Monday, March 18, 2013

Dark Rivers of the Heart, by Dean Koontz

A lovable villain, quest for true love, and a mutt with need for speed? Go on. Read the book, and support the blog while you're at it.

I would not be off base if I used Dark Rivers of the Heart to springboard a discussion about accountability in government, the power of different offices and agencies, and the tenuous definition of freedom in America today. The technology in this nineteen-year-old thriller might be laughably outdated (a hard drive in gigabytes all but gives protagonist Spencer Grant a boner), but the concerns about an out-of-control political power system come across oddly prescient.

Though I figure, why spend time on stuff we mere citizens cannot control when I could talk about puppies?

Seriously, the dog in this book steals the show. Rocky is a total mutt, but with a personality that jumps off the page more vividly than most human characters I've read. Is it not totally natural that Spencer should turn to his pup when he cannot rely on people? Rocky and Spence give each other a reason to live, someone to struggle for, a companion in quirkiness. Without turning this post into a Chicken Soup story, can I at least say that loads of folks in this world would benefit from socializing more often with animals?

Not just with dogs, either, though they are my species of choice. This world has cat people, goat people, fish people, bird people, horse people, snake people, and they all find a level of humanity in their relationships with critters. The sense may come merely from caring for a dislocated and otherwise helpless creature, like a gecko in a terrarium or a clown fish in an aquarium. Sometimes a more reciprocal relationship, complete with expectations and cues and routines, develops.

I've heard plenty of people claim not to be "an animal person." Perhaps some such heathens folks never had the right exposure to pets. But is a complete lack of animal connection not in some sense a denial of humanity? Human civilization, human culture, humanity period would not exist without our partnerships with domesticated creatures. You think we have technology if we don't have dogs helping us hunt and protecting our clans? You think we have society if beasts of burden don't help us till the first agricultural fields?

Not a chance. Animals -- pets, farm animals, all of 'em -- gave us the luxury of efficiency. And in our new spare time, we created civilization.

Dean Koontz's Dark Rivers is, as expected, a story of life and death, of survival, of technology. It's also a story of the fate of civilization. Our animals gave us the gift to grow; will we take that gift and mutilate it with drone strikes and surveillance? Or will we side with Rocky and strive for love, freedom, and true companionship?

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