cover image Midnight


Dean R. Koontz. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (383pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13390-9

The latest tersely titled thriller by Koontz ( Strangers ; Lightning , etc.) displays the author's abilities at full throttle. A horror story with science fiction underpinnings, it concerns a brilliant, insane inventor, Theodore Shaddack, who uses the sleepy California town of Moonlight Cove as an outsize lab for a bizarre experiment that ultimately turns the community into a charnel house. He has devised a solution of microchips which, when injected into the (usually unwilling) subject, endows them with immense mental powers over their own bodies, leaving them, however, emotionally lobotomized. As a result, almost all the ``New People'' regress to animal form, to experience again primal sensationsand in animal form, they kill. The story is told from the points of view of four people who perceive that something horrible is happening in Moonlight Cove, and that if they do not act fast, it will happen to them. It is also related from the point of view of Sheriff Loman Watkins, himself a ``New Person,'' but who retains enough moral sense to be disturbed by what is happening around him and in him. Despite some paper-thin characterizations and a predilection for the maudlin, Koontz's sense of pace and the dramatic are sure, and there are a number of memorable moments. This one should hit the bestseller list at a run. 200,000 first printing, $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild selection. (Jan.)