At 352 pages, this was a much quicker read than the first two in the series that were each at about 450 pages. It was also the most painful. This was originally supposed to be the end of a trilogy – and it indeed has a weak ending that gets wrapped up all pretty and nice in a matter of about 5 pages. That’s probably why Koontz added two more books to the series in an attempt to redeem himself.
The book opens with the district attorney and his wife, both replacements from the New Race, going on a naked killing spree around their neighborhood. Yes, it’s as bizarre as it sounds. Deucalion find his way into Victor’s lab and learns about Victor’s tank farms where he is going to mass produce New Race members.
He contacts Carson and Michael and sends them to the farm, which is adjacent to the mass grave dump that played such a big part in Book 2. Sadly, our two detectives spend well over half the book just driving to the farm. And once again, Deucalion falls out of the plot while he’s off to the farm meeting the Dumpsters and old New Race members who have come back to life – including Erica Four.
Warning: some may consider these spoilers coming up…
The majority of the book follows Victor returning to the lab and confronting the Werner insect-panther thing. Another creature is also introduced, called Chameleon. It’s a strange bug-like killing machine blob that discusses itself by taking on the look of its surroundings, much like Predator.
We learn that Victor was developing this creature to help kill off the Old Race. Chameleon escapes the lab with Victor, who discovers Deucalion has activated the self-destruct mechanism and Hands of Mercy is about to blow up. He decides to drive to the tank farm.
This plot line switches back and forth with Erica Five at home making friends with Jocko, the strange troll-like thing that had morphed out of Harker in the first book. Jocko provides a lot of silly comedic relief. Think Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. Jocko likes to dance and wants a funny hat. Erica agrees to take care of him if he will read to her. Victor contacts her and tells her she must pack up and come to the farm too. She brings Jocko along, who actually wants to kill Victor.
End of spoilers.
By placing his characters in these “traveling” situations, Koontz leaves the reader waiting for everyone to get to their final destination so that the plot can finally continue. With a good chunk of the middle of the book following Victor, Erica, and Jocko, all of the moral nuances and frightening scientific discoveries that laced the two previous books and gave them depth are lost.
The humor is also over the top in this book with Jocko. The troll truly serves his purpose, much like they do in other works of literature – which is even mentioned in the book. Even the Chameleon creature was interesting, but is approached in such an odd fashion and dismissed extremely quickly that you don’t really get to see it reach its full potential.
And when we finally (FINALLY!) reach what we hope will be a huge climatic ending, it continues to be a let down. There is one other piece of Erica Five’s plot which allows an opening for the story to continue, but all of our other lead characters are literally given a two page “book report” like ending that made me want to throw the book across the room – and I probably would have if this had been the last book.
Since the first two books in the series were originally cowritten with other authors, its obvious to see that Koontz was lost. He tried new attempts with his characters but it just didn’t work. And since this is the shortest book in the series, I think he really just wanted to wrap it up and end the project – but when the reviews came in, he knew – like Victor – he needed redemption. I am going to finish the series and read the next two books, but believe me when I say this one is the worst so far.