Science fiction and fantasy
by Dean Koontz
The Face begins with the gritty realism of a contemporary crime novel. At first there's only a whisper of the uncanny, events that seem odd but which could have a rational explanation. Ethan's former friend, Dunny Whistler, dies after a long coma, but his body disappears. Ethan isn't sure whether Dunny is dead or alive, or even if Dunny is himself involved in the threat to Channing Manheim.
Fric Manheim is Channing's much-neglected son. He wants for nothing material, but he's small for his age and is often left in the care of the household staff whilst his parents are busy elsewhere. Fric starts to get calls from a mysterious man who urges him to find somewhere to hide from "Moloch, with the splintered bones of babies stuck between his teeth."
Ethan faces the work of a dedicated anarchist, a man who cheerfully deals out discord, confusion and death in the service of chaos, in the belief that the breakdown of society will lead to the formation of a better order. His randomness makes him a formidable opponent for Ethan, and few bad guys are as downright chirpy as the villain in this story. Ethan's contacts in the police force can only help him a little, since they are constrained by the need to act through proper channels and by the malign influence of corrupt politicians.
Koontz has a sharp wit, and The Face is peppered with dry humour. The author has a talent for fresh, sparky descriptions, and combined with taut plotting and an atmosphere of mounting terror this long novel flies by. There's a gradual disintegration from the solid reality the characters experience at the start, towards a convincingly scary invasion of the supernatural into everyday life.
If The Face has a flaw, it's that the ending is more sentimental than it needs to be. Yet overall this is a well-paced horror with believable characters and wide appeal.