Published by Bantam on June 9, 2009
Source: Book Swim
Bestselling novelist Cullen "Cubby" Greenwich is a lucky man and he knows it. He makes a handsome living doing what he enjoys. His wife, Penny, a children's book author and illustrator, is the love of his life. Together they have a brilliant six-year-old, Milo, affectionately dubbed "Spooky," and a non-collie named Lassie, who's all but part of the family.
So Cubby knows he shouldn't let one bad review of his otherwise triumphant new book get to him — even if it does appear in the nation's premier newspaper and is penned by the much-feared, seldom-seen critic Shearman Waxx. Cubby knows that the best thing to do is ignore the gratuitously vicious, insulting, and inaccurate comments. Penny knows it; even little Milo knows it. If Lassie could talk, she'd tell Cubby to ignore them, too.
Ignore Shearman Waxx and his poison pen is just what Cubby intends to do. Until he happens to learn where the great man is taking his lunch. Cubby just wants to get a good look at the mysterious recluse whose mere opinion can make or break a career — or a life.
But Shearman Waxx isn't what Cubby expects, and neither is the escalating terror that follows what seemed to be an innocent encounter. For Waxx gives criticism; he doesn't take it. He has ways of dealing with those who cross him that Cubby is only beginning to fathom. Soon Cubby finds himself in a desperate struggle with a relentless sociopath, facing an inexorable assault on far more than his life.
Those who know me well are aware of my literary crush on Odd Thomas. I adore him, and in his character Koontz has found a compelling voice. If you ever get the chance to listen to the audio book of Odd Thomas, or any of the sequels, do so. The narrator is perfect.
But this post is not about Odd, although like Lassie in Relentless, Mr. Thomas always pops up in the most strange places. So, moving on!
When I first saw Relentless on the Dean Koontz website I thought it might be a follow up to his incredible book Intensity. While it didn’t have the same glaring orange and yellow book jacket, the titles struck me as very similar. But I was wary. It wasn’t so long ago that I trudged through Your Heart Belongs To Me, and I haven’t the will to even finish a much earlier work of his, The Door To December. So although Relentless has been out for many months now, I waited.
Reading the summary gave me some hope that this was going to be a special Koontz book, so it was one of the first books I ordered when I joined Book Swim. However, the book arrived with some Sookie Stackhouse novels, and Mr. Koontz was relegated to the back of the line while I finished my adventures for the time being in Bon Temps.
Finally, all done until May with the Southern Vampire Series, I turned my almost undivided attention to Relentless (I usually read a couple books at a time, until one book breaks from the pack- this time Blue Bloods Masquerade was the one to wait at the back of the line). Pretty much from the very first sentences the book had me.
I think Koontz is at his best when he writes first person narrative. Or I might be biased, because Cubby Greenwich, the main character from Relentless, could be Odd Thomas’ older brother. For that matter his wife Penny could be Stormy’s older, less tragic , sister. Sorry- back to the story. Cubby- real name Cullen which I just adore because I feel like it’s some shout out to Twilight but realize that it’s probably not- is a successful writer. His wife, Penny Boom Greenwich, is an artist who also writes and illustrates children books. Together they have a 6 year old son, who goes by Milo. He’s an uncommon genius. Lassie, not a collie, is the family dog, and there’s something special about her.
Anyone who has read past Koontz books knows this is something of a trend with him. There are several super intelligent kiddies in his other books- From The Corner Of His Eyes is one that immediately springs to mind- and lots and lots of books with special dogs. I don’t mind though, I usually like the books with his smart tykes and supernatural dogs and I’m no literary snob. Sometimes it’s nice to know what you’re going to get when you pick up a book. Nicholas Sparks will give you love with a fair share of grief (most likely someone is going to die, but not before love is realized). Jodi Picoult will give you controversy, tough decisions, and wonderfully flawed and realistic humans. Johanna Lindsey will give you romance, and Stephenie Meyers will give you a happy ending. In the end they may not endure through history like Shakespeare, but in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with having a semi-formula.
Back to Cubby and his family. They are all very happy and very loving and basically have the ideal family life despite having a son who is already done with college and moving on to quantum physics so advanced that Koontz can’t and doesn’t explain and I couldn’t follow anyhow. Cubby’s new book is out and reviews are coming in. He’s published 6 or so previous novels and had some good reviews and some bad, but nothing prepares him for the vicious bile spewed by reclusive critic Shearman Waxx (I’ll admit I thought his name was Sherman for the longest time, but it’s Shearman). Cubby is shaken. Penny his wife advises him to let it go, while his agent seems to think being skewed by Waxx is a good thing.
Cubby Greenwich does not let it go.
That’s not to say he calls up Waxx and demands an apology for his scathing and rather personal review. He’s bothered mostly by that fact that Waxx appears to not have even read the actual book and at the fact that Waxx has lousy syntax. I can only hope Cubby doesn’t stumble upon this blog… Cubby rather finds himself in the position to view Waxx in one of his rare public outings to a restaurant they both frequent. Cubby does not tell his wife, nor does he lie, rather he omits the truth. It turns out that Mr. Greenwich also has a BIG secret past that he has omitted from his wife’s knowledge- bet that will come into play later in the story.
From then on the book begins to pick up pace. After an almost funny encounter with Waxx, who recognizes Cubby, the mean critic whispers one word, “Doom.” The peace in that had been the Boom-Greenwich household is literally about to blow up. Waxx has it out for Cubby, who’s bright optimistic outlook on life fills his books seems to really tick the critic off. Relentless is the precise word for which Waxx targets Cubby and family.
As they run from Waxx, the family encounters many quirky characters, like Ma and Pa Boom, Penny’s survivalist demolition parents, and Milo’s awesome hardass, pink wearing, gun toting babysitter, Vivian Norby. Cubby and Penny also discover what happened to a few other authors who’s novels were skewered by Waxx and the knowledge only heightens the danger. Along the way Cubby also tells the reader about his BIG secret past, and it’s a shocker. Well, not really for me, because I read Koontz’s book Coldfire years and years ago that had a character with a similar tragic past (although he was a much different character than Cubby, and his circumstances, while mortally dangerous as well, were vastly separate)
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that this book had my heart rate up and my full attention. Right before I finished the book I had to take my Chiweenie, Emmy, out for a walk in the dark dark night, and quite frankly I was spooked. I like to pretend otherwise, but if I’m honest, I know that I would not survive to the end of a Koontz novel. While somewhat witty and charming (WARNING: blatant self compliments!), my nerves often are shattered in simple non-sinister games of hide and seek.
For me this book was an A, and I can even forgive Dean Koontz for veering off the Odd Thomas sequel path that I would firmly set him upon should I ever have the chance to put the author in a Misery like position. I also have to wonder if Relentless, and all his other books about special kids and super dogs, will accumulate into one awesome end of the world struggle book? I can dream!
In the very end Koontz reminds up that love is relentless, as well as friendship and faimly, faith and the human heart. I would simply add that book bloggers are relentless as well.