The book opens with an adorable anecdote about a boy going to a pet shop to adopt a dog. Oh, look. Dean Koontz is back in cute mode.

The first section of the book is truly horrific, detailing the quirky and hilarious life of a quirky and hilarious family who I want to murder with a chainsaw. We have a Dean Koontz Trifecta of Cute (a lovable dog, a lovable kid, and a protagonist who’s an author), huge amounts of preaching and moralising, and a general air of forced whimsy that makes getting crapped on by an elephant seem like a joy.

One scene actually made me angry. One of the protagonists says “I don’t give a flying…” realises that the aforementioned child is listening, finishes with “…furnal,” and goes off and running into this funny made-up biology lesson on the Flying Furnal species of squirrel, at which point we’re all meant to be rolling around laughing at Koontz’s livewire wit.

Well, you know what I think? Dean Koontz’s career needs to end. Once he was a storyteller. Now, he’s a self-parody. Why do you do this, Dean? This isn’t entertaining, this is awful. You’re like an annoying older relative doing “baby talk.” That’s the verdict on Relentless…300 pages of “COOCHIE COOCHIE COO.” The last few Odd Thomas books sucked, and now we get this. Dean Koontz is offically over. Close the coffin lid. Pound down the nails.

The story is about a author who writes tales of empathy and humanity, and attracts the rage of a murderous postmodern literary critic who believes such things are outdated (if you listen closely you can hear a sledgehammer sound of Koontz inserting one of his subtle metaphors). The critic has the resources of a Bond villain, and soon the author and his family are running for their lives.

That Koontz handles the story well on a certain level isn’t surprising. His led this horse around the bend many times before. It doesn’t matter, because Koontz’s nonstop clowning mixed with moralising deep-six the book.

He just has no restraint at all. There’s an embarassing scene at the end where the heroes have the main bad guy cornered and he/she/it recites a list of philosophers, roll call style, whom Dean Koontz doesn’t like. There’s no subtlety, and no attempt made to integrate it into story in a believable way. It’s just Koontz sharing his views directly at the reader through a megaphone. There are scenes of gore and violence that might have fitted in on an older Koontz title. Given the cutesy and saccharine atmosphere of Relentless, they stick out like a hand with five sore thumbs.

The book has a comic relief character called Hud Jacklight. He’s a literary agent who phones the author now and then to suggest hilariously tasteless book ideas. The Great Gatsby II, with Gatsby reborn as a vampire. White Fang II, with wolves possessed by alien mind control rays. If those books were written, they would embrace Relentless by Dean Koontz with papery arms and call it a brother. Dean Koontz is an expert on shitty books. They’re all he knows how to write these days.

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