Book Talk: Dean Koontz, ‘Devoted’

Dean Koontz is an American author whose suspense novels involve horror, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and satire. He has used at least five other pseudonyms and published more than 100 novels. Worldwide, he has sold between 450 million and half a billion books. I had never read one of his novels before “Devoted.” And, I didn’t even finish it. At page 257, I quit.


I bought the paperback version of “Devoted” (2020, 369 pages), which was advertised as “The No. 1 International Bestseller.” The story involves Woodrow “Woody” Bookman, an eleven-year-old autistic boy with an I.Q. of 186 who has never spoken. In a subplot, it also involves Kipp, a golden retriever.


In his mind, Woody has created a sophisticated, fantasy world to which he can escape when things become uncomfortable. In this virtual environment, Woody can hack into any real system, even the most complex and obscure of dark web networks. Kipp, a member of a canine network called the Mysterium, is not only sentient in the human sense, but may have an I.Q. equal to Woody’s. So, it wasn’t long before I knew that Woody and Kipp would somehow find each other.


About the time that I came to this conclusion, I had decided that this was not the book for me. However, I reasoned that an author doesn’t sell nearly 500 million books with ridiculous plots, so I kept reading.


• • • Spoiler alert • • •


Enter Lee Shaket. Shaket used to date Megan, Woody’s mother. He recently escaped from a conflagration that destroyed his research facility, killing everyone else. At this facility, scientists were apparently attempting to engineer archaea, which are described as parts of the building blocks of human cells. And Shaket’s body seems to have absorbed many of these archaea. Consequently, in both body and mind, Shaket is in the process of “becoming.”


I’m not sure what Shaket is becoming; suffice it to say that it is murderous and cannibalistic. It is also obsessed with having Megan, both in the beast-woman way and as a meal, perhaps with a nice chianti.


After his original caretaker dies, Kipp wanders off. Eventually, Kipp is in the care of good-hearted Ben Hawkins, who calls the dog “Scooby,” and the two wind up at the home of Megan and Woody. Of course, the two geniuses, one human the other canine, immediately begin communicating telepathically.


As the boy and dog lay on the bed, silently exchanging information, Megan pets the dog and says, “Scooby?” Woody, who has never uttered a word in his life, responds. “Without breaking eye contact with the retriever, speaking in a whisper, Woody said, ‘No. His name is Kipp.’”


Meanwhile, Shaket escapes from a tall building by jumping out of the window. When his pursuer reaches the window, he looks down. Nothing. He looks side to side. Nothing. He looks up, and there’s Shaket clinging to the building above the window.


I closed the book. I agree with the conclusion reached by Kirkus Reviews, “The worst fear raised by this odd creature feature is that it will spawn a sequel.”


• • •


Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.

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