I do re-read this one mostly in the month of October. Koontz really sings in this short story collection. Maybe he should think about publishing more short stories since even some of his shorts he has written lately have been better than the full length novels that have followed.
All in all the books showcase the good with Koontz. He can spin a sentence and also scare you at the same time. You get some religious musings here and there, but honestly everything in most of the stories works. I kept wishing after I first read this, that Koontz would think about spinning off some of the characters that we meet here. Too bad he never did.
"Strange Highways" (5 stars). The anchor of the collection this one was really good. We follow a man named Joey who is in essence a failure. He tried to be an author and is pretty much dead broke. He returns to his hometown in Pennsylvania to attend his father's funeral. His brother is successful and Joey doesn't know why, but he can't stand to be around him. When a second chance has Joey back in the past to fix a mistake that can lead him down a different path. This one had a lot going on with it, but it all works. Most time travel stories make me go hmmm, but Koontz plays with it in a good way and the reveal about what happened to Joey in the past and who was behind it was actually scary. I think Koontz also smartly incorporated the town. We find out this is a dying former mill town (there are lots in PA) and due to that many people had left it when he was a teen, when Joey goes back as an adult you feel like time stopped there. I loved this story from beginning to end.
"The Black Pumpkin" (4.5 stars). An almost perfect Halloween tale. A young boy named Tommy is in a terrible family. His mother and father are pretty awful and his brother is a potential serial killer. When Tommy and his brother get to pick out a pumpkin, his brother picks the black one that has Tommy scared to death. He can sense something evil about it. In the end though there is a definite surprise about the pumpkin. The ending was okay, but just didn't gel with the scares that came before it.
"Miss Attilla the Hun" (3 stars). Among my least favorite in this series. Probably because we get another uber perfect woman for Koontz to fawn over. Mrs. Laura Caswell is a teacher who one day realizes that something funky is going on at her school. A classic alien story which in the end didn't really work for me, probably because it didn't seem quite finished.
"Down in the Darkness" (3.5 stars). We follow a good man (Jess) who is excited about moving his family into their new home. When Jess finds a mysterious door that he doesn't recall being there during the house tour, he realizes that the door is hiding something potentially evil. When we (readers) find out what the door is for and how it comes into play with Jess's background as a former POW it was intriguing. In the end though I thought the ending (pun intended) wasn't that great. I think because it ends up leaving things a a moral question when we see what happens with Jess and the door and I don't think that Koontz needed it to be that deep.
"Ollie’s Hands" (4.5 stars). A sad story but very good. We find out about a man named Ollie and what his hands can do. I had nothing but pity for the character named Ollie when we come to the end of his story.
"Snatcher" (5 stars). This is really a fun and scary story. A man that is a purse snatcher and just all around terrible person has the tables turned on him.
"Trapped" (3 stars). I honestly feel like I read this story before somewhere. A woman and her son are on the run from some scary rats. Not a bad story, but like I said, I think that I read this or a similar idea of it somewhere before. Drove me up the wall because I can't figure out where.
"Bruno" (5 stars). I laughed and always laugh reading this one. No spoilers, I just think you will enjoy a story about a time traveling bear (seriously) and a private eye named Jake. Jake is asked to help Bruno out with catching a time traveling criminal (as one is these days apparently). this is one of the stories I wish we had seen a follow up about since it was so interesting.
"We three" (3.5 stars). Not bad, just fairly short. Murderous triplets maybe ushered in something that will be the end of them.
"Hardshell" (5 stars). So good. Another one I would have loved to see a spin off or larger novel about. We have a LAPD detective chasing a killer. We find out though that neither man are what they appear to be.
"Kittens" (5 stars). The main reason why I gave this one five stars is that for once Koontz didn't back away from a scary/terrible ending. Reminded me a bit of King with the ending and what we realize must have happened as readers. Shudder.
"The Night of the Storm" (3 stars). My second least favorite story in this collection. I can't even go into how boring I found this, but it was boring.
"Twilight of the Dawn" (3 stars). A very preachy Koontz book that also had no horror elements in it so it doesn't really fit with the rest of the book. That said, it works because Koontz manages to draw you in with his writing. The story is about an atheist who ends up being pretty much an asshole to his young son and his own wife when the question of religion comes up. We know why he is that way (he had very religious parents) and doesn't want his son growing up thinking there is a God. When he loses his wife though his son starts to question his father's lack of faith and grows even stronger in his belief of a God. When his son eventually gets diagnosed with a fatal cancer, the question of faith becomes even more of divide between them. I went back and forth on this rating a lot. I eventually ended up with a three since I thought the father character was an ass.
"Chase" (5 stars). This and "Strange Highways" were the longest stories in the collection and this one really packs a punch. It's a good way to end the collection. Benjamin Chase has a complicated history. Returned from Vietnam and having to drink to forget his memories he is welcomed at a dinner for a Guest of Hero thing. I was a bit nonplussed at first since I thought most of the US was terrible to returning vets. Chase is given a new car and while driving ends up saving a young girl who was about to be raped and murdered. This puts Chase neck in neck with a killer who is determined to end Chase.