Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Bad Place By Dean Koontz


The Bad Place
By Dean Koontz
Copyright 1990

Frank Pollard appears in a Los Angeles neighborhood with no memory of who he is, where he’s been, or who is pursuing him. He only knows that somebody or something is following him and trying to kill him.

He hot wires a car and flees. As he drive, his pursuer attacks the car, blowing out its tires. He continues to allude this mysterious presence and hides out in a low rent motel. He is carrying a dufflebag. He opens that bag to find more than $100,00 in cash and several red gems.

He decides to hire some private investigators to help him figure out who he is, where he comes from, why he has all this money, and finally, who wants to kill him. He hires Bobby and Julie Dakota, high tech private eyes whose clients consist mostly of industrial and high tech espionage. He shows the cash, the jewels, and several fake ID’s he has in his possession. They start there research.

Meanwhile in a rundown cape cod near the Santa Barbara coast, Candy Pollard lives with his two sisters, Violent and Verbina. Candy is one strange and evil being. He enjoys dining on the blood of all living beings – especially humans. He lives for revenge on his brother, Frank, who killed his beloved mother eleven years earlier. Candy is able to teleport himself to various locations at will and is gifted with superhuman strength.

He holds a strong bond to his dead mother who use to cut her hands and occasionally her breast to let him suckle on her blood. Candy was an instrument of God, he learns from his mother. He must remain pure and chaste and can only kill those who have done him or her wrong. He must also protect his strange sisters.

Verbina and Violet are twins. They live an isolated existence tied to each other emotionally and sexually. They commune with a pack of cats that roam their property. Those cats serve as their eyes and ears, a relationship like witches and their familiars. Verbina tells Candy that Frank has been back to their house, looking in on them and has killed one of their cats. They want revenge on Frank for the death of their cat.

Another story line develops in Julie Dakota’s brother, Thomas, who has Down’s Syndrome and lives in an assisted living community. Shortly after taking Pollard’s case, Bobby and Julie visit Thomas. After leaving, Thomas finds he has a strange, psychic connection to an evil being he is sure is going to harm his sister. Thomas does what he can to find out who or what this being is and where and what the Bad Place is in which he dwells.

The Dakotas check Pollard into a hospital for observation and place a watch on him. They begin researching the various identifications provided by Pollard. They find that the people were once real, but had died. Following their deaths, tragedy struck the homes in which they dwelled. One man’s family was killed in a fire. Another was murdered. Candy killed them in his pursuit of Frank.

While Julie and Bobby are doing their research, Frank Pollard disappears into thin air from his hotel room. The Dakotas return to the hospital and wait for Frank to return. He returns a few hours later, carrying more money, more gems, and a companion – an insect or arachnid (it has an insect’s body supported by eight legs). It becomes clear after this latest trip that his travels are taking a physical and mental toll on Frank Pollard. When he materializes, his clothes are not put back together quite right, with bits of his shirt woven into his pants and the zipper of his pants melded into his shoes. He is convinced that each time he reconstitutes his body, there are parts not being put back together quite right.

The Dakotas learn that the jewels are actually exceptionally rare red diamonds that are too valuable to put a price on. The insect, they learn, is nothing of this earth. It’s primary function is to consume minerals and produce gems as waste.

Frank is brought back to the Dakotas offices as they conduct more computer research on his origins. They finally find where he was born and where he resided in the small home in Santa Barbara. As they are discussing this, Frank winks out of existence. This time, he takes Bobby with him.

Bobby and Frank travel to various places that Frank has lived and hid in the eleven years since he killed his mother. While traveling, Frank remembers killing his mother and Candy’s bloodlust for him. They pop in and pop out of various homes on various continents before landing on what appears to be another planet. On that planet are hundreds of the large, foreign insects Frank brought back with him. Among them are thousands of the priceless red gems. While on this foreign planet, Bobby loses physical contact with Frank and Frank disappears, leaving Bobby behind.

Bobby is desperate and scared. He observes an alien spaceship monitoring him and the insects seem to be mounting an attack. Before they can attack, however, Frank returns and grabs him. From there, they are transported to a doctor’s study. The doctor appears quite surprised, and them quite angry, to see Frank. Before he can say much, they disappear again to reappear in the Dakota’s offices.

Bobby has the name of the doctor he is sure is in Santa Barbara. They also have the address of the Pollard home. Bobby and Julie set out for Santa Barbara to see the Pollard home and find the doctor.

Meanwhile, Thomas has been using his psychic abilities to spy on Candy as much as possible, but he fears him. He is only able to catch quick glimpses of Candy and his activities before Candy becomes aware of him. Thomas desperately fears getting caught. Finally, he lingers just a little two long and Candy captures his mind. From Thomas, Candy learns that Thomas has some connection to Frank.

Candy teleports to Thomas’ room at the assisted living center. He kills Thomas’ roommate and tries to interrogate Thomas who does not have the mental capacity to understand what has happened or answer the questions. Candy kills Thomas and then tries to find psychic links to Frank in Thomas’ room. Finally, he learns about the Dakotas and their efforts to help Frank.

From Thomas’ room, Candy transports himself to the Dakota and Dakota agency and kills the people there. He then goes on to a Dakota employee’s home and kills the employee’s wife. He learns that Bobby and Julie are en route to Santa Barbara, so he returns home to wait for Candy.

The Pollards learn of the death of their friends and family. Now, they are more determined to find Frank’s brother and mete out justice. They find the doctor who tells them the strange tale of the Pollard family.

Frank and Candy’s grandfather had amassed a small fortune in the motion picture industry. He died in an accident and his daughter was left in the care of her uncle who molested her and eventually impregnated her. The doctor attended the birth of Roselle Pollard who was born a true hermaphrodite with fully functional sex organs of both genders.

Fifteen years later, Roselle returns to the doctor, she herself pregnant. She delivers Frank whom the doctor is disappointed to see, is perfectly normal. A couple years later, she returns, pregnant again. This time she delivers a boy with a strange abnormality. He is born with four testicles and no penis. This creature, the doctor tells him, would be loaded with testosterone to help him develop incredible strength. He would also be mean and evil, with no outlet for sexual frustration. Two years later, she returns and delivers the twin girls.

At Frank’s birth, Roselle tells the doctor that the birth is a miracle, for Frank and her children that followed, were born of a virgin. She impregnated herself using the sexual equipment as her disposal.

While they are having this discussion, Verbina and Violet’s cats are stalking and watching the doctor. They find the Dakotas there and Candy teleports in. He seizes Julie and demands that Bobby summon Frank. Frank, who has been traveling, finally arrives. His constant travels have left him markedly deformed, with partial insects and red jewels now being incorporated into his body. Candy tells Frank that he is taking Julie to their house. If Frank will accompany Candy to the house and sacrifice himself in atonement for killing their mother, he will let Julie live. He then disappears with Julie.

Bobby and the nearly dead Frank Pollard race by car to the Pollard residence. When they get there, they find that, in his rage, he has slaughtered his sisters. Julie is held hostage. Bobby implores Frank to confront his brother and his troubles. The two engage and begin traveling. They pop in and out of the kitchen. Each time they return, they are more and more closely amalgamated into one melded being bearing little resemblance to anything human. Bobby and Julie set fire to the home and kill the living lump of flesh and bone that used to be Frank and Candy Pollard.

The book concludes with the Dakotas living out their dream of residing on the coast and relaxing in their hobbies. They have the cash and jewels left to them by Frank. They also discovered a large cache of cash in the Pollard home, acquired by Frank over the years to support the family. It is just compensation, they rationalize, for the death of Thomas and their friends.

The Bad Place is one of my favorite Dean Koontz novels. With me, Koontz is hit or miss. He has written some compelling tales that have engaged my imagination like few others. Such books as Twilight Eyes, Watchers, House of Thunder, Phantoms, and The Door to December, are fun books to read. Others, such as the unreadable Seize the Night, Dragon Tears, and Winter Moon make me leery of picking up other Dean Koontz books.

One of the chief complaints of Koontz’s writing is that his characters are all the same. In most of his books, the characters are overachievers who have overcome horrible childhoods to succeed tremendously in whatever industry it is they pursue. They always do so at the expense of friends and family. None of this shows up in The Bad Place. In this book, Koontz steps away from his templated writing and develops original characters set in an original story.

A device that Koontz often employs effectively is the splintered story telling with different characters, unattached to each other, beset with similar problems. He usually is quite adept at engaging the reader into thinking and analyzing what these characters all have in common. He usually brings the story lines together into a exciting conclusion, as he does in The Bad Place.

Koontz provides few clues as to what links his various story lines together. Instead he weaves new anecdotes that only increase the mystery. As the book climaxes is when Koontz ties his story lines together.

One area where Koontz surpasses Stephen King is his ability to write erotica. King seldom uses erotica in his stories. Koontz does it and almost always does it well. In The Bad Place, the seductive twins who are primarily attracted to each other is well crafted erotica.

Then there is Candy, who so abhors sex and sexual arousal (for obvious reasons) that he washes his privates (such as they are) with a special mitt so he won’t have to touch them.

Dean Koontz is a writing machine who cranks out at least one novel and usually two novels a year. Being a novel factory probably detracts from the quality of his work. When Koontz is on, you can understand why he’s one of the better selling novelists of modern times. When he’s off (which is more often than not lately), you end up feeling foolish for having picked up the book. I can recall only a couple occasions when a book was so bad that I just could not find the will to finish it. One of these was Seize the Night.

However, Koontz is on his game in The Bad Place. He deviates from his formulaic characters and develops original thoughtful characters. The mystery of Frank Pollard and his strange abilities deepens throughout the book until the apocalyptic meeting at the doctor’s house. The final battle between Frank and Candy is riveting.

Those who fear reading Koontz for fear of stepping into a pile of crap like Seize the Night can safely pick up The Bad Place and know they are headed for a good reading experience.

5 comments:

  1. Good review. I just finished reading The Bad Place last week. One question: did the book ever say why Frank killed his mother? I didn't see it, and I thought maybe I missed something.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't see any direct reference. I think he was horrified by her and would have killed his entire family if he could.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am almost finished with this book and sort of drawn in by the twins. This a pretty decent review, however there is one flaw that I noticed: "Verbina tells Candy that Frank has been back to their house, looking in on them and has killed one of their cats." Verbina never learned to speak, it is Violet that does the talking. Otherwise very good work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the catch, DaeDenvy. I shall make the correction.

    Brian

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, I disagree about Seize the Night lol, but the Bad Place is and probably always be my absolute favorite Koontz book.

    ReplyDelete