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Perhaps you have heard of this book recently. I heard about it because some of Dane's community members were
discussing it. I had heard of Dean Koontz, but have never read any of his books, as I mostly read books from Dover Publications which are often out of
copyright, so they are older, although lately they have been publishing much more recent books. Anyways, this novel supposedly predicted the Coronavirus. I
had heard from a couple people that it even mentioned the epidemic, giving the year as 2020. Hmm. Not really, in fact this thriller was written in 1981, under
the pen name Leigh Nichols, and takes place in that present time, and it is not about an epidemic at all. Koontz revised it in 2008.
Anyways, the people in Dane's community were saying it was selling now for as much as $800 or more because of its supposed prediction. I did some research, and that indeed was true, in some cases. In other cases, it was reasonably priced, but out of stock. I my case, however, this free eBook sort of fell into my lap. I was not searching for an eBook because with the novel being relatively "new," as in, probably still under copyright, I was surprised to have it literally scream out at me during my search. I thought, surely I will download it and it won't work, or be a terrible copy, but in fact, mine is an absolutely lovely copy—it looks just like reading a physical book on the screen. And as you see above, you can click on the page and download your own copy. There are dozens of icons on the page, and you have to keep clicking until you get the version you want, such as .epub, .mobi, or other formats. The second one I clicked got me my perfect copy. And what is even more delightful is that I did a search on this same site and came up with lots of Dean Koontz free eBooks. I am starting my collection, because after reading this, I have added him to my list of favorite modern writers, along with Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, Jonathan Valin, and John Grisham.
And so, does it really "predict" COVID-19? No, not at all. In the original edition, in which the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia was still going on, it was called "Gorki-400." In later editions, this one included, it was changed to "Wuhan-400." Yes, it is a bioweapon in the story, as is the real one we are experiencing now. But the book really is not about a bioweapon, in fact, it is not until the end that we actually learn about it. The story is about a mother whose son was killed in a very strange accident, and her gradual realization that he is not dead, prompting an investigation that nearly gets her and her boyfriend killed. And YES, it takes place in Nevada where the military has all this creepy scary secret stuff going on, really, and so the fact that it does not resemble our present situation does not make it less relevant. It IS relevant because this stuff IS going one. Incidentally, the Wikipedia article linked above is really poor quality.
Dean Koontz is an extremely prolific writer, having published over 105 novels, which includes numerous best sellers under numerous pseudonyms. I am wondering if the reason they are available as free eBooks is because they were originally not written under his name. And by the way, the craze for this book got so much attention that CNN did a story debunking it. However, the CNN story is certainly wrong in its denial that the current COVID-19 was bioengineered, because there is scientific proof that it was, especially in its similarity to the HIV (AIDS) virus, also bioengineered.
But just because this novel does not "predict" the pandemic of 2020, that doesn't mean it isn't compelling reading. OMG!! It's a scary one. When you read it, make sure you are wrapped up snug and warm, because there will be a constant procession of chills running up your spine and down your legs. This is one creepy book! I think the last time I was that scared was when I saw The Exorcist. It is not only a thriller, but contains paranormal elements, along with the fact that there are government secret agents out killing people who are getting too close to the truth. (And that part is certainly based on truth.) At the end, Koontz provides an Afterward about the attempts to get this story made into a movie, (it never was), and the mood changes to laugh-out-loud hysterical. I hope that is a sign that he wrote humorous books, too. All my above-named favorite authors mixed humor with terror, and there was humor in this story, too. And romance.
As is my policy with mysteries and thrillers, I will only provide a brief outline of the story, so as not to give away any of the surprises. The book is divided into four parts, beginning with Tuesday, December 30.
We meet Tina Evans, a stage director in Las Vegas, on her way home from a late rehearsal, midnight, December 30. Twice she sees her twelve-year-old son, Danny in strangers' cars. But Danny is dead. She tries to consider every possibility that her son is in fact still alive. She never saw the body. It was too mangled, or so she was told.
And the chills go through my body even as I type.
Though dead for a year, Tina, who thought she had dealt with the grief, finds she is being plagued with worsening nightmares. Danny, along with fourteen other boys and two experienced scout leaders had died when their bus plunged down the High Sierra Mountains into a gorge. No explanations were given as to how this bizarre accident happened. The group, headed by wilderness expert Bill Jaborski, took a group of scouts on an expedition every year, with never a complication.
On this particular night, not only is there a nightmare, but Tina awakens to hear the sound of someone moving around in the house. Armed with her pistol, she listens but hearing nothing, tries to fall back asleep, and wonders if perhaps she has just been under too much pressure.
A former stage dancer in Las Vegas, she had married Michael. They had a beautiful and loving marriage, and he was proud to have such a hot lady to show off. She took time off to give birth to Danny, and eventually made her way back to the stage. But at age twenty-eight, she realized her dancing days would wane, and began moving up in different positions of show-work, eventually to director and producer, and it was at this point that her relationship with Michael began to falter. He didn't like the idea of a strong woman working her way up in importance, even though her attention to him and her son did not lessen. Things reached the point of no return. They divorced, and that same year, Danny died.
Now, in order to work her way out of the pain, she takes a job directing and co-producing a stage show, Magyck!—a "ten-million dollar extravaganza" that could establish her in the profession and make her a very wealthy woman. The preview is the upcoming evening, December 30 at 8 P.M..
But no sooner does she relax again, she hears a thump, which sends her out of bed investigating, searching the whole house except Danny's old room. She has been unable to deal with cleaning the room, so therefore everything remains as it was when Danny was alive. It all seems in place until she notices a chalkboard easel that had fallen over. When she picks it up, the words "NOT DEAD" are scrawled in the board.
I will jump ahead here. The preview night of Magyck!, open to only special invited guests, is a smash hit. It is here that Tina meets the handsome attorney, Elliot Stryker. The two hit it off immediately. Meanwhile the strange activity going on in Danny's old bedroom becomes even stranger, now experienced by the housekeeper, Vivien Nedder. And more violent, too. Like Tina, she does not call the police, afraid of being accused as a nut case. Now, whenever this "presence" takes over, the room becomes extremely cold, and physical objects take on a life of their own, along the chalkboard scrawling "NOT DEAD NOT DEAD NOT DEAD." She cleans up the overturned room, and does not tell Tina, nor has Tina told anyone of her experiences.
Tina, however, has her suspicions, and has ruled out someone breaking in, but is convinced that her vengeful "ex" is doing this to torment her. The day after the hit preview, she visits Michael at the gambling casino where he works. She doesn't tell him the whole story, nor does he give her a chance to really explain the situation, because he is convinced she has come to beg him to take her back, and he is ready. She leaves, thoroughly pissed off, but also certain that he played no part.
The next strange event happens, not at home, but at her office, where her secretary is ready to leave early for the holiday, this December 31. Tina requests one last thing, a computer print-out of some specific names to extend invitations to the show. As Angela prints them, she notes how cold the room as become. After she leaves and Tina looks at the print-outs, there are "extra pages" included: DANNY ALIVE HELP HELP ME I'M AFRAID GET ME OUT PLEASE. She cannot believe that her secretary would do anything like this, so she logs on to the computer herself, as the room again becomes very cold, and the printer churns out the same messages. She thinks maybe it's a hacker, but when she tries to investigate, the keys freeze up. But the screen shows a message: I'M COLD AND I HURT MOM? CAN YOU HEAR? and so on. So we kinda get a clue that Danny is sending the message, but she does not. Yet.
Meanwhile, Elliot shows up in her office, and that also shakes her up, but she can find no sign that should make her suspicious. They have a drink and she tells him what has happened—all that has happened, including the strange deaths of the wilderness group. He, by the way, is a former Army Intelligence Officer. He listens to what she says, and is not judgmental. They decide that the best thing to do is to have Danny's body exhumed so she can see it, and know for sure that he is dead. They go back to Elliot's house for dinner and bed, and they are awakened by another one of Tina's nightmares.
The next day, Elliot goes to visit a former intelligence officer and good friend, Judge Kennebeck, about having the body exhumed, preferably soon and before Tina's ex finds out and would protest. Elliot had been pretty good friends with Kennebeck and trusted him. That was a mistake, because he very shortly afterward finds himself confronted by two thugs. Using his intelligence skills, he manages to deal with them both and escape, just in time to get to Tina's house where the "gas company" was inspecting her furnace. Stryker pulls her out of the house in the nick of time, right before it explodes. They take off and now know there definitely IS something strange about Danny's death. They finally feel they have escaped anyone who might have followed them and stop at a diner. It is here that everyone experiences the horror, as the diner suddenly chills, and the juke box jams on the words "not dead—not dead—not dead." But a sort of epiphany happens here, because Tina finally "gets it." Not only is Danny NOT DEAD, but he is calling out to her for help. Though Stryker is skeptical, soon accepts the possibility that that just may be true. And here, both her fear and my chills stopped. We are now able to define the source of the paranormal activity. But they have something else to deal with and that is much more dangerous.
And there I will stop. I hope I have not given away too much. But really, I knew from the start that he wasn't dead, because the clues are very obvious. Koontz also includes entertaining information on the gambling scene, such as the groups of old ladies called "Nickel Duchesses" of which Tina's housekeeper is one. He also tells of people who get so absorbed in gambling that they lose all sense of time, often sitting for eight hours without moving. They end up with maladies such as Bingo Bladder and Blackjack Blackout. Is this all true? I found Bingo Bladder in a Google book of American slang, so the others are probably true. He also speaks of how Nevada is a haven for illegal activities.
And then, there's the secret government activities taking place in Nevada, and we KNOW that is pretty much true, such as the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. I could not find anything on any bioweapons labs in Reno, but of course, there are hundreds of secret U.S. military labs all over the world that not even our government knows about. We've all heard of Area 51, and I would not doubt one bit that in all that wilderness area of Nevada, the government is certainly doing nasty things. So while this novel would not be based on something "true," it is definitely based on the possibility of it being true. None of that matters, however, because it is a REALLY good book and should be read by all. Incidentally, I was so distraught when the University of Adelaide took down their free eBook site, because it was one of my favorites for hard-to-find books. This one I have used once before, and now that I have explored it, it will be a first choice because there are lots and lots of free eBooks here to be discovered, and numerous ones by this author!
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