He that has light within his own clear breast May sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day: But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself his own dungeon.
- Milton, English Poet (1608-1674)
“What the Night Knows” is Dean Koontz’s latest supernatural thriller, a book that’s both chilling and engrossing. I imagine anyone who sells as many books as Dean Koontz probably gets panned by quite a few critics, but I like Koontz’ writing style, I like the fact that his writing seems effortless, he reminds me of an athlete who makes it all look so easy. With this book, once again Dean Koontz takes us on an enjoyable ride. The narration of the audiobook was also a pitch perfect performance by actor Steven Weber of the Wings television series and The Shining miniseries.
One of the things that stood out the most in this book for me was the intimate way Koontz was able to depict demonic possession, intimate from the point of view of both the “rider” as well as the one being “mounted.” Though the possessed are mostly in the grips of the spirit of a serial killer who makes use of people to enact his lust for blood and corruption, this possession is only enabled through a demon named Ruin, and it’s a demonic possession thoroughly rooted in the mold of the Catholic faith. So it’s not simply a story of a serial killer come back from the grave to kill again, it’s a story built firmly on the beliefs of Catholicism. I would imagine that much like it was with The Exorcist, for those who do hold the faith, it makes the book all the more real and frightening.
For those who don’t subscribe to the Catholic faith themselves however, there is enough stark humanness in the individual weaknesses through which people can be entered by the demon to make it all seem quite plausible in a human way. Most of the people who the demon makes use of are downright evil and ripe for the picking, but we are all flawed in our own ways such as man is, and so there’s also an element of danger that just about anyone could ultimately be susceptible to the demon’s possession through their flaw – a supernatural spin on the all-too human tale of a character flaw that becomes a fatal flaw. So while the idea of hell and demons might be laughable to some, as the book makes you consider the question of how can it happen that a seemingly normal person suddenly goes on a killing spree, Koontz is able to make the idea of possession seem like a reasonable alternative to simply shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I guess the guy just finally snapped.”
And while most of the book is a horror show focused on man’s weaknesses, depravity and a demonic lust to defile the innocent, there are also great moments of moral clarity in the book as well, such as this passage:
Her mother said that three great powers kept the universe going. The first and strongest was God. Each of the two additional powers was as strong as the other: love and imagination. Of the three, God and love were always good. Imagination, however, could be good or bad. Mozart imagined great music into existence. Hitler imagined death camps and built them. Imagination was so powerful that you had to be careful because you could imagine things into existence that you might regret. Everything in the universe was an idea before it was real.
“What the Night Knows” – Dean Koontz, 2010