Dean R. Koontz, Soft Come the Dragons (Ace, 1970)
[originally posted 17Sep2001]
The other side of the Ace Double that included Dark of the Woods is a small collection of short stories, probably most notable for containing the short story “A Darkness in My Soul,” which later became one of Koontz’ finest early novels. The story itself is rather disjointed, but I say that having read the novel more than enough times to have all the rest of what’s in it deeply ingrained, and I miss the other stuff.
The rest of the stories in here are inconsistent, but there’s some excellent work. “The Twelfth Bed” is an especially distressing tale about a thirty-year-old who is erroneously placed in a nursing home with eleven terminal patients and engineers a breakout. “The Psychedelic Children” may make you wonder whether you really should have inhaled. The title story is even weirder.
My main problem with the collection is the same problem I had with Dark of the Woods; the writing style in Koontz’ early work never would have made the cut today. Judging by the incredible amount of work the man pumped out in the first three years of his career, I’ve always half-assumed that all of this went straight from typewriter to publisher without benefit of even a cursory proofreading to deal with the repetitions and such. Thankfully, Koontz improved very much and very quickly. ** ½