Sunday, April 1, 2007

Watchers

Watchers, by Dean Koontz
$7.99 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0425188809
Koontz's stories are similar to Stephen King's: light horror is what I would call them. This one isn't even very scary, it's more fun and enjoyable. Travis, our protagonist, is a guy about my age who finds a stray Labrador dog and decides to take him in and make a pet of him. Very soon he discovers the dog's unusual intelligence, naming him Einstein. As Einstein's intellectual feats become more and more impressive (he forms a question mark on the floor out of dog biscuits, among other things) Travis begins to realize that his pet can't be entirely natural: he has in fact escaped from a genetics lab, where he was the subject of brain-enhancing experiments.
Fearful of what might happen if he's recaptured, Einstein begs his owner to take him on the run so he won't be discovered and taken back to the lab. Travis learns all this through a very charming mechanism he devises to help Einstein communicate. The dog can learn to read, but can't speak (dogs can't talk, only bark) or write (he can't hold a pen in his paw). To help learn the dog's history, Travis' girlfriend buys several sets of Scrabble, and lets Einstein push the tiles on the floor with his nose to form words and sentences. Like all dogs of his type, Einstein is just as sweet as can be and his ragged Scrabble-aided sentences as he's learning to read can't fail to make you smile. Soon the three of them are travelling together in a trailer, one happy family.
So it's a great story, but not much conflict or horror. As it turns out, the lab that created Einstein also made a violent, hideously ugly monkey creature. It also escapes from its pen, and becomes wildly jealous of Einstein because he's so much more user-friendly. No one will want to adopt a crazy monkey-creature with blood lust. It vows to track down its lovable rival and kill Einstein and its owners.
A lot of the tension comes as the three heroes are on the run, knowing that the monster is after them but unsure how far behind. We also get the sense that a rather macabre sense of humor causes the creature to stalk his victims, rather than kill them all at once. So it's scary at times, but when the main character is a lovable puppy, it's sure to be a light read. Dog lovers and horror aficionados strongly encouraged, you might find you like Koontz who has several other good books as well. Only $8, I'm clearly not promoting it to make myself a fortune selling it. Please enjoy this delightful spring-time treat.

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