77 SHADOW STREET by Dean Koontz
77 Shadow Street has, on the surface, a really cool title and what looks like a tried-and-true premise. Even with the really weird twist, which there was truly no way to see coming, I might have enjoyed the book more. I should have. This is Dean Koontz’s latest and I’ve read and liked his books for years.
However, this book suffers tremendously because of the “cast of thousands” complex and the outrageously slow buildup. The prose is better written than a couple of the last Koontz books I’ve read, and there’s a return to an immersive setting that I really enjoyed. (This, BTW, is backed up to a large degree by the on-line presence of the 77 Shadow Street experience that has a lot of nifty video clips and a true sense of the eerie and macabre.)
I even enjoyed the introduction of the characters, at least the first three or four, then I started getting lost – fast. There are too many of them to keep track of, and as I read the book – grinding through the pages instead of being swept away – I really felt like not all of these characters needed to be onstage, nor did I really want to know all their backstories. With so many “story people” milling about, the story gets fragmented and I totally lost whatever main drive should have been there to compel me to read the rest of the book.
The characters are interesting for the most part as Koontz relates them, and some of them could have easily been broken out into books of their own. But together they collectively lose. In the past, Koontz has been quite successful pulling off a host of characters (Strangers) and spinning a story forward.
I was nearly three-quarters of the way through the book before I began to get a glimmer of the true plot of the book, and when I discovered what it was, I really felt like I’d been subjected to a bait-and-switch: promised one thing and given another. Everything about this novel on the surface (including the amazing website) points to some kind of spiritual manifestation. But that’s not what you’re getting with 77 Shadow Street.
I struggled with this one for about a week before I was able to finish it. I felt like I’d been through a marathon instead of the sprint Koontz generally works a reader up into.