Shattered gets to the point faster than any other Koontz novel, and that's saying something. The plot here is a simple one: Alex Doyle and his young brother-in-law are traveling cross-country to San Francisco, where his wife and new home wait. A van is following them and seems to know everywhere they plan to eat and spend each night. No matter how many times they try to lose the stranger driving the van, he always ends up on their tail.
Originally published in 1973, this is a very short novel that shows a young Dean Koontz already in control of his supernatural ability to reel the reader in and not let go until he's told his tale. Granted, this book is a good deal simpler than his later work -- and it is very dated in some respects -- but that adds to its charm. It sort of reminded me of a toned-down Bachman book. Koontz plays with a deep fear of mine -- being followed. I'll admit, sometimes when I am driving late at night and the same car is behind me for miles and miles I begin to get a little paranoid. I breathe a little sigh of relief when the driver of that car finally turns off. Maybe that's just me but whatever. The point is this novel did a number on me and chilled me more than any other Koontz book to date.
As I said before, this novel is a good deal simpler than his later works. He tells us just enough about the characters to make us care about them, but not much more. This one is all about the story and that's okay -- Shattered would not be nearly as fun if it was mired in needless detail or purple prose.
The villain here is particularly note-worthy. He's not an all-knowing, all-powerful, seemingly unbeatable government baddie that seems to populate a good deal of Koontz's later work but is instead a scorned lover with an implied brain tumor and horrendous childhood. By the story's end I sort of felt bad for the guy.
Shattered was a fun read from beginning to end. It doesn't have much depth -- it's a no-frills cat-and-mouse chase story that deeply satisfied me. Koontz says a lot here by saying little. It's a short read so even if you feel disappointed by the story's end, you probably won't have wasted too much time reading. Give it a chance.