cover image Dark Rivers of the Heart

Dark Rivers of the Heart

Dean R. Koontz. Alfred A Knopf Inc, $24 (487pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42524-3

In recent years, Koontz's libertarian views have seeped ever more deeply into his thrillers; they wash over the pages of this ambitious, bombastic novel about the desperate flight of a man, woman and dog from a renegade federal policing agency with Big Brother powers. Perhaps Koontz has been emboldened by Michael Crichton's success at cautionary suspense. He certainly seems to be aping Crichton by emphasizing the high-tech means-including online searches and satellite spying-by which the agency tramps on civil liberties. But there are more familiar Koontz elements here, too: the newfound love between the man and the woman; a subplot concerning the fact that the man, who has irked the agency unintentionally, is the son of a serial killer and must return to his father's charnel house to set his mind at rest (the woman belongs to an underground fighting the agency); the charming mutt (though no match for the shaggy hero of Watchers); a pair of superbly twisted villains, agency employees. The scientific lore is always riveting and, at times, as when the fleeing man is caught in a flood, the suspense is electrifying; but far too often, the narrative stops dead as characters turn into ventriloquist dummies mouthing the author's views on the erosion of freedom in the U.S. With the Koontz name attached, though, even a mash of blatant polemic and high-powered action like this will no doubt sell like crazy. 500,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; audio rights to Knopf; simultaneous large-print edition from Random House. (Nov.)