Written by: James Keen
‘There is no final conclusion to anything.” – ‘Twilight Eyes’.
Published in 1987, ‘Twilight Eyes’ is an expansion of an earlier work by Koontz entitled ‘Land Of Enchantment’ – actually expansion is perhaps not the right term here. ‘Land of…’was the first novella, telling the tale of Carl Stanfeuss, a young lad who can see demons where everyone else sees ordinary people. In this case, Koontz refers to them not as demons, but ‘goblins’, a horrific combination of dog, pig and lizard and described as being “an evil far more ancient than the human race”. After an encounter with one of these creatures, which he slays, Carl is forced to go on the run, as to the less talented eyes of the authorities he has likely murdered a human being. Stanfeuss finds himself joining a travelling carnival, falling in love with young Rya Raines and continuing his ongoing ‘war’ against the goblin race as the carnival arrives in the town of Yontsdown where it appears pretty much everyone from the Mayor, the police department and much of the local populace are goblins, and it’s perhaps not a unique locus for these loathsome creatures that feed upon human misery, prompting our hero Carl to ponder, “I wondered how many other nests of these vampires existed in other dark corners of the world.”
Koontz’ set-up is an absorbing one; here we have a scenario told from a first person perspective that lends itself well to levels of moral ambiguity. Is Carl (or ‘Slim’ as he renames himself) a young warrior determined to rid the world of the menace that seems intertwined with mankind, or is he perhaps a deluded psychopath whose world-view has been poisoned by some dark family history. How long can ‘Slim’ keep murdering these goblins before he’ll be discovered and pilloried – possibly exiled- by his new-found ‘family’ of “freaks”?
Essentially, ‘Twilight Eyes’ is two short novels, complete with two epilogues and two dis-appointing endings and a heavy-handed metaphor for how badly we as human beings are capable of treating each other that, after a time becomes mind-numbing for the reader. Koontz’s penchant for pontificating reaches almost unbearable levels here. Piling on speculations as to the nature of fate, destiny, destiny, (and more ‘destiny’) religion and what it means to be human, the author lost this reader in a fog of preaching and overly descriptive passages, ‘mystic’ sex, terrible character motivation and glib observations like, “one proof of humanity is the inability to kill your own kind in cold blood”, “that’s really what life’s about – going on as if nothing has happened” and ‘startling’ survival tips, “the [human] body cannot function without water as easily as without food”.
Set in 1963 and ’64 respectively, Koontz uses pop culture references to give his twinned novellas context; the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK, and Kitty Genovese’s appalling fate coupled with multiple references to the music and movies of both years (though the list of how ‘The Beatles’ dominated the music charts at the time reads like someone quoting a Billboard 100 History textbook). It’s an easy way to fix a time-period in the readers mind, but also, extremely lazy. Both novellas are populated by characters with names such as ‘Jelly Jordan’, ‘Slick Eddie’, ‘Nerves MacPhearson’ and one seventy four year old character named Horton Bluett who has a special talent of his own when it comes to detecting these ‘goblins’, prompting this reviewer to speculate that perhaps the writer should have gone the whole hog and titled Bluett’s chapter with a Seuss-inspired appellation, ‘Horton Smells A Who’.
As with many of this author’s books, it’s adequately written, the diction is sufficiently eloquent but the plot is stiffened by Koontz’ tendency to belabour his themes. And then repeat those themes. Rinse. Repeat. Much like a car with an attractively buffed exterior (a more purple than blue paint-job) – it’s running on a dodgy engine, and taken as a whole, it’s an unreliable ride for this reader and not one I’ll want to take again.
Or to use another analogy…ah, fuck it. You get it…