From the Corner of His Eye
Ever read a book so compelling that you dropped everything to sneak in a few pages? A book with a tight plot, a few interesting characters and a rewarding knock-your-socks-off climax? Well, after struggling though all 622 meandering pages of From the Corner of His Eye I can confidently say that this is so not one of those books.
The story begins with a trip through the emotional wringer. It’s the early 1960’s and two exceptional children, Bartholomew (Barty) Lampion and Angel White, are coming into the world. The children aren’t related but have much in common. Both are born amidst tragedy and grief and will bring joy, love and a miraculous insight to their remaining family.
At the same moment a madman is emerging. On a whim, a handsome young man named Enoch “Junior” Cain decides to commit a shocking murder. Reeling from the unexpected physical side effects of his dirty deed Junior is admitted to the nearest hospital where he loses consciousness. He dreams of a man he’s never seen named “Bartholomew” and, filled with a sense of dread, awakens with the name on his lips. He then makes it his life’s mission to find and destroy his new arch enemy – the mysterious Bartholomew.
This lengthy setup was the best part of the story. The pace was fast, the characters were interesting and there was enough black humor to offset the many painfully sad moments. The plot was full of enough questions to make the pages fly by. What mysterious power do these children contain? What is Junior’s place in all of this? What will happen when they all meet? Unfortunately, somewhere after page 150 or so things began to fall apart.
The majority of the remainder of the book concentrates on Junior, the seriously deluded and seriously boring serial killer. He spends most days on a quest to find the elusive Bartholomew and on fruitless attempts to better himself. He reads self-help books, learns about art and makes lots and lots of needlework pillows. When his hands aren’t full of needlework he manages to kill a few innocent people and bed a slew of women. Koontz does not go into explicit detail but mentions these scenes mostly in passing. As a result of Junior’s lame, self-centered personality, this portion of the story is almost mind-numbingly boring. One of the myriad secondary characters says it best when speaking of criminals:
They’re shallow, empty, boring people who couldn’t give you five minutes of interesting conversation if you had the piss-poor luck to be at a party full of them.That about sums up Junior. Unfortunately his exploits, which rarely further the plot, take up the bulk of the story.
While Junior is busily murdering people and creating his pillow masterpieces, many other things are happening which brings me to the next problem: an overabundance of secondary characters. Maybe I’m getting senile, but keeping track of the huge cast of characters was at times mind-boggling. The five hundred page wait to see how they all tied together was far too long and made the eventual anti-climax and the rush-rush ending not at all worth the effort. Still, several characters are very well developed and do enrich the story. Barty and his mother Agnes light up the pages whenever they’re around and the emotional bond they share will bring tears to even hardened readers. There are also several tender romances that develop that add a dose of optimism and hope amongst all of the tragedy that occurs.
If you’re looking for a good scare or nail-biting suspense you’ll want to take a pass on this snail-paced fright-free story. But if you’re a fan of Koontz you may want to take a look when it arrives in paperback. Despite the meandering middle, the overabundance of Junior, and the lame climax, there are memorable moments, some unforgettable characters and a very interesting idea.