Connie. Unfortunately for Gram-Gram, The Butcher decides to strike one night while G-to-the-Ram is working late on the fortieth floor of an office building in New York . Connie decides to bring pizza and wine to the love of her life and winds up trapped in the highrise with G-Dog. Cue cat and mouse chase and one of the cooler escape scenes Koontz has ever written.
This book will not challenge you. Even the identity of the killer is an easy solve because the list of possible suspects is shorter than Tom Cruise blowing a penguin. What makes it such a good read is its brevity. Koontz doesn’t spackle the pages with loads of filler bullshit. He gets in, gets dirty, and gets out. The only time he’s long winded is while describing the climbing gear and the proper way to use it. To outdoors-y types, this information will likely impress you, because RESEARCH! But, to a lazy fuckwit like myself who doesn’t even enjoy climbing stairs, it is uninteresting.
Another complaint I have is a minor, subjective one. I enjoy reading about strong female characters. Are there women out there who live and breathe for their men? Yes there are. I know they exist. I simply do not like reading about them. They don’t have to be all Xena Warrior Princess to impress me, but they must have depth. Connie’s as deep as a coffee cup. She was only here to provide Kilo-Graham with a wet spot in which to park his hot rod and unlimited sandwiches. Her presence did not subtract from my enjoyment of this book, but she didn’t add to my enjoyment either.
In summation: A good early outing from the once Master of Suspense, Dean Koontz. Recommended to thriller fans, young and old. Readers who enjoy strong female characters need not apply.
Final Judgment: Higher learning for serial killers.