Dr. Jenny Paige’s mother has just died, and taking up the maternal mantel she collects her younger sister Lisa to come and live with her in the remote mountain community of Snowfield. On returning home the town seems strangely deserted. But then Jenny comes upon the body of her housekeeper and things begin to worsen, to quite horrific levels.
A little more investigation reveals that Snowfield is far more than simply desolate, that the body count is escalating, and it seems that a fair few inhabitants of the town are also missing. So begins our journey alongside Dr. Paige in Dean Koontz’s 1983 novel Phantoms. And for those who were wondering, yes, this is the same book upon which the 1998 film of the same name, starring Peter O’Toole and Ben Affleck, is based.
This is an isolated-and-empty-town style plot, the likes of which constitute the bread and butter of horror fiction. Under siege from some unknown evil, capable of inflicting some surreal injuries and with even more disturbing drives, Jenny must rely on her wits to save her sister and enrol the help of others to help her and find out just what’s going on.
Jenny manages to enlist the assistance of Sheriff Bryce Hammond from the nearby town of Santa Mira. Soon Hammond is on site with members of his team, but it becomes clear to all equally as quickly that a most horrible series of events has occurred, and that things are far from concluded.
It’s not long before the outside authorities are drawn into the strange goings on, with a British academic Timothy Flyte being almost summoned by a message beyond the grave, joined by a biological threat response team. As all begin to try and piece together clues, the danger is ramped up more as the dead appear to come back from life, and the more virulent nature of the evil which they face is revealed; so too is further evidence that this is an ancient malevolent entity, with an almost omniscient presence. Psychically-infused evil shenanigans ensue.
This is a very much by-the-numbers read, and there were very few, if any, shocks and surprises. Though it’s not badly written persay, the pacing felt a little uneven at times, and it really didn’t do too much to keep my attention. Whilst I’d say that this one is likely only worth a read for the Koontz fan, I’d add that my opinion seems to differ from the crowd: this one’s actually sold over six million copies, so it must be doing something right. Maybe it’s just me that didn’t really dig it.