Book Review: Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz

After having read Koontz’s entire Frankenstein series last month, this is probably not my first choice for the next book of his I would have read.  I read it though because an online Koontz reading group chose it for its read in September. Twilight Eyes is the story of Slim Mackenzie – a 17 year old on the run for killing his uncle – who has “twilight eyes” which give him psychic capabilities, mainly the ability to see evil in other people, beings Slim refers to as Goblins.  His uncle was a goblin, but since others can’t see them, Slim’s unique power can cause problems.

Slim joins the Sombra Carnival one night after killing a goblin that was tampering with an attraction, and he’s convinced other goblins are preparing a horrible accident involving the Ferris wheel.  A carnival during the 60s gives the first half of the book a wonderful and rich setting, complete with freaks and the regular use of carny terms and descriptions of their unique lifestyle.  Slim befriends the owner of the freak show, Joel Tuck, a bit of a goblin looking thing himself, who helps Slim secure work as an employee to Rya Raines who owns several attractions.

The novel moves along as the carnival plans to move on to the next town, which is a community crawling with goblins that has given the carnies quite a bit of trouble in the past. Slim goes ahead of the carnival with the owner to visit town officials and smooth things over with free tickets and cash. Meanwhile, Slim’s visions of doom and blood grow stronger and he’s convinced the town officials are behind it.

This started as a nice slow read for me.  I became really invested in Slim and the other few characters, including Slim’s intense love interest with Rya.  Each of them have unique and disturbing pasts which really brings you in close to them. Koontz writes some beautiful passages about relationships and the odd balance between good and evil, with God standing by and watching. The attack of Goblins is bone chilling.  The descriptions of the carnival and freaks is both odd and unique.

The book is divided into two distinct parts since Koontz originally released the first half in the 80s and then came back and wrote the second half later.  And besides the obvious division, it’s very easy to tell the differences in the two parts.  In the second half, gone is the carnival setting with its plot being wrapped up quite quickly just as things were taking a turn and growing intense.  The second half of the book crawls at a snail’s pace as Rya and Slim intend to investigate a hive of goblins and go to war. The last fifty pages droned on and on to a bland ending that really disappointed me.

Since this is one of Koontz’s earlier works, it was fun to see how it might have inspired some of his later stuff.  Slim and his unique capability is a lot like Odd Thomas.  The goblins and their purpose for being are a lot like Victor’s new race in Frankenstein. There’s even a reference to Frankenstein in here. Then there are the key phrases and words that Koontz loves to use like “reconnoiter” and “from the corning of his eye.”

Like I said, the beginning and up through the first half had me hooked.  It was a nice slow read for me but I was really into it and completely invested in the characters and storylines.  The second half really let me down, and the ending was even worse which is the reason I’d give this one a low recommendation.  I had been telling friends about this one while reading it, but after finishing it, I probably wouldn’t suggest it to anyone else.

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