“Intensity” by Dean Koontz was a moderately entertaining read. Perhaps my standards have been raised a lot, but it didn’t seem like Koontz’s best work. It did hold my attention and towards the end I could not put the book down.
The book opens with someone watching the Templeton House. On the next page, we meet Laura Templeton who is driving home to spend a long weekend with her parents. Her best friend, Chyna (pronounced China) has tagged along and we learn through a terrible story that she tells about driving in a car as a child, that Chyna has had a tremendously traumatic childhood. Oddly enough, it is this trauma that inspires Chyna to pull strength from within to help others when her stay at the Templeton House turns into a nightmare with the arrival of Edgler Foreman Vess. “But personal safety at the expense of others was cowardice, and cowardice was a right only of small children who lacked the strengths and experience to defend themselves.” (Intensity, pg 31).
I thought that Chyna was an interesting character. Everyone reacts differently to traumatic, unstable childhoods but too often they fall victim to the same vices that their parents were absorbed in. Chyna was the exception – instead of allowing the world that swallowed her mother to take her, she fought to live a better life. “She’d always chosen not be to victimized, to resist and fight back, to hold on to hope and dignity and faith in the future. But victimhood was seductive, a release from responsibility and caring: Fear would be transmuted into weary resignation; failure would no longer generate guilt but, instead, would spawn a comforting self-pity.” (Intensity, pg 80/81). I liked this quote because it made Chyna more relatable. Even though you like to think the best of yourself when trying to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, the idea that you could truly play the hero to a stranger is a hard one to grasp. Having a few moments of doubt makes Chyna more human. Vess is another story altogether. It is his complete reptilian nature that makes him more believable. He wears a human disguise when he needs to, but at his core he is no more human than an alligator. This allows for him to kill without remorse in a way that makes sense to the reader.
The biggest problem I had with this book was that it felt almost like Koontz thought “Intensity” would make a good title for a book and so he built the entire novel around that one word. Our bad guy Vess uses the word excessively to the point where it almost loses meaning. It felt so forced and that is what made me think that the title was the very first part of the book that Koontz wrote.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not to all readers. It was a thriller with a certain amount of vulgarity and violence to it, so this isn’t a book for everyone. Those that enjoy thrillers would likely enjoy reading “Intensity” but it was by no means Koontz’s best work.