Onyx reviews: From
the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz
From the earliest pages of From the Corner of His Eye, Dean
Koontz does not let his readers forget that this novel has Biblical
Significance. He wields his allegorical club mercilessly. He burdens his
characters with names like Enoch, Jacob, Celestina and Seraphim. So relentless
is it that one of the characters comments upon the birth of a Mary that
"It's time for a nice, ordinary name in this family."
Bartholemew Lampion is born after a car accident in which his father is killed.
His mother, Agnes, dies on the delivery table, but is brought back to life by
the medical staff. Barty is no ordinary child—he is a prodigy in everything he
does. He is also aware of all of the different versions of himself in the
infinite parallel realities created each time human existence reaches a decision
In another city, Seraphim White dies giving birth to her daughter, Angel, the
product of a sexual assault. The lives of Angel and Barty will be forever
intertwined by the strange events surrounding their respective births.
Enoch Cain, Jr., known as Junior, is the story's villain. Hopelessly sociopathic,
he wanders through his life driven by a series of primal urges and delusions. He
is charismatic and vain, but not nearly as attractive as he thinks he is. He
thinks every woman he meets would sleep with him in a heartbeat.
Junior was married and—in his mind at least—in love with Naomi but her
unexpected death (in perhaps the best chapter of the novel, which has a twist so
shocking that it will leave readers stunned) brings him to the attention of a
magical detective and former priest named Thomas Vanadium. Vanadium is sure that
Junior was responsible for Naomi's death and is determined to bring him to
justice. He unwittingly plants a seed in Junior's mind by mentioning a name from
Cain's dreams: Bartholomew.
That name becomes Junior's obsession. He believes he is going to be ultimately
undone by someone named Bartholomew. He spends weeks poring through San
Francisco phone directories trying to find people with that name; ready like
Herod to eliminate all to make sure he gets the right one. This fixation will
consume him for the rest of his days.
Junior Cain is another in a long line of over-the-top Koontz villains. He is a
cold-blooded murderer, but each time he kills he suffers a disabling affliction:
violent nausea, profound diarrhea, debilitating boils. He leaves a long trail of
bodies in his wake during his misguided search for Bartholomew. The relentless
Vanadium—the most interesting character in the book, who Junior believes to be
a phantom—perpetually haunts him. The final confrontation, however, after
nearly six hundred pages of build-up, is rushed and unsatisfyingly simplistic.
No one in this novel is anywhere near average. Characters are either paradigms
of good or epitomes of evil. They don't have quirks, they have manias, like
Agnes' two brothers (Jacob and Edom) who were so traumatized by their father
that they are agoraphobes, only comfortable talking about the numbers of
casualties in historical disasters (manmade and natural, respectively). Paul
Damascus, distraught at the death of his polio-stricken wife, becomes a
Koontz seems to want his readers to think that these are real people in slightly
abnormal circumstances. The story and characters are cartoonish, though, with
superheroes and supervillains. The book would also have been well served by a
merciless editor who would slice away about one third of the padded story. That
might have given Koontz space to devote to the climax and resolution of the
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