Hail to the Koontz – Phantoms
The town of Snowfield has disappeared. A group of boring people walk around it for almost 500 pages.
Have you read a science textbook? Because Dean Koontz sure has and transplanted a lot of that knowledge into this story in way that makes the non-experts in biomedical science feel a bit stupid. A typical conversation been scientists and law enforcement:
Scientist: It’s Latin-Word, Latin-Word, Scienctific-word
Law Enforcement: In English….
Scientist: That foam that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you’re thirsty.
I’d wager if you remove the technical jargon from this airport best seller, then you’d lose maybe a tenth of the overall book. Seriously, it features so much technical speak, I feel I could pose as a scientific researcher without much trouble after reading this.
So we have the characters of law enforcement in the shape of a Sheriff, his deputies (your role call of guy with a tragic past, religious guy, pervert, and overtly cautious one-day-from-retirement types. Guess which ones make it out of the story…. you’re right) , a doctor (who conveniently knows the entire 500+ population of the town by their address. Who needs Google maps when your neighbourhood doctor knows where everyone lives, their family history, and their level of education?), and her kid sister (who you assume isn’t sent off to safety because they might need to use her as human shield as some point). This is ignoring the fact that whole other group of characters show up halfway through the be cannon fodder for the monster.
Do you like subplots that don’t go anywhere? Because you’re in luck – this book has two whole subplots that connect up slightly, but just give us a few extra chapters. Dr. Flyte’s travels from England to the U.S.: you’ll get those every so often for ¾ of the book until he joins the main case. Rather than say, just have a single line of dialogue saying he’s on his way from England. How about the story of psychopath Fletcher Kale and his trials and tribulations of escaping from prison, hiding out in the mountains, meeting some bikers, all to come back at the end and get shot by Sheriff Bryce protecting his son. Why was this subplot there? Dean, if you read this, help me out in the comments section below.
The only way I got through this whole book was by picturing all the characters as sock puppets, in the world’s most bloody, gory, and boring puppet show. But more on that later.
This book features a Father Callahan, could be a subtle reference to The Other Guy’s book Salem’s Lot.
“Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo.”
The ages and relationship of Jenny and Lisa in the book are Lisa being a precocious 14-year-old and Jenny as 27-year-old. Their relationship is a little strained, but they get along well enough as they’re bonded by the death of their mother. In the film, Lisa is now in her mid 20’s and an LA party girl, with Jenny as a “frumpy” (I hate that word but can’t think of better one) mid 30’s woman fill of ire for her sister purely because she exists. This change is sort of fundamental with what’s wrong with the adaptation. It’s like some explained the plot of the book to the writer and said… “but some how make it crappier.” On that front, they fully succeeded, which makes it even more galling when you find out Koontz wrote the screenplay too. Lisa acts exactly the same way in both versions, but while it’s excusable why a 14-year-old would be freaking at this situation, a 25-year-old would need to get their shit together.
The background of Sheriff Bryce has changed as well. Rather than being a guy who’s experienced loss and is still dealing it as his son is in a coma, in the movie, he’s Ben Affleck and shot a kid. So, he was busted down from FBI to small town sheriff. Do the FBI have that kind of power to demote someone in to another strand of government? CIA, you’re probably reading out this, help me out in the comments below.
I feel the film made too much out of Stu Wargel. He was meant to be a throw away perv stereotype in the book, but by the end of the film, he has become the Ancient Evil’s conduit on earth. Although, I imagine this has more to do with the fact that CGI was really expensive in 1998 and less to with any plot reasons. But this brings me back to the most maddening thing: Koontz adapted his own book and decided to make Wargel the big bad guy at the end. It even has that sting every 90’s horror movie was required to have by law, of not ending on the heroes you’ve followed, but showing the villain in another time and place about to start the whole cycle up again.
Overall this experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Never stray from the path of King because this book took me so long to read because the characters were just so dull. It was like the whole thing was being done by sock puppets (if only in my mind), which improved things greatly towards the end because when all the The Thing-type tentacles were popping out, I was picturing that as a string threading out from the socks…. In any event, Hail to the Koontz is over, long live The King.
April Fools? Feel like this piece started as a parody my King pieces, became a ran involving sock puppets and missed a punchline. Shit.
Hang on a sec, I’ll pull something together…..
Here we go, a video that sums up what I’m trying to convey
Next Time: If you hadn’t already guessed it’ll be Hideaway.