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The Door to December

Author: Dean Koontz
Published: 1985
Review by: CL6 Sorsha

Six years ago, three-year-old Melanie was kidnapped by her father, Dylan, when a divorce custody battle went bad. Her mother, Laura, has been desperate for any word whatsoever of her missing daughter. Now, a phone call in the middle of the night leads Laura to her husband who appears to have been literally pounded to death by a meat tenderizer, and a grey room complete with a sensory deprivation chamber - but no Mealnie. Hours later the child is found wandering naked inthe streets, near catatonic and autistic. For the ensuing 500 pages, Melanie, Dan and Laura are outrunning an visible force more powerful than anything the human mind can imagine. If you are fascinated by novels centering around the concept of altered states, this is the novel for you.

I think one of the things I enjoy most about Koontz is his imaginative powers when it comes to the truly bizarre. While many of us will admit that Stephen King is the modern-day master, Koontz probably has to be somewhere in the top five. Whether it's his personal conspiracy theories or creative descriptions of the indescribable, Koontz has a flavor to his books which -- even when they miss the mark -- have a uniqueness found nowhere else. As per usual, Koontz focuses most of his energies on firmly establishing relationships between his protagonists. The mother-daughter bond is fully explored with tenderness and determination. Laura's separation from Melanie has the potential to develop into an obsessive pattern, yet Koontz holds back just the right amount to keep her from crossing this dangerous line.

Weaknesses within the novel can be easily fixed. Towards the end we know we're coming extremely close to resolution because the chapters are abrupt and choppy. This was very distracting and led me to want to skip over sections at times because the vinettes were too abrupt and too vague. While this technique is used as a means to build suspense, all it built in me was frustration and short-temperedness with fictional characters who were not in control of how their story was being written. The second weakness is Koontz's need to always have some sort of romantic entanglement mucking everything up. While in some of his novels this has worked to his advantage, the book could have been about 50-100 pages shorter and not lost anything in the edits. Personally, if I'm being chased by a big, scary "something," the last thing that's going to be on my mind is sex and marriage. Survival is much more important.

Tucked away in all of this is the promise of a minor exploration into S&M, the occult, and government research on psychological states. I learned quite a bit about sensory deprivation, which led to a great explanation of the novel's title and the concept of paradoxes. For that little bit it's perhaps worth the read. Sociology classes will teach you the basics behind the study of altered states, but Koontz has more license to provide us with a fictionalized account of the "reality" of the effects of experiments of this ilk.