Sunday, July 18, 2010

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

At 34, Ryan Perry has achieved his life’s ambition and then some: spearheading a successful software outfit and social-networking site 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 a 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 existed since the first heart transplants: cellular memory. The theory (and stories) revolve around the notion the brain is not the only organ that stores personality traits and memories; there have been many documented cases whereby a patient has displayed new tastes in opinions, cravings, and other mild variations of habit. To a certain extent, this does form the book's basis … but it's only background music as Koontz tries his hand at marrying a slew of imaginings.  

After switching physicians with transplant success, Ryan goes on with his life … albeit lacking Samantha. There follows a rein of psychological persecution making 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. After his paranoia shifts into investigation mode, Ryan uncovers a world of voluntary euthanasia and identical twins. Some consider Koontz’s work to be somewhat tame, but try envisioning a house full of real corpses embalmed exquisitely for the sake of art. His prose - somewhat purple and obsessively metaphorical - can be divisive. There is little dialogue, and a lot of inner rumination by our protagonist.

When the plot-payoff finally arrives, a reader with either vehemently applaud or cringe. 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 … things the modern mind rejects on a conscious level.

While this is mid-range Koontz - 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.