Quicksilver by Dean Koontz
|Quicksilver by Dean Koontz
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: Quinn is on the run with some peculiarly-gained money (that is never mentioned again), and some peculiarly-manifesting superpowers, in this latest genre-bending Koontz novel. But to me it felt ill-thought-through, and stuck in some uncanny valley where everything tries to look realistic in vain.
|Date: January 2022
|Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
|External links: Author's website
Meet Quinn Quicksilver. He's not had the chance to get to be a mercurial character yet, for he's lived in a nun-run orphanage since he was a three-day old foundling, and now is starting a career on a needless magazine's staff. But when this book starts he IS now subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind, for something – call it unearthly intuition, call it mind-control, call it a supernatural urge – has demanded of him that he go to a derelict diner, find a gold coin worth a fortune, cash the value of it out of his bank and prepare for going on the lam. And all this is just in time for two of those typical Men in Black types to turn up and suggest he's of interest to them. Helped to escape, he finds his flight is interrupted by other instances of him acting without being in control, the discovery that he is not unique in having some kind of burgeoning power – and a whole lot more besides.
From the off there was quite a rum feel to this book, for several hard-to-pin-down reasons. One is the amount of foreshadowing done by Quinn's narration. He's talking from some year or so after these events, I think, and giving us a drip-drip of what's about to happen and what delights we're about to read isn't helping any. There's also the odd feeling suitably brought to the page by Quinn finding his own situation and lack of self-control odd, which has a valid place here, but what doesn't belong is the sense that everything is one small step removed from reality. Quinn's background, the means of his escape, all the characters he knows in town, practically everybody's peculiar name, the proposed change in his status mentioned within hours of him finding other people to drive around seeking answers with... A lot just feels too oddball and needlessly quirky for my taste.
Also, Quinn narrates in a peculiar manner – chatty and suitably teenagerish, but also riddled with classical allusion, knowledge of fine art and mid-to-high-falutin' words like nonplussed and incipient that he was given by the nuns. Again, justifiable – but not to the extent it smacks of being from someone a few decades older than he is, and inexcusable when it's a trait shared by someone else his age but not from the orphanage.
Now, looking back, I accused the author's previous book The Other Emily of piling on the vocab, too – it must be a Koontz quirk. I think all his books share something else in common – they do switch and bend genre a lot, so it's only fair I try to discuss this one along those lines. What we seemed to have here was a nice, gentle, literate origin story of a young man with a superpower – an origin story more akin, say, to M Night Shyamalan when he was good, than to the likes of Stan Lee. But what the book proved to be was a rich slice of hokum, and a thriller of a sort, albeit a thriller fighting with the fantasy of otherworldly beings.
Now, thrillers can certainly factor in alien presences, and I really like an origin story. But in dropping that aspect of the plot in favour of more action-adventure kind of writing, and allowing space for The Big Point Of It All to come to light, this proved not to be the book I thought to get based on its premise. I didn't find this nearly as engaging as I expected, either – and again, that goes down to several issues, the biggest being how removed from reality the whole piece seemed to be. Without giving anything away, the book wants to tell the reader something about our world – but from excessively early on I never felt it was set here.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
The Late Train to Gipsy Hill by Alan Johnson features a pair of people on a similarly-charged journey, just with more mundane motive at their heels.
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