False Memory

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It seems to be a given that a new Dean Koontz thriller will rise to the top of the bestseller list. Over the years, he has kept his vast loyal readership on edge with such gripping tales as Watchers (1987), Mr. Murder (1993), Intensity (1996), Fear Nothing (1998), and Seize the Night (1999).

For False Memory, Koontz delves into the world of phobias and how those who suffer from them can come to believe that they are slipping into madness. Dusty and Martie Rhodes are a young Southern California couple who seem to have everything going for them. Dusty is a painting contractor and Martie is a video-game designer. In the opening chapters, Koontz relates how each of the protagonists must shoulder the responsibility of helping someone close to them.

Martie must use all of her powers of persuasion in order to coax her friend Susan Jagger out of her apartment. Susan suffers from agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces) and is under the care of the noted psychotherapist Dr. Mark Ahriman. While Martie is involved with helping Susan, Dusty finds himself having to cope with his stepbrother Skeet Caulfield. He works for Dusty and on this particular day is threatening to jump off a roof. Skeet has a history of drug problems and Dusty once again is called upon to rescue Skeet from himself. Tragically, Martie also comes to realize that she is suffering from her own phobia. She manifests all of the symptoms of autophobia (the fear of oneself). Worried about his wife’s condition, Dusty takes Martie to see Dr. Ahriman. Unfortunately, it is Ahriman who is behind all of the chaos in their lives.

Koontz reveals the shocking news that the renowned psychotherapist is into mind control and that he has deep-hypnotized a number of people, including Susan, Skeet, Martie, and Dusty. Although False Memory is way too long for its own good, Koontz once again has done a more than credible job at placing believable characters in harms way and comes to the startling conclusion that the mind is more vulnerable than anyone would like to think.