The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Watchers, Dean Koontz uses misguided genetic engineering as the premise for a suspense thriller and to explore what it means to be human. At Banodyne Laboratories in California, the Francis Project has created improved animals for the government. The plot is set in motion by the escape of a dog with genetically enhanced intelligence and The Outsider, a monstrous battlefield creature driven by a compelling desire to kill the dog. To complicate matters, Vincent Nasco, a psychopathic hit man hired by the Soviets to kill the project scientists, learns about the dog. He begins to hunt it for the riches it will bring. The National Security Agency (NSA) joins this wild chase by deploying Lemuel Johnson and his team to capture the dog and terminate The Outsider.

The novel’s central character, Travis Cornell—a thirty-six-year-old widower, retired realtor, and former member of the Delta Force—meets the dog in rural Santiago Canyon and helps him elude an unseen, terrifying pursuer. Quickly recognizing the golden retriever’s extraordinary intelligence, Travis names him Einstein. Koontz then adds a romantic element by introducing Nora Devon, a thirty-year-old, shy, yet lovely recluse whom Einstein and Travis rescue from a rapist.

Watchers’ plot primarily chronicles the hunt for Einstein, but it also examines the boundaries of human identity. In pursuing or assisting Einstein, all the significant characters reveal...

(The entire section is 590 words.)