Carpe nostrum is Chris’ motto—seize the night. He has a rare genetic disorder that leaves him with no pigment in his skin and means he will die young. He lives at night, avoiding the bright light of day that could cause cancer or other problems. And because he lives at night, he sees things around his small town that no one else sees. This much we learn in the first few pages of Dean Koontz’s novel Seize the Night (Bantam, 1999, ISBN 978-0553580198).
When a friend’s son is kidnapped, Chris goes after him, using his knowledge of the dark parts of town to chase the kidnapper. When he can’t rescue Jimmy on his own, he recruits his friends: Sasha, his ex-cop girlfriend; Bobby, his surfing buddy; Doogie, a Harley-riding ballroom-dancing DJ; and Roosevelt, a huge “cat-whisperer” along with his feline, Mungojerrie, who “knows things.” Together, they go after Jimmy and three other children who were also kidnapped, as well as Chris’ dog Orson, who got lost in Chris’ first rescue attempt.
Underlying the whole rescue attempt are the weird things going on in town because of the secret scientific activity that happened there a few years ago. Chris’ mom, now dead, was a genetic scientist at the centre of the research. She wanted to find a way to cure Chris’ disease, but in the process, she developed a terrible retrovirus that is now destroying humanity as Chris and his friends know it.
Orson and Mungojerrie are among the few characters in the novel who are smarter and better because of the experiments. More often, however, the experiments created monsters like the vicious pack of monkeys that roam the town or the humans who have caught the virus and are “becoming.”
Seize the Night is a dark novel, and not just because it takes place mostly at night. Koontz is an excellent writer who provides vivid descriptions—even of death and evil. His characters are realistic and unique; the surfer lingo between Chris and Bobby helps to relieve some of the tension in the novel. Some parts of the plot became confusing as, along with the genetic experiments going on at the lab, there were also time travel experiments that brought with them their own horrors.
Overall, Koontz writes a riveting, suspenseful novel with detailed description and gripping scenes.
Dean Koontz was the first president of the Horror Writers Association, an organization started in 1985 to meet the needs of the writers of this genre. During his time as president, he helped established the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, an annual award presented to an author whose work has influenced the horror genre.
Koontz has been penning novels since 1968 and also writes under several pen names, including Deanna Dwyer and Brian Coffey. Thirteen of his novels have been number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list and sixteen of his novels have reached that place on the paperback bestseller list. Koontz grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives with his wife in California. You can find out more about Dean on his website.