Dean Koontz’s INNOCENCE; Sometimes We Are Wrong

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what about ugliness?

How do we define ugly? What repulses us? And why?Innocence

In his latest novel, INNOCENCE, Dean Koontz shows us ugly.

Little by little, step by step, he immerses us in ugly; until we are in ugly’s head.

And then he holds up a mirror.

Horror is not the final destination.

In October of 2012, after reading three novels in Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, I felt compelled to ask: “Is Dean Koontz a Visionary Fiction Writer?

Since visionary fiction brings forth universal wisdom in story form so readers can experience it from within, I concluded, yes. Koontz penetrates beneath the surface of things (the beautiful and the ugly, humorous and sad, inspiring and depressing), as if drilling deep for a fresh source of water. At first water gushes forth brown with silt (one reason, I suppose, his work is considered horror), but once the silt settles, we’re left with a nourishing, life-giving wellspring.

After reading INNOCENCE, I again challenge those who label Koontz’s work as horror. Sure, angst and fear may be noisy passengers that fascinate—and repeal—us during our journey through Koontz’s novels, and apprehensiveness and uneasiness often morph into the vehicle in which we ride, but horror is not the final destination.

Koontz’s intent is not to petrify, but to encourage us to think, see, feel, and ask questions—maybe even change our minds.

In Innocence, Dean Koontz shows us ugliness that goes beyond definition, ugliness that may, in fact, be beautiful.

Let me share a few words from Addison Goodheart, the protagonist of INNOCENCE:

“I had remained hopeful that, among the millions on this Earth, there might be a few who would summon the courage to know me for what I am and have the self-confidence to still walk part of this life with me.”

And:

“…the world’s many mysteries fascinate me and inspire in me a hope so profound that I suppose, if I were to express it sincerely and at length in a manuscript more bluntly philosophical than this one, any normal person, those who walk freely in daylight, would find it the work of a Pollyanna and worthy only of ridicule.”

The healer’s art

You have likely heard the quote by Robert Frost, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Dean Koontz describes the writing of INNOCENCE as the most exhilarating experience of his writing career.

Need I say more?

No sooner had I finished reading INNOCENCE, than I retrieved my 1963 edition of T.S. Eliot Collected Poems (from the old college days) to find “East Coker,” a poem Koontz refers to at the book’s end—a metaphor describing God as a wounded surgeon.

     …Beneath the bleeding hands we feel / The sharp compassion of the healer’s art…

Like beauty, ugliness depends upon the eye of the beholder. Sometimes we don’t go deep enough to find the beauty in something ugly or the ugly in something beautiful.

Sometimes we are wrong.

Breaking genre barriers

So how do we classify Dean Koontz (If classification is even possible)?

As a horrormeister?

A writer of urban fantasy?

A writer of visionary fiction?

You decide.

“…the wind played an oboe note, and I went down into that sound and into a world that I could never have imagined, where I would make a better life for myself.”

~Addison Goodheart

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About Margaret Duarte

Although warned by agents and publishers that labeling her work Visionary Fiction was the “kiss of death,” Margaret Duarte refused to concede. “In a world riddled with fear, misunderstanding, and lost hope,” she says, “I believe there are people prepared to transcend the boundaries of their five senses and open to new thoughts and ideas. The audience is ready for fiction that heals, empowers, and bridges differences.” Margaret joined forces with other visionary fiction writers to create the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a website dedicated to bringing visionary fiction into the mainstream and providing visionary fiction writers with a place to call home. In December 2015, Margaret launched BETWEEN WILL AND SURRENDER, book one of her "Enter the Between" visionary fiction series. Through her novels, which synthesize heart and mind, science and spirituality, Margaret encourages readers to activate their gifts, retire their excuses, and stand in their own authority. Margaret is a former middle school teacher and lives on a California dairy farm with her family and a herd of "happy cows," a constant reminder that the greenest pastures are closest to home.
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30 Responses to Dean Koontz’s INNOCENCE; Sometimes We Are Wrong

  1. PJ Swanwick says:

    I believe that many of Dean Koontz's–and Stephen King's–books transcend the genre of horror and can be considered visionary fiction. Both deal with storylines and themes and reach beyond genre constraints and look straight into the human soul, endeavoring to explain what our potential as human beings actually is. Your article is right on the money.

    BTW, I am also entering The Between. I wish you much courage and tenacity!

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    • Hello PJ. It looks like I may have to give Stephen King's books a try. The only Stephen King book I've ever read was his A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT ON WRITING. I appreciate stories that go beyond entertainment and endeavor to "explain what our potential as human beings actually is," so it's no surprise that Dean Koontz has me hooked. The label "horror" simply doesn't do his works justice, especially in the case of INNOCENCE, which has a strong spiritual element. Best of luck entering "The Between." Let me know how it goes. You have the full support of those here at VFA.

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      • Sandy Nathan says:

        Margeret–––I second PJ's thumbs up for Stephen King. I wouldn't read him for years, considering him far too lightweight for a person on intellect like me. (Though I did love his book about writing.) For some reason, I read one of his novels and loved it. At this point, I've read almost all of his books that aren't grisly horror. He has an incredible voice (or voices) and can tell a story better than anyone I know. His pacing, locations and characters are fabulous, but it's the drive to inner growth and learning that moves his works. Like Tolkien, he taps into a deeper current.

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  2. I appreciate that authors like Dean Koontz write VF as it demonstrates that VF can also thrill us and scare us. It's by showing us the ugly that we understand beauty…and it is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

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    • I noticed that some categorize INNOCENCE as urban fantasy, which fits, though not as well as visionary fiction, since urban fantasy doesn't take into account the spiritual aspect of this work. What thrills me is the success of INNOCENCE, already number nine on the New York Times best-sellers list after being out for only one month. This bodes well for fiction with a spiritual twist, thus visionary fiction.

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  3. esdragon2 says:

    I just want to concur on Stephen King. I'd kept well away from bothering to read him, going entirely, but mistakenly on his reputation for horror, until finding myself alone and bored for two weeks on 'The Island', (which was the setting for my VF novel; 'This Strange and Precious Thing',) I'd read the beginning pages of one book after another, left by visitors on the shelf in my apartment, and thrown them across the room in disgust. One book was left: King's 'Needful Things'! I began it, and was soon enthralled: all my prejudices melting away. His insight into the human predicament, its psychology, and his own inate sensitivity, tenderness and transcendent vision drew me in.

    http// :www.esmeellis.co.uk

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    • Hello Esme. Why is it, I wonder, that fiction writers are so boxed in under genre descriptions that don't "tell the whole story." I realize that book marketers have to nab readers in order to get them to buy their books (using shock and fear may be the best way to pull off that trick), but why can't they also include the transformative value of the work? Stephen King and Dean Koontz don't have a problem reaching fans. Would it be that detrimental to their reputations to share a little more about the "hidden" value of their writing? It seems readers have to be fooled into buying their books, thinking they are getting horror, while the meaningful stuff is slipped in between. Sure, word-of-mouth eventually does the job, but as you and I can testify, their reputation for horror can be a real turn off. Just think how many potential readers they are missing. Discovering their work by accident shouldn't be an option.

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      • esdragon2 says:

        Oh, my! That really is a thought. Not having heard of Dean Koontz, never mind read him, (but that might be a treat in store for another day.) I've just read a novel given to me this Christmas, and there were some critical things I could have said about it, but mainly about its cover and the blurb, clearly, I thought, meant to hook a certain kind of reader. The picture, e.g. was a definitely cliché. How many times have I seen a female figure disappearing into the far distance, her back to the onlooker? I could count dozens – some good writers I know personally who were taken up by well-known commercial publishers — good for them! And how many times is the female on the cover accompanied by the strap-line; 'One women's quest —'? And how many women are lured into buying this book only to find its contents more intelligent and challenging then they bargained for? So the publisher achieves sales, and the reader, who was expecting something different, feels cheated. Yet if, as you say, anyone hoping for something more meaningful and spiritually transformative, would have bought a book which announced its content more honestly. Some loss; some gain.

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  4. The fact that you, a visionary fiction writer, have never heard of Dean Koontz says a lot about his reach (which is huge) and the readers it does NOT include. The book cover and blurb, yes, the hook that's meant to reach a certain kind of reader," can be deceiving. As you say: "Some loss' some gain." The publishing industry is, after all, not perfect (what industry is?). But I believe a little more honesty wouldn't hurt. Or maybe it's just up to us bloggers to put out the word, as we're doing here.

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  5. Vic Smith says:

    Many fascinating questions about the nature of Visionary Fiction raised in this thread. Thank you, Margaret, for bringing them to the fore. As a VF writer, whose works have been described as "too dark" by those who expect VF to be a steady diet of sweetness and light, I am heartened to see some attention placed on the process by which the ugly toad in all of us is transformed into the handsome prince/princess that we intrinsically are. Wish as we might that it were different, there is no growth without struggle to master our fears, as illusory as they might seem once in the rear view mirror; and there is no story without the conflict in which all–even faith, hope, and love–could be lost before the truly worthwhile is gained.

    Koontz's Innocence goes on my reading list, and I look forward to reading how a master story teller achieves what his Kirkus Review (Amazon) describes as “Laced with fantastical mysticism, it’s an allegory of nonviolence, acceptance and love in the face of adversity. . . . The narrative is intense, with an old-fashioned ominousness and artistically crafted descriptions. . . . An optimistic and unexpected conclusion [mirrors] his theme. Something different this way comes from Mr. Koontz’s imagination." Sounds like Visionary Fiction at its finest to me.

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    • Yes, Vic, Dean Koontz can be dark, but he weaves in enough hope, even humor, to keep me turning the pages, not only because I know I will be rewarded in the end with something truly worthwhile, but because his story telling is so masterful that I often have to stop and reread a sentence, phrase, paragraph as though going for seconds at a top-line buffet. Visionary Fiction at its finest, indeed.

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  6. Sandy Nathan says:

    Dean Koontz should hire you as a publicist, Margret! I'm putting him on my "must read" list. It's interesting, because a woman I admire very much and who is very definitely on a spiritual path told me about Koontz years ago. She had an abused background and said that she'd read an interview with Koontz in which he said he had a very turbulent, abusive life as a young person. He used those horrible experiences to create his art, as you illustrate so well in this post and your blog article. I think that this illustrates the breadth of visionary fiction: it's not all faeries and twinkling lights and happy ever after. The darkness can lead to breathtaking and unexpected light.

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    • A publicist! That's beyond my capabilities, I'm afraid. But I am capable of spreading the word about visionary fiction, and I can think of no better way than to illuminate the work of fellow visionary fiction writers – especially well-known ones – to further the cause. The fact that Koontz's work includes the spiritual comes as a surprise to many, though people such as your friend have broken the code. I've also read about Koontz's horrible childhood, but instead of using this as an excuse to fail, he's used his experiences (and talent) to lift himself and others beyond the pain and abuse and show that the time is now and there is always hope for a better tomorrow.

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  7. esdragon2 says:

    Heck!!! Did anyone actually ever say that VF was all twinkling lights and fairies? or even faeries? However, where I stand on VF is that it should open us up to a shift in consciousness, a transformation which takes us beyond the status quo, the comfort zone we tend to cling to. It should help us face some of our darkest fears, those lurking unconsciously in our own dark, unexamined corners, and allow a new vision for ourselves and for the future of the World in general to unfold.

    Having just looked at Koontz's Amazon page, it seems to me he doesn't need any further publicity; he has admirers and glowing reviewers in abundance! I'm only disappointed that, having been given a Kindle for Christmas, I find that Innocence is unavailable as an e-book!

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    • I so agree with your stand of VF and how it should open us to a shift in consciousness and transformation, beyond the status quo. And Dean Koontz definitely takes us beyond the status quo. Good News. Innocence IS available as an e-book for your Kindle. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Innocence-Novel-Dean-Koontz… . And you're right, Koontz doesn't need further publicity to put him on the best-seller's list. However, I do need to spread the word to people who would appreciate his work and have no idea it is visionary in scope.

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    • Sandy Nathan says:

      Hi, esdragon2! I guess I feel touchy because I think my work is darker than most visionary fiction (but maybe it isn't). A friend said of one of my books, "That's pretty gritty. Maybe more that some readers can handle." Grit or not, all of my writing has a strong transcendent thrust that powers the story. My own life has had more than a few years that I just as soon would have skipped. I'm doing what Koontz does, transforming agony into ecstatic possibility.

      Regarding fairies and faeries: I thought I hated books about those flapping little critters until I read Valerie Douglas's Song of the Fairy Queen. This is an epic about a world in chaos where light battles darkness. Another case of what looks like the fairy equivalent of a shoot 'em up having deeper meaning. Here's a link: http://www.amazon.com/Song-Fairy-Queen-Valerie-Do… This book has one of the best covers I've seen.

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      • esdragon2 says:

        Seems writers have been writing about this 'faerie' subject for many a long year; Spencer's The Faerie Queene was written in 1590. Our old friend Shakespeare also played with fairy characters, non of them at all sugary sweet. When I was exploring the subject some decades ago I discovered that apart from stories made up for children in the Victorian age, they's always been seen as dangerously misleading and amoral.

        Now, believe it or believe it not, I actually SAW a fairy. I was sitting on my mother's knee age 3, and It landed on my toasted teacake! It had a mischievous, animalistic mini face and was the same colour as the toast it landed on. It looked straight at me, raised its arms, which became sort-of-wings but part of its dress at the same time, and flew off.

        It certainly wasn't in any way how I'd expected a fairy to be. I was quite disappointed.

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  8. esdragon2 says:

    Thanks so much, Margaret for your link. I don't have time to check it out now. It's been a difficult day and I'm off to bed. I'll look forward to following it up in the morning. Thanks again.

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  9. Sandy Nathan says:

    There's an unacknowledged club that many people who have been severely abused buy into: the "Most Abused Person in the Universe Club." I've known people who have either just remembered their abuse and are suffering greatly (yes, dissociated memories are real), or are feeling their pain strongly, or have simply settled into the belief that their lot is worse than anyone else's. These people will compete for the worst-off position. "My abuse was worse than yours." I've seen this.

    Being in "the club" is antithetical to healing and realizing that life is more than the hideous things one experienced. A person in the Most Abused Club is incapable of feeling empathy for the suffering of others, because club members are so self-absorbed and have to be the most pathetic. Harsh words, but true. I've been in The Club myself. I know all about it. It's a beginning stop on the road to recovery that some people don't get past.

    (Another club worth noting is the "My Guru Is Better than Your Guru Club." This one is self-explanatory and wrecks relationships and marriages.)

    Anyway, as you note, Koontz didn't get stuck in his abuse, but used it as fuel for his work. He ought to speak at 12 Step meetings! But then, he doesn't have to, his books speak for him.

    I just bought Innocence. What's happened here is plain old recommending a book and author that you like and telling why. Margaret, your heartfelt and eloquent words are the best form of publicity, the kind we desire. It didn't cost Koontz anything, either.

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    • I'll bet if we took a survey, Sandy, we'd find that most writers did not have an easy life and that their less than ideal life situations end up fueling their work. This reminds me of a line I read by Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post a while back. "Often times we write to find out what we think, and sometimes we surprise ourselves."

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  10. Sandy Nathan says:

    Absolutely. It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with it. Within bounds. Some people have been so damaged that accessing and living their freedom is hard. Great quote.

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    • You may just have inspired the perfect quote for my next book cover. "Accessing her freedom was hard, living it even harder." Wow, thanks.

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      • Sandy Nathan says:

        We aim to please.

        I've been spending the last hour or so deciding where my character's ranch is. Fun looking at pics of beautiful land. What's the winning location? Near Cortez, Colorado in the 4 corners area.

        I wrote a novella last week! About all sorts of things, rodeo large among them. Creativity is the most fun thing around. I've had a couple of notes about this little book for a long time. Wham! The whole thing popped out of me. Whee!

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  11. I believe most miss the fact that Dean Koontz is more a visionary fiction writer then horror. I truly believe that is why his work resonates so well to the general public. He knows how to capture your attention with his subject/characters and holds it always with surprises and aha moments. 🙂

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  12. I always love your perspectives, Margaret.You see deep into the mysteries (life, taking a walk, reading a poem or a book) and come up with insightful, refreshing, …phenomenal views.

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  13. Vic and all who commented – Yes, yes, yes! VF is not NewAge 'love and light', twinkle fairie, stardust fluff spirituality (please, I mean no offense to anyone, I'm just trying to generalize here). VF is about the depth of spirituality found often as the jewel in the most ugly and painful experiences. I'd like to think that the universal wisdom of VF is rooted in the mud, in the earth, in our physical lives and what beauty and love we make of our lives.

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