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Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Scan
The Darklands, a loose coalition of city states presided over by General Dark, have been at war with the Orogonians, led by the tyrant Justin Matabain. There have been credible reports that the Orogonians have breached the Mountains and found the fabled land filled with technology left over before The Blank, a time of crisis 1,000 years ago.
General Dark sends a small detachment led by his most trusted Captain to Shaker Sandow. Shakers are powerful men with powers beyond the normal. They need the Shaker and his 2 apprentices to help them find this Orogonian outpost and take it for themselves, or at worst, deny it to both sides. Before the expedition even starts out though, 20 men are murdered in their beds and the 3 Shakers are set upon. Thus they all realize that the Orogonians have some spies within their midsts.
On their journey to cross the mountains and find the fabled city of treasures, the spies kill almost half the group before being revealed themselves. But they aren’t human. They are wire worm things inhabiting the bodies of their hosts and taking over. They are dealt with and killed.
Once over the mountains, the Darklanders must deal with Orogonians who have made use of such technology as airplanes and guns. Shaker Sandow uses his powers to find an unused entrance into the city where the remaining Darklanders fall victim to the descendants of genetically modified humans inhabiting the bodies of massive blue apes.
Turns out the apes were just incapacitating them all to be on the safe side, since the Orogonians had been treacherous and tried to kill all the apes. They all team up, wipe out the Orogonians in the city, take a super-submarine back to their land and wipe out most of the Tyrant’s stores of technology and his castle where he lived, thus hopefully wiping him out.
Shaker Sandow and his apprentices realize they have brought the potential for unending war back to life and envision a time when all the Shakers can come together and lead the world into a utopia of peace and knowledge.
This was written in 1972. It reminded me a LOT of John Christopher’s middle grade series The Sword of the Spirits trilogy that was released in 1970. Post-apocalyptic Earth with humanity rising again. Koontz is a bit more on the positive side though, with his ending foreseeing a return to the stars and a Utopia established. I did have to roll my eyes because the idea is predicated on the “fact” that knowledge alone will temper humanities’ worst impulses. Koontz has definitely bought into the Religion of Scyenze in this book. Sadly, Hitler, an extremely educated man, really taught that Generation nothing.
A decent story with some action but I didn’t feel any of the tension that I think Koontz meant to inhabit the pages. Part of that is I’m a widely read reader so nothing of this is new any more and I’ve read enough Koontz to know what he likes to write about. He likes to write about new flesh that is super in some way and while not an exact replication of that idea, the wire worms taking over the bodies were as close as could be gotten.
In regards to that “widely read reader”, there was a small section of the story where the darklanders came across an oasis of jungle land that was converted all to crystals of various kinds, ie, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, etc. Plants, animals, all turned to jewels. It immediately made me think of JG Ballard’s short story, The Illuminated Man from his Complete Short Stories Collection. That was published at least in 1964 and I’m sure Koontz “used” the idea because he thought it was cool. However, as a reader, it came across as”I don’t have enough of my own ideas so I’ll use somebody else’s to pad my own story”. That can be a fine line. Sometimes it is cool to see an idea recycled from one author to another and sometimes it really isn’t cool.
Overall, I’d call this a decent story. While it lacked the pizzazz and tension I prefer, it also didn’t end on a “pull it out of a hat” ending that I’ve experienced with some of Koontz’s other stories.