100 Books in 2011 Review: The Taking

Dean Koontz is one of those popular writers who are considered to be technically very good and a few years ago I read Intensity. The concept of the book was that the writing should be intense to reflect the story and it really worked. Intensity was amazing. So I was looking forward to reading The Taking. I thought it would be a well written, fast paced thriller.

Sometimes I can be very wrong about things.

The Taking is the story of a woman who wakes up to a weird fog and rain. She discovers that the whole world is affected and as the television broadcasts stutter out, she and her husband leave their mountain home to go in search of other humanity. They decide that their job is to gather up the parentless children. People have different reactions to the eerie weather and the things that start to appear in it. It seems that the earth is being terraformed by aliens but all is not what it appears.

The concept that the earth is being terraformed by aliens is a really interesting one. Terraforming is usually thought about in terms of making another planet suitable for human life and I liked the idea of flipping that about. How would that feel? What would we do about it?

Unfortunately, that’s not really what The Taking about. And I will reveal the twist because, believe me, it is not worth reading this book to find it out. The Taking is a second cleansing of an immoral humanity by the Abrahamic God; a second flood. It reverses Arthur C. Clarke’s law that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic to say that technologically advanced, faithless people will interpret world-shattering supernatural events as the technology of a much more advanced species. This is a story about God saving the good and destroying the bad and I find that so much less interesting.

So, I didn’t like the story, but what about the execution of it? I felt it was poor. And certainly not up to the standard I remember Intensity was. It’s mainly telling. We are told what Molly, the protagonist and POV character, is feeling. We are given her backstory in small but awkward lumps. The interaction between her and the other characters is described and rarely shown. There was very little dialogue and I think that is really the vehicle that authors use to turn telling into showing. I found the book to be silent. No one was talking in my head. I thought that would be amazing in a film where the use of silence has a disturbing, creepy effect but it wasn’t coming across on the page.

The supporting cast of characters were flimsy and even Molly didn’t have much personality. The interactions between them are sparse and devoid of connection. The description was ok. In fact, I did keep thinking this would really work as a film, but as a book it lacked depth. And dialogue. Which is not how I remember Intensity.

So, in all, I will probably read more Dean Koontz as so far he has been 50% amazing and 50% awful, so I need to read at least one more to tip the balance. If you are going to try Koontz, don’t pick this book.

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