Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's on the iPod? - The Darkest Evening of the Year

A friend with whom I share book suggestions asked the other day if I had read The Darkest Evening of the Year. She had started reading Dean Koontz following my recommendation of Life Expectancy.

Much to my chagrin I've owned the audiobook since, well probably the darkest evening of last year, but I hadn't listened to it yet as of the other day. So, I've set out to rectify that by bumping it to the top of my listening queue. (Now that a new Odd Thomas book is almost due.)

The whole idea of getting an iPod and an audiobook subscription was to get me to the gym so that I can listen while exercising, and Koontz is always a good choice since his tales are ever suspenseful.

An Illustrative Tail (I Meant Tail - That's Not a Mistake Just a Bad Pun)
I've been particularly interested in The Darkest Evening of the Year because he's managed in a non-didactic way to tell a story that spotlights golden retriever rescue.

Koontz, as you probably know, loves golden retrievers and sadly lost his pet and companion, Trixie, before beginning the novel. In his podcast he reported that for a five-week period after her death he could not write, and that delayed his start on Darkest Evening though he ultimately wrote it in a fast burst of inspiration.

What I admire about the novel is that it blends a typically excellent Koontz story with information on a cause about which he is passionate--animal welfare. Koontz further uses the tale to explore the human-animal bond. (Speaking of which, my cat, Miss Daisy, is on my lap--OK make that standing on my keyboard, OK make that trying to contribute--as I write this.)

A lesson for writers
The novel is an admirable use of the fictional form and worthy of examination for all fiction writers who want to add relevance to their words without, say, delving into the roles of rank and position in 19th century Victorian England.

Specifically Darkest Evening tells the tale of Amy Redwing, founder of a retriever rescue who picks up a dog named Nickie in a page-turning opening confrontation that pits her against an abusive head-of-household and prompts her to take his wife and kids under her wing.

Amy eventually runs afoul of a crazed arsonist named Moonglow and her boyfriend and other finely-crafted Koontz villains as well.

All in all it's a fine audiobook and no doubt a great read.

The Quibble
The book on tape is performed by an able reader named Kristen Kairos, but she occasionally offers some of the most creative pronunciations I've heard since Lindsay Crouse's vocalization of Ponchatrain (Pon-CHA-train) in the audio version of Anne Rice's The Witching Hour.


Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know this book even existed. Was it ever released as a print book? I thought I was in touch with Koontz's releases but didn't hear about this one. I'm a pretty big fan of his, but especially his earlier stuff like Phantoms and Lightning and Watchers.

Lana Gramlich said...

That's the thing about audio books of any kind...If you don't like the speaker's voice, pronunciations, etc., it can "ruin" a book for you. Reminds me of a "Sci-Fi Original" movie Charles & I watched a while back. One of the characters, who was supposed to be very technical/scientific-minded, spoke of LONGitude. Not LONJitude. She pronounced it LONGitude, like, not SHORTitude. Did I mention that we often joke about the quality of "Sci-Fi Originals," too? They're all just typically sooooo bad!

Sidney said...

Charles, it was his fall release this year. It's in hardcover at the moment and probably will come out in trade paper or mass market in a few months.

I agree about Sci Fi, Lana. I read an article in Entertainment Weekly recently that was interesting. It was their open letter to the Sci Fi Channel asking: Dear Sci Fi Channel, Why aren't you more awesome?

Sphinx Ink said...

Thanks for this post, Sydney. I loved ODD THOMAS, but haven't read the sequel books yet for fear of being disappointed by them.

I've not read much of Koontz. After ODD THOMAS I tried an audio version of one of his other novels, but didn't finish it. I had come to identify with the main character and his wife and realized that really bad things were going to happen to them. I couldn't handle the anxiety! (My fear subsequently was confirmed by Charles Gramlich, who told me that at least one of the characters I liked came to a very bad end.) I don't do real horror novels well--I'm too chicken.

But THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR sounds like something I'd like.

Unknown said...

I love Dean Koontz. What an awesome writer. I was captivated by Odd Thomas. Have you read all the Odd books? The new one, Odd Hours, comes out on 5/20. There is a very cool new Odd Thomas video on YouTube. There will be several of these "Odd webisodes" that follow Odd's journey. Trust me, you'll be salivating for the new book after seeing the video!

Unknown said...

I love Odd Thomas. Dean Koontz is such an awesome writer. The next book, ODD HOURS, comes out on 5/20. If you love Odd, check out the new Odd Thomas video on YouTube, There will be several of these "Odd webisodes" that follow Odd's journey. Trust me, after watching this video, you'll be salivating to read the next book.

Sidney said...

I read the first Odd Thomas and have listened to all of the others as unabridged audiobooks. I had not seen the webisodes. I'll check those out. Thanks, Ruby.

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