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Dean Koontz has been at his trade for decades, writing
genre-bending novels since the 1970s and amassing a reputation as
an author of science fiction and horror novels, and of works that
skirt both fields or seem firmly planted in neither. His more
recent work has defied characterization, being by turns
unpredictable and eccentric. Yet some, though by no means all, of
it is also arguably his best. One who has read Koontz's last few
novels can feel him stretching and testing his self-imposed
boundaries, creating weird and realistic characters who seem just
like his readers.

VELOCITY, Koontz's latest work, is front-and-center Exhibit A for
that proposition. The focus of the novel is Billy Wiles, a fairly
non-descript fellow who is about to have his life turned upside
down. When we first meet Wiles he is tending bar in a nondescript,
no-name establishment located in Vineyard Hills, a quiet Napa
Valley community. Wiles is a quietly multi-dimensional character
with a life that has been punctuated by tragedy --- orphaned by a
mind-numbing occurrence at 14, his fiancée rendered comatose
for four years by an accidental poisoning --- and outside of his
barkeeping duties and his bedside vigil with his fiancée, his
life is lived in solitude, though not in seclusion (and yes, as
Koontz so subtly demonstrates, there is a distinction).

The predictability of Wiles's life is abruptly shattered when he
finds an anonymous note on the windshield of his SUV. The note is
terrifying in its symmetry, giving Wiles a Hobson's choice that
will result in the death of an innocent. This is the first of many
notes, and only the beginning, as Wiles is taunted and pursued by
an unknown assailant who possesses not only an uncanny knowledge of
his whereabouts at any given moment but also detailed insight into
his past. Wiles, however, is not without resources and a
frighteningly canny intelligence of his own. The tragic turns of
his life have wounded him but have made him stronger as well --- a
fact that Wiles's tormentor comes to realize when Wiles stops
reacting and begins to act proactively.

VELOCITY is Koontz's most mysterious and frightening work, one that
takes a flawed but sympathetic character and causes him to rise to
the occasion of fighting fire with fire. There also is some stark
religious imagery here, very subtly presented but worth thoughtful
reflection once you've completed the book. The ending brought tears
to my eyes. But don't tell anyone. What you should tell
everyone is that VELOCITY is the Koontz book that cannot be

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

by Dean Koontz

  • Publication Date: May 24, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553804154
  • ISBN-13: 9780553804157