Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, November 17, 2023


Anti-Man by Dean R. Koontz (1970)

Anti-Man is an early Dean Koontz novel, dating back to the days when he signed his work using his middle initial.  By my count it is his seventh of his acknowledged books to be published, coming just two years after his first novel.  As an early work, it shows.

An expansion of the novelette "The Mystery of His Flesh" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1970 -- pubished perhaps one month before the novel -- Anti-Man is the story of an android, created by the World Authority, who survived an explosion that destroyed the research complex where he had been created.  Using talents his developers did not reliaze he had, the android resurrected six men who had been killed in the explosion, demonstrating an ability to change the shape and purpose of his body parts.  With the world under the rigid control of the WA, which had stopped all research into extending life, the android's abilty was a threat to the authoritarian governemnt.  It ordered the android destroyed.  Physician Jacob Kennelman (note the significance of the name), kidnapped the android before that could happen and now the two are running for their lives against an all-powerful worldwide organization.  They flee to the cold wastes of Alaska.

The android does not have a name.  Kennelman refers to is as He, with a capitol H.  (The possessive His is also capitolized).  This indicates the God-like power of the android.  As He becomes more self-aware, He realizes that his purpose is to serve mankind, to defeat death, and make the human race immortal -- all of which can be within His power as he grows and metamorphasizes into...what?  He begins to use his power to physically change, but the change needs energy and the enegy needs protein and protein means devouring the raw flesh of animals -- rabbits at first, then a few wolves, then the meat of of an elk.  Kennelman helps provide the meat.  He also does his best to protect He from the World Authority army that is searching for him with orders to kill.  He soon morphs into a huge budding mass of protoplasm.  Will his final incarnation be a boon to mankind as He has vowed, or will He become an all-destroying monster?  And is He sane?  Because He soon likens Himself to God.

(The author, who had a very traumatic chilkdhood, had converted to Catholicism and the subject of spirituality is a thread woven through much of his work, although Koontz has never used this faith to proselytize.)

An awkward novel, with more than a modicum of action and suspense . Occasionally, though, Koontz hits a wrong note (" goggles had been rammed down onto my nose with such force that the old proboscis had started bleeding"), uses the dreaded use of exposition theater (a detailed explanation of the workings and history of the "magnetic sled" could have been handled in a far less jarring manner), and lazily describes things without truly messhing it to the world of the novel ("I went in, purchased a synthe-ham sandwich and a carton of chocolate artificial  milk..."  This may be nit-picking.  the basic concept of the book is good, written in a solid journeyman style.  There's enough here to presage the kind of work Koontz would  begin to master within a few years.

(By the way, this was a paperback original from Paperback Library, never reprinted.  The cover by Steele Savage may be one of the worst ones that ever made it to market.  Truly off-putting.)


  1. I have to admire Dean R. Koontz for hanging in there after a rough start to his writing career. In the early 1970s, Koontz wrote three caper novels under the name "Brian Coffey." The middle novel, SURROUNDED, is my favorite.

    1. Those three novels were homages to Donald Westlake/Richard Stark's Parker novels. Great stuff!