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Dean Koontz ‘Relentless’ Review


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Written by: Wayne C. Rogers

Over the last forty years, I’ve read a lot of novels in which a writer (and his or her family) is the central character.  Until I read Relentless, none had scared me as much as Stephen King’s Misery, which dealt with a writer’s number one fan and what that individual was capable of doing when pissed off.  In Relentless by Dean Koontz, the author delivers an antagonist who can’t seem to be stopped and is determined to wreak havoc and violent destruction upon those who inadvertently capture his attention.  What Misery gives the reader is a scenario that could actually happen under the right circumstances.  Relentless, however, offers a rollercoaster ride of dark intensity, gleeful anticipation, and, well, utter relentlessness.  After the first thirty-five pages, this book sets up a breakneck pace that doesn’t let up till the ending.  In other words, I was exhausted by the time I finished this novel and like Arnold, I needed to take a vacation.

Cullen Greenwich lives in sunny Southern California and has six bestsellers to his name, plus a gorgeous and talented wife, Penny, who writes children books.  Speaking of children, they have a six-year-old son, Milo, who’s probably the smartest person on the face of this planet and could run rings around any scientist or mathematician or theorist.  This kid is a genius with an I.Q. so high that it can’t be measured.  That particular quality will come in handy by the end of the story.  Anyway, when Cullen’s (a.k.a. Cubby) newest novel is published, it receives a scathing review in a national newspaper.  Though Cullen has received bad reviews before on previous books, this one gets to him in the worse possible way and he decides to meet the book’s critic, Shearman Waxx, face to face.

When Cullen discovers that Shearman lives in the same general area that he does and eats at the same restaurant on almost a daily basis, he quickly decides to ignore his wife’s protests and to take his son, Milo, with him for a quick look at the man who considers him a hack.  One thing swiftly leads to another at the restaurant and Cullen finally meets Shearman Waxx in the restroom while helping his little boy to pee in a urinal.  Shearman immediately recognizes the author and says only one word to him as he walks out the door in a state of agitation–“Doom.”

From the moment Cullen Greenwich hears the word doom in the restroom, he instinctively knows that something bad is going to happen.  What’s going to happen is the big question?  There’s no way Cullen can anticipate the massive destruction and unbelievable tragedy that will befall him and his family due to the wrath of Shearman Wazz.  You see, Shearman Waxx is not only a book critic, but also a serial killer who loves to humiliate and torture and murder the authors of the novels he has hated and trashed in his poisonous reviews.  He doesn’t just kill the writers.  No, no, no.  He gets off on torturing their families in the most cruel and painful ways, forcing the author to watch and then beg for his own merciful death after the life has been sucked from his loved ones.

Once Cullen’s home is blown up, he and his family are going to be running for their lives, not knowing that their pursuer has the uncanny ability to find them within hours, no matter where they hide.  And, there’s no way to stop Shearman Waxx, except by killing him.  The Greenwich family is going to face the fight of a lifetime, understanding that in order to survive, they’ll have to become as vicious and deadly as the predator hunting them.

Except for the last twenty-five pages of the book, I have nothing but high praise for Relentless.  This novel is so intense that I thought I was going to have a heart attack while reading it.  Not only that, but people kept telling me that I was talking aloud to myself while deeply engrossed in the novel while at lunch or on the bus, saying things like–“No, don’t do that!” or “Watch out!” or “Kill the […]!”

In this novel, Dean Koontz has created his most evil villain of all time in the form of Shearman Waxx, a book critic who wears a bow tie and writes ponderous prose, and who loves peeling the skin from the body of his victims.  What’s even worse is Zazu, Shearman’s mother, who seems to have been her son’s personal teacher in the art of torturing and killing.  Zazu, however, is introduced near the end of the book, offering the reader only a brief glimpse of how motherly love can mean different things to different parents.  I wanted to learn more about her and her past and maybe to actually see her in action, but that wasn’t to be.  The ending of this book is tied up just a little too quickly and easily for me, especially after the tremendous buildup for 330 pages.  I felt the need for at least thirty more pages in order to give the book the really explosive ending it deserved, but this is simply nitpicking on my part, and it shouldn’t take away from the overall quality of the novel and the satisfaction it offers.

Dean Koontz has written what is certainly one of his most fast-paced books with a sharp, in your face, edge-of-your-seat intensity that propels you onward like a Roman catapult shooting you into the air.  Because information is conveyed at the end of the novel that concerns a large, 12,000-member organization where each person is just as ruthless and evil as Shearman Waxx, I suspect Mr. Koontz may eventually want to explore that in more depth, bringing back the Greenwich family for another life-and-death adventure.  Anyway, will my nitpicking about the ending stop me from recommending this novel to millions of anxious fans?  No way!  The excitement and thrills that Relentless offers the reader is definitely a journey that most will want to take at the end of this long hot summer.

Order it here.

Rating: 4/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

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