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Fear Nothing
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books, 392 pages

Fear Nothing
Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz was born in Pennsylvania. In college, he won a fiction writing competition, starting him on a career that continues today. He has been an English teacher and a youth counselor for underprivileged kids. Married in 1966, his wife, Gerda, offered to support them for 5 years while he tried to make a living as a writer. They live in Southern California with their golden retriever Trixie. More information can be found in Dean Koontz, A Writer's Biography By Katherine Ramsland.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

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Some years ago, I said this about Dean Koontz's writing:

Dean Koontz is the best writer when it comes to characters. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

I know when I pick up one of his books I'm going to be thrilled, saddened, irked, cajoled, scared and enlivened. I'm gonna want to hang out with some of his folk, to bang some heads, to share their joys and miseries, to have half their integrity and to offer my help in solving their puzzles. While I find some of their civic perspectives bewildering (I think a lot of Canadians find American politics a little odd), they hold up a mirror showing us another facet of humanity. Bad guys in government/big business, running rampant is not a new idea, but he takes fresh aim at what could happen should we fail to recognize the clues and be prepared to do something about it.

After reading Fear Nothing, it still holds true for me today.

Fear Nothing may be Dean Koontz's first book to be told in the first person. We meet Chris Snow whose father is about to die from cancer and whose mother died in a car accident two years earlier. Sad but unremarkable some might say. However, Chris suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum -- aka XP -- a condition which makes him acutely vulnerable to cancer of the skin and eyes. Any exposure to UV rays, even those from incandescent and fluorescent lights, causes a build-up of radiation in his system. It is a condition shared by less than a thousand Americans, many of whom don't live until their teenage years.

Chris has developed a life despite this condition. He roams the street of his town by night, familiar with all the folks who inhabit the dark. He gets around inside using candle light as a guide. His friends and acquaintances accommodate his presence by dimming the lights and keeping candles handy. This was the case at the hospital where he came to see his dad just before Steven Snow's death. Wanting to bury a picture of his mother with his dad, Chris goes down to the morgue before the body is transferred to the funeral parlour. He stumbles upon strangers switching the body in the hearse for that of a murdered vagrant taken out of an unmarked panel truck. Thus begins a remarkable adventure. Chris' journey leads him to a gun-toting mortician, a terrified priest, a deserted but not empty Army base, his dad's nurse who knows more than she's telling, a police station parking lot full of shady characters, his buddy Bobby's seafront bungalow, an animal psychic, a wild-eyed police chief's car parked on a marina pier and an all-night radio station. This trail leads to out-of-control genetic experiments with terrible consequences. This was the first night.

Despite being a non-stop thrill ride, Fear Nothing is more about family and friendship than anything else. The deaths of Chris' parents cause him to be swept by occasional waves of profound pain and sorrow. Even though he hopes that his sense of loss will pass, it doesn't. It seems muted at times, even forgotten for several hours, but in his quiet, reflective moments, it returns. He knows he must go on, knows he can count on his friends. For Chris has a lifelong friend Bobby who doesn't question the credibility of the nights's adventure but would rather know what sort of beer Chris wants. If Chris says it happened, Bobby knows it did -- friendship builds that kind of trust. Now what do they do about it? Sasha, Chris' girlfriend, doesn't blink when she's brought up to speed, she pulls out her handgun and checks the load for you know the bad guys are coming after Chris but they'll have to get through her first. Chris knows too much. But how and when?

The clues for that come from Chris' dog, Orson. The animal psychic says so, but Orson's not talking. However, it appears that he does understand what is going on, who is after Chris and when things will explode. Not to worry though. Chris' and Orson's devotion to one another is unshakable. The bad guys will have to take out one to get to the other.

Family and friendship have given Chris the strength of purpose to overcome anything thrown up against him. He is a survivor despite his condition. After all, it was only something he was born with, not something he has to cradle as an excuse for not living life as best he can. Without the character developed by the love of his parents and the devotion learned by building and nurturing friendships, Chris would be a victim rather than the hero he would rather not be.

Copyright © 1998 by Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time." More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.


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