Velocity by Dean Koontz (2005) Review: Why You Should Read It

Should you read Dean Koontz’s 2005 thriller novel “Velocity”?

No spoilers, this is a recommendation.

 

You should read Velocity by Dean Koontz because it’s an interesting concept combining the over-the-top theatrics of an antagonist with the fairly realistic main character to counterbalance. Follow Billy Wiles, a rather unassuming bartender who receives a rather strange message on his car window:

“If you dont this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County.

If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work.

You have six hours to decide.

The choice is yours.”

Don’t worry that’s not a spoiler, it’s on the back cover of the book sleeve.

There is a rather consistent fascination with life and death thematically. As more is revealed about the note maker and Billy himself, a new layer of how life is viewed and what occurs comes into view. However, one can argue that this is pretty typical for a book in the thriller genre. A certain character could even predict the future using the corpses of the roadkill she saw.

A quote that sums it up perfectly, “while life could be avoided death could not.” Death is inevitable is a rather common theme, but that doesn’t mean the thought doesn’t have merit.

Billy is by every sense of the word typical. He’s slightly above average intelligence, but extremely aware of his abilities. The man is constantly an anxious mess throughout the story and you can’t really blame him.

However, the most prominent theme deals with action and decision-making. From the note one can see that both options are net negatives, there isn’t a get out of this situation. There is the idea that inaction is a choice as well and that’s something everyone can relate to. It is hammered home that Billy Wiles isn’t anything special. He says it to himself, Koontz says it us, and based on what Billy shows off he is. Yet as the story escalates and Billy begins to deal with crazier events, he becomes a man of action. The average-looking barkeep without any military background or 7000 IQ is forced to make decisions all by himself to stop the notes.  Near the end of the book, Billy becomes a new man in both resolve and even his friends begin to notice it and call him Bill instead. Perhaps, Koontz is trying to say that the choice of inaction holds us back from being who we truly are and want to be. Or at least that’s how I want to interpret it at least.

Outside of the themes, the novel itself is a very easy read and moves forward at a rather constant pace once the action picks up. The book is rather morbid (as if you couldn’t tell by the rest of this post), but nothing is overtly gory. For the most part, you’ll be following Billy going around town trying to figure out what to do next to stop the notes.

There is no doubt that Dean Koontz is one of the more popular thriller authors around and its no surprise he knows what he’s doing in terms of pacing and pulling various different aspects of his protagonist into one coherent theme. Check out his website linked here to learn more about him and browse his enormous collection of books.

However, the book is far from perfect. The beginning is pretty slow to start and the end seems far too abrupt. Considering the title it seems like its exactly as advertised, but the ending wraps up so well in places, leaving the reader feeling like certain aspects of the story were hyped up to be bigger issues than how the ending seemed to finish them off in a paragraph or two, but I can see how some people would be fine with that (which is perfectly valid).

Certain plot points hint towards something larger, but once the full reveal occurs, the story just keeps chugging along. With a small amount of rewriting it felt like almost a third of the book could have been cut.

 

TL:DR; Velocity isn’t the best thriller I have ever read, but given the quick read, cool premise, and likable protagonist there is enough to warrant a glance through. Those who love thrillers may burn out too quick before the story really gets going, but there is definitely a solid book underneath worth the time to read it.

 

Thanks for reading!

Hey if you liked this review why not check out another “Why You Should Read/Watch It” series? Like an old school anime without any of the crazy screaming or incest?

Monster(2004): Why You Should Watch It

monster1

No spoilers, this is a recommendation.

You should watch Monster because of its exploration of dark themes, great animation and art direction, great characters and story-line, and if you can handle dull portions of the story. Perfect for those who love crime dramas and a good intro to more mature anime.

When people hear the word anime they think of ridiculous hairstyles, cat-eared girls, and over the top expressions. Don’t get me wrong, there  are some pretty good reasons for those stereotypes. However anime like Monster fit none of these stereotypes. Its considered one of the best crime dramas in anime and holds up incredibly well with the other anime. Despite finishing over a decade ago as of writing this, its still ranked at #41 on myanimelist and has an 8.7 on IMDB.

If anime is not really your thing,  this show is a great place to start. For some people “anime” is something you do not particularly favor “real shows”. I’m right there with you, I almost never watch anime, but there are some real gems that should not be avoided just because of the medium its in. Fans of story-writing should not skip out on this show. Themes are heavy and deal with uncomfortable topics; abusive parents,prostitutes, murder(obviously) to name a few. The realism of the show makes it almost seem like the show truly occurred and there are only a handful of times where its grounded nature was remotely in question.

The show is a crime drama about a prodigy doctor,Doctor Tenma, who saved the life of a boy who later becomes a serial killer. The main theme deals with the value of human life and the value of saving one over another. This is not about a bunch of adults playing a children’s card game to determine the fate of the world. The art is pleasant and especially good when showing the countryside of rural Germany. However, some of the character designs seem too similar, particularly the plethora of one-off characters.

Monster is one of those slow-burning shows. It starts slows, goes crazy for a bit, settles down for a bit, and then insanity takes control again. Viewers who do not want to pay too much attention to plot and the dialogue of the characters will be rather disappointed in the series. Character development can be rather dull at times, but the show really emphasizes the various main characters and how their world views conflict with one another. You have a doctor on the run, a young serial killer, the serial killer’s twin sister who is just as capable as him (in a good way), a dark and imposing inspector devoid of emotion, and an emotionally unstable ex-fiancee.

Even the portrayal of the show adds to the rather unnerving atmosphere. The ominous opening and closing scenes are dark with flashes of blood and guns. Monster is just as good portraying murder scenes as beautiful views of nature. After the first dozen episodes or so, viewers will never be sure how long the happiness presented will last and if the buildup in a rather tense sad will end with everyone surviving. Your emotions will be toyed with throughout the series, be warned. Boredom will also be an emotion felt, as developing the characters takes time and the gradual revelations that occur later in the series are built upon. There will be dull moments, but if you can manage to power through them you will be rewarded in the plot later.

Though it is a serialized show, not all episodes are created equal. Some episodes add little to nothing in terms of moving the plot forward, but help establishes the main character compassion or the killer’s all-around cunning. You’re slowly piecing together what each character’s motives and beliefs are, leading to some horrifying realizations. Certain episodes have their main focal points vary to include side characters  as well. The amount of characters introduced and followed outnumber the main cast by a fair amount, but they all eventually come back to them. I found myself barely paying attention to certain episodes as it seemed like nothing was happening and there are several instances where I was right to do so.

All-around this show is solid and if slow-pacing isn’t a downside for you then the show is perfect. Fans of crime dramas will feel right at home watching this. Its mature,but not over the top nature makes it a perfect example of a realistic anime that is perfect for those who are not too fond of the more exaggerated versions in the genre.

Obviously this is coming from someone who is as mainstream as mainstream gets when it comes to anime; DBZ, Naruto, Death Note, Fullmetal,  Kuroko no Basuke. Those already well-versed with anime are almost certainly going to mention Monster to those who are new to anime or not too fond of the anime genre. It is one of the most well-received series by anime fans and it offers plenty to those who enjoy detailed plot-lines and heavy themes.

TL:DR; Monster is one of the best examples of grounded anime. The show is perfect for those who are not as fond of the intense screaming, big-boobed,crazy-haired anime that is stereo-typically thought of. Its dark themes and plot-lines ask questions that many people do not want the answer to. The only major knock to it is its length and slow build-up, but the overall plot is well worth it.