Sunday, July 18, 2010

Review: Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

At 34, Ryan Perry has achieved his life’s ambition and then some: the head of successful software outfit and social-networking site that has seen him accumulate millions. Not only is he a Forbes magazine entrepreneur, Ryan is also dating an attractive fellow/surfer journalist (Samantha Reach) who isn’t far away from accepting his marriage proposal. So when he suffers a mild heart-attack and subsequently learns of its defect, his once placid world is altered radically. Ryan only has a short time to live … and will not live at all unless he finds a new heart.

Initially, I thought the premise of Your Heart Belongs to Me dealt with a fascinating condition that has been around since the first heart transplants – cellular memory. The theory (and stories) revolve around the notion that the brain is not the only organ that stores personality traits and memories; there have been many documented cases whereby a surgery patient has displayed new tastes in opinions, cravings, and other mild variations of habit. To a certain extent, this does form a basis of the novel … but it is only on the peripheral side-lines as Koontz tries his hand at marrying a slew of imaginings.  

After switching physicians and a transplant success, Ryan goes on with life … albeit lacking Samantha. Then follows a reign of psychological persecution that makes his original fears of poisoning seem tame by comparison: some invisible phantom has access to his private quarters, can manipulate his security, and has taken to leaving him gifts such as gold heart pendants. His paranoia moves into an investigation that uncovers a world of voluntary euthanasia and identical twins. Some consider Koontz’s work to be tame, but try envisioning a house full of real corpses embalmed exquisitely for art’s sake. Personally, I am a fan of his somewhat flowery and obsessively metaphorical prose, but others might find it a little over the top and long-winded this time. There is little dialogue, and a lot of inner rumination by our protagonist.

When the plot-payoff finally arrives, the reader with either vehemently applaud or cringe with disappointment. Here there is no middle ground.  By and large, Your Heart Belongs to Me is a book about subtext and texture. Seeing patterns to the plot not from the surface theme but from the implicit meaning of the tale … the things that the modern mind rejects on a conscious level. This is mid-range Koontz, but any author who can, without fail, elicit a tear from me in the closing stages of a book is an author who is ultimately doing something right. 

Review: Trick 'r Treat

Trick ‘r Treat was released in 2008 to little fan fare (basically left for dead by Warner Brothers) - but now finds a niche in horrors pantheon as a film to be remembered. If you have somehow managed to avoid this rare gem, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by becoming acquainted with it.  

Trick ‘r Treat takes the well worn mythos of Halloween and breathes new life into it by simply going back to basics. Everything takes place in the duration of one All Hallows Eve with a series of interconnected stories that weave a comic-book carnival spell over a small town: a principal serial-killer, a virginal red-riding hood, a hermit and a group of teens that take an urban legend too far are all part of the nights tapestry. The horrors that take place are allowed to do so under the guise of the festivities and blend seamlessly with the illusions … resulting in classic humor that keeps with the comic-book texture. 

Already you might have heard comparisons with this anthology to King’s Creepshow … but this is more like a modern re-telling for a new generation, peppered with enough revenge incidents that it will be like a homage to those familiar with that classic. It’s also reminiscent of another King creation: The Regulators - whereby innocent suburbia is transformed into a nightmare landscape by something juvenile … if only for the night.

With a haunting score reminiscent of something composed by Christopher Young, Trick ‘r Treat is a fusion of old-school thrills with a contemporary shine.Costumes and candy, ghouls and goblins, all kinds of masks and monsters … the only regret you’ll have is not viewing it during Halloween’s cavalcade.