Dean Koontz - a prolific writer who has written a shit ton of books. He’s a real hit or miss for me but I always keep trying because when I love the book, I LOVE THE BOOK. And guess what you guys? I loved this booked. The Voice of the Night was published in 1980. I picked this up from my friend’s apartment building’s laundry room.
The story is centered around two characters. Colin - a boy in grade nine who has recently moved to a new town after the messy divorce of his parents. He’s a horror nerd. He spends most of his time alone, reading and watching horror and building/painting monster kits. He’s a lonely kid but he’s content. His mother has recently opened a gallery in this new town and she’s away from home a lot working. He also suspects she might be dating. His father is rarely in the picture. He shows up once in this story to take him fishing, which Colin hates.
The other character is Roy, who I believe is a year or two older. He’s confident, liked by everyone, and respected by all the adults. He quickly chooses Colin as his friend, which surprises Colin, and completely changes his life around. No longer is he hiding in his room, he’s out at arcades and movie theaters with Roy. He’s already got a job on the football team for his first year in a new school because of Roy.
But something lurks deep within Roy, a terrifying evil that Colin is about to experience.
Roy is a bonafide psychopath. You get that feeling right away as he quickly talks about killing a cat, killing bugs, and boasting about his confidence. “Everyone likes me,” Roy said, “I make sure of that.” Roy plays everyone to make sure that no one would ever suspect the true evil within him. But he sees something in Colin - he sees someone he can manipulate and boss around. For the first few times they hang out, he’s constantly testing Colin, telling him more and more creepy stories.
At one point, Roy says to Colin, “you’re developing nicely.” He’s grooming Colin. He eventually makes him his blood brother and by doing this cements the loyalty in Colin. Because Colin can’t believe his luck. This popular kid is taking him under his wing.
It’s a fascinating character study of Roy as we learn page by page how demented he is and how he became to be that way. At one point we find out his back is completely disfigured by scars. We can assume that came from abuse, but it’s not until later we find out the terrifying reason why.
Roy’s end game is clearly to kill someone with Colin, preferably a lady who they can rape and murder. Colin doesn’t believe him when Roy tells him about it, he thinks Roy is just testing his loyalty. When he admits to Colin that he’s already killed two people, Colin still doesn’t really believe him. Because deep down he doesn’t want to believe because that would mean his first real friend is a psycho.
When Colin visits Roy’s house he sees a spotless environment that doesn’t look lived in. The mother is clearly a clean freak. Roy’s bedroom has no ounce of love or character in it. Another sure fire sign of Roy’s screwed up past that has helped push him to this point.
As the reader, you quickly become fearful of Roy and you want to scream at Colin to run away. But one particular turning point really gave me goosebumps. Colin and Roy go visit Colin’s mom at her gallery and Roy quickly impresses her with his knowledge of art. The mom is immediately won over. As they’re leaving, Colin asks him how he knew all that and Roy said he looked it up to impress Colin’s Mom. He is always thinking 5 steps ahead.
And when Colin finally goes to his mom, fearful of Roy, she doesn’t believe him. In fact, she believes Roy’s tale of Colin hanging out with bad kids and doing drugs. The event that causes this is when Roy wants Colin’s help to roll a truck into an oncoming train to see it crash. At first Colin still thinks Roy is joking, but soon realizes this is not a joke to him. When Colin refuses to help, Roy absolutely loses it and for the first time we see the pure evil power that is Roy. He quickly attacks Colin and chases him for hours through the junkyard.
Now that Colin has finally seen who Roy really is, he’s terrified. He can’t go to any adults because Roy has convinced them all that he’s the trustworthy one. And so Colin tries to understand Roy and see what’s really going on.
“Roy had many qualities that Colin envied, admired, and wished to acquire; but Roy was also a cold-blooded murderer. Roy was not black. He was not white. He wasn’t even gray. He was a hundred, no, a thousand shades of gray, all whirling and blending and shifting together like a thousand columns of smoke.”
It’s terrifying to watch the adults in Colin’s life turn their back on him. One specific scene had me almost in tears as his mother is accusing him of lying and sneaking around and doing drugs. He just looks at her and says, “can’t you see me….can’t you see what I am?”
Colin makes a friend of his own named Heather. He’s interested in her and her in him. They have a lot of the same interests. And when he realizes that he can’t be friends with Roy anymore, he turns fully to Heather as a confidant. She shares with him that Roy spends a lot of time at the cemetery because his sister died. Which is a bombshell for Colin and he starts to put all the pieces together in this boys life.
When he researches Roy and his family, he discovers that Roy’s little sister died when she was 8 years old. Roy had gotten into his father’s car and run her over. The newspaper cited it as a tragic accident, but Colin knows better.
Colin finally has enough and decides to take action when he finds Roy hiding in his bedroom one day. Roy attacks him and covers him with lighter fluid, trying to burn him and the house to the ground just like he did to another young friend of his before. This is when Colin makes his final change - his safe space has been destroyed and he has no one to turn to except Heather. “...he was also aware of a strange new power that was beginning to shine within him...he was less afraid at this moment than any time in memory.”
Colin will no longer let fear guide him, instead he makes a plan to take down Roy once and for all. It starts with coercing Roy’s mother into telling the truth about what happened with her daughter. She shares that Roy was actually adopted, they have no idea where he came from, and he absolutely murdered his little sister. She knows Roy is evil but he played her as well. When she tried to tell everyone he murdered his sister, she ended up being locked up in a psych ward for awhile. Colin secretly records this conversation.
Him and Heather then lay a trap. They tie Heather up and cover her in fake blood, Colin calls Roy and tells him he wants to be friends again, and he’s got a present for him. When Roy does show up he sees Heather and is relieved that Colin has finally seen the light. That it’s the two of them vs the world. It quickly gets out of hand when Roy admits to all his murders and Colin reveals he’s recorded them on his secret recorder. Colin attempts to shoot Roy when he attacks him but leaves the safety on. The two battle furiously but when Colin finally shoots Roy, a change comes over him. Colin looks into Roy’s eyes and sees a young boy begging for death, a monster that knows it’s a monster.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It had its flaws but I still found it to be a page turner and a great character study for both Colin and Roy.
While Koontz doesn’t always wow me, some of his older novels really take me away into the story. One particular paragraph in this novel really struck me as beautiful. “The night was a vast, dank cellar, home to that which crept and crawled and slithered. The night had ears and eyes….You could hear the dreadful voices of the night. It whispered about graves and rotting flesh and demons and ghosts and swamp monsters. It spoke of unspeakable things.”
He is a master of description.
So, I would absolutely recommend this novel to those who love anything serial killer or true crime like. And for those that love a quick exciting burn.
“What a popper!”