cover image Strange Highways

Strange Highways

Dean R. Koontz. Warner Books Inc, $23.95 (561pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51974-8

The first book under Brandon Tartikoff's imprint for Warner should be a winner. It's an omnibus collection, Koontz's first, containing 14 selections: two novels and 12 previously published stories and novellas. Koontz has rewritten or revised most of them; the title novel is new. Here, the evil get what they deserve, the good get rewarded, the down-and-out (but good at heart) get second chances and the reader gets to enjoy a bestselling author experimenting with different styles and voices, usually with success. In these vintage tales, the weird, the frightening and the unreal are commonplace. Standouts include ``Down in the Darkness,'' in which a Vietnam vet is given the chance to take a horrible revenge on the man who tortured him during the war; ``Twilight of the Dawn,'' which chronicles a stubborn atheist's religious conflicts without once becoming maudlin or preachy; ``The Night of the Storm,'' set in a future where robots rule and men are as legendary as vampires; ``Bruno,'' a lighthearted yarn about an ursine private eye from a dimension where Steven Spielberg is the father of space travel and Disney manufactures handguns; and the title story, about a man who gets a second chance to take a road not traveled, find love and stop a serial killer. A couple of these tales are slight, but none is a failure, and all are well crafted and imaginative, with characters rarely taking second place to premise or plot device. Literary Guild main selection. (May)