Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Is Ashley Bell?

My husband is a fan of Dean Koontz's books and he just finished Ashley Bell a couple of days ago and let me read the book before he has to return it to the Wichita Public Library. According to the publisher's blurb:

The girl who said no to death.

Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman—whose doctor says she has one year to live.

She replies, “We’ll see.”

Her sudden recovery astonishes medical science.

An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell.

But save her from what, from whom? And who is Ashley Bell? Where is she?

Bibi’s obsession with finding Ashley sends her on the run from threats both mystical and worldly, including a rich and charismatic cult leader with terrifying ambitions.

Here is an eloquent, riveting, brilliantly paced story with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious plot filled with staggering surprises.Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.

The book has a different cover in the U.K. and other markets, one that reflects more on the mystery of Ashley Bell and less on the character of Bibi Blair (whom I assume is pictured on the U.S. cover).

Koontz combines suspense and mystery with otherworldly questions about life and death. Not wanting to give away the plot, but as an author Koontz is reflecting on the power of imagination and even the responsibility of those, like even him, who create worlds and characters with their imaginations. In addition to the intriguing thematic aspect of the novel, Koontz maintains tremendous pace and interest, dropping hints along the way about Bibi's search for Ashley Bell. One of the reasons I enjoy Koontz's recent works (I have not read the Odd or Frankenstein series) is his emphasis on the conflict between good and evil, in which good, being good, always triumphs, even though its practitioners suffer from the assaults of evil. Although he ultimately did not like the book, Patrick Anderson admires Koontz's prose style in this review for The Washington Post:

Koontz’s increasingly bizarre story is enhanced by his colorful prose. A woman’s “blue eyes were two jewels of hatred.” A woman smiles at a naive man “the way a fox smiled at a tender rabbit.” At evening, “the sun balanced on the sea, a fat round bead of blood.”One peculiarity of the novel is Koontz’s endless evocation of the fog that rolls in off the Pacific; it’s variously “the white eclipse . . . cataracts of fog . . . headlight-silvered fog . . . the claustrophobic fog . . . the long fingers of fog . . . the hampering fog . . . a towering slow-moving tsunami of mist through which headlights swam like golden koi.” There are perhaps 50 such phrases, and they make the story increasingly otherworldly. Is anything real here, or are we adrift in a world of dreams?

I'd recommend Ashley Bell to those who like Dean Koontz and can accept the world of suspense and fantasy, especially as it reflects the war in Heaven and the defeat of Hell. 

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