“The sole purpose of existence is to open oneself to sensation and to satisfy all appetites as they arise.”
A few years ago I went through quite a long phase of reading books by Dean Koontz (I have managed to remember 10 so far, there may be more). I think it probably stemmed from a love of the Point Horror series of books that I read as a young teenager (of which I have identified another 10, though there must be more), which I inevitably grew out of and so began looking for a more grown up style of horror novels. Some of Koontz’s books are quite similar and are not ones I would necessarily recommend, or that I would take to a desert island. But this type of horror writing definitely marks a time in my life when I didn’t really read anything else, so I would class it as significant in that respect, and there is also one book by Koontz that was in my opinion better than the rest, and really stands out in my mind, where the others seem to all blend into one.
This book is called Intensity, and doesn’t feature any supernatural element, which many of Koontz’s other books do. It’s also actually pretty simple in comparison to the other novels of his I have read. The events in this story all happen over the course of one night, the night that a woman called Chyna goes to stay with her friend Laura and her family in their large Californian vineyard home. Chyna has had a troubled past and has been a victim for most of her life, and so when the home is invaded by self confessed “homicidal adventurer” Edgler Vess, it would have been easy for her to stay in her hiding place and wait for him to leave, as he kills the rest of the family and has no idea she is there. But when she sees him carry Laura into his motor home and prepare to drive away, she makes a decision. She sneaks into the motor home, and so begins a night of terror as she learns more about Vess, his obsession with living life on the edge, and the fact he has a 16 year old girl held captive in his basement that Chyna feels compelled to save.
“Edgler Foreman Vess has no desire to see himself on television news. Living with intensity is virtually impossible when one is in prison.”
The main selling point about this book was that I felt it really lived up to its name. It was intense, edge of your seat stuff, with Chyna hiding right under the killer’s nose for most of the book. She is basically walking right into the spider’s web, completely intentionally, and once she is in, she then has to figure out how to get out again. The ending is a little cheesy I suppose, but in a sense I wasn’t really reading it for the ending – I feel like I could read this again and again and always be right there with Chyna, as the “real time” seconds and minutes are played out so slowly and carefully, leaving me expecting Vess to jump out at her at every turn.
“The normality of the house terrified her: the gleaming surfaces, the tidiness, the homey touches, the sense that a person lived here who might walk in daylight on any street and pass for human in spite of the atrocities that he had committed.”
A book that highlights my horror novel phase, as well as my move from young adult books to longer, more intense, and uncensored novels. I haven’t read a Dean Koontz novel for more than 10 years, but I have read this one more than once and would definitely read it again.