This is the third time in a row I have awarded a Dean Koontz novel five stars. What is going on?!
The Taking, Dean Koontz's 2004 apocalyptic thriller, floored me. Before reading it I scoured the internet (specifically Amazon) for reviews to get a general impression of the story. I do this before starting any book I haven't read before. The impression I got is it's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it type of experience for his fans -- some called it "confusing" and "bizarre" and "too preachy", while others claimed it was not only one of Koontz's best books of the '00s but one of the best books of his career.
I definitely fall into the latter camp.
Now, I'm not the most experienced Koontz reader. I've only read around fifteen of his books, and the dude has probably written close to a hundred novels since the late '60s. He's crazy prolific, and there are too many other authors I follow to even attempt reading everything he's published any time soon. Still, after reading fifteen or so books I do feel like I can form a relatively informed opinion and am not hesitant to compare this novel to the others I've finished. While not quite as good as The City or Hideaway, The Taking does stand on its own and is arguably faster-paced than those two books. The story hits the ground running and doesn't let up.
The main characters, married couple Molly and Neil, are intriguing, easy to sympathize with and relate to. They aren't perfect, but they do what they can in this hellish new world Koontz has created. They fight back and don't always win, but they never lose hope. There are other characters in the story such as Virgil the dog and a few townsfolk Molly and Neil try to shelter with toward the beginning of the novel. They aren't incredibly important characters (the townsfolk, that is -- not Virgil), and Koontz doesn't waste time on them -- however, the time that is spent on them feels just right. They feel like real, living beings without stealing the spotlight.
As far as scares go, this book is.... well, pretty dang scary. It is arguably the scariest Koontz novel I've read to date, and he brought in several dark themes and ideas I was not expecting. In a few ways, this book felt like a distant relative of Phantoms, one of Koontz's other rare legit "horror" novels. As well as being horror, The Taking is heavily sci-fi -- and many times throughout the narrative horror and sci-fi marry in tremendous, memorable ways.
In conclusion: The Taking is a very scary and VERY fun ride. I finished this book in two days simply because I couldn't pry it from my hands. I had to know what would happen next! Fans of sci-fi and horror shouldn't miss this, and fans of Koontz really shouldn't miss this. Yeah, Koontz occasionally preaches a bit. Yeah, Koontz is very right wing and he makes it obvious. Still, those things are very easy to overlook here and do not get in the way of the tremendous, imaginative, hellish yarn that can be found in these pages. I can't recommend this one highly enough.
By the by, WHY IS THIS NOT A MOVIE?!