In Innocence, Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.
He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.
She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.
But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Dean Koontz's The City.
Praise for Innocence
“A thriller that’s both chilling and fulfilling.”—People (four stars)
“Laced with fantastical mysticism, it’s an allegory of nonviolence, acceptance and love in the face of adversity. . . . The narrative is intense, with an old-fashioned ominousness and artistically crafted descriptions. . . . An optimistic and unexpected conclusion [mirrors] his theme. Something different this way comes from Mr. Koontz’s imagination. Enjoy.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Mystery and terror, the paranormal and romance—all combine to make Innocence a challenging and emotional experience.”—New York Journal of Books
“This novel really is something special. . . . This may just be the book Dean Koontz was born to write.”—Thriller Books Journal
“Entrancing . . . as speedy a chase-thriller as any Koontz . . . has ever constructed. Written in Koontz’ late mellifluent and reflective manner . . . [Innocence is] fueled by deep disgust with the world’s evils [and] hope for redemption.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[An] imaginative, mystical thriller from bestseller Koontz . . . This is the most satisfying Koontz standalone in a while.”—Publishers Weekly
“Masterful storyteller Koontz delivers perhaps his most eerie and unusual tale to date. The timeline in this amazing story is compact, and readers will be swept along as they try to unravel hints and clues as to the true nature of both the protagonists and the unfolding drama. Unpredictably spine-chilling and terrifying, this is a story readers won’t soon forget.”—RT Book Reviews
“Elegant . . . Fans of Koontz’s previous series will be left hoping that Addison and Gwyneth, too, will return.”—Library Journal
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About the Author
Hometown:Newport Beach, California
Date of Birth:July 9, 1945
Place of Birth:Everett, Pennsylvania
Education:B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966
Read an Excerpt
having escaped one fire, i expected another. I didn’t view with fright the flames to come. Fire was but light and heat. Throughout our lives, each of us needs warmth and seeks light. I couldn’t dread what I needed and sought. For me, being set afire was merely the expectation of an inevitable conclusion. This fair world, compounded of uncountable beauties and enchantments and graces, inspired in me only one abiding fear, which was that I might live in it too long.
i was capable of love, but i lived in solitude after Father died. Therefore I loved only the precious dead, and books, and the moments of great beauty with which the city surprised me from time to time, as I passed through it in utmost secrecy.
For instance, sometimes on clear nights, in the solemn hour when most of the population sleeps, when the cleaning crews are finished and the high-rises darkle until dawn, the stars come out. They are not as bright over this metropolis as they must be over a Kansas plain or a Colorado mountain, but they still shine as if there is a city in the sky, an enchanting place where I could walk the streets with no fear of fire, where I could find someone to love, who would love me.
Here, when I was seen, my capacity for love earned me no mercy. Quite the opposite. When they saw me, men and women alike recoiled, but their fear quickly gave way to fury. I would not harm them to defend myself, and I remained therefore defenseless.
on certain nights, beautiful but sad music found its way into my deep windowless rooms. I didn’t know from where it came, and I couldn’t identify the tune. No lyrics accompanied the melody, but I remained convinced that I had once heard a smoky-voiced chanteuse sing this song. Each time the song came, my mouth moved as if forming the words, but they eluded me.
The piece was not a blues number, yet it weighed on the heart as did the blues. I might call it a nocturne, although I believe that a nocturne is always an instrumental. Words existed to this melody. I was certain they did.
I should have been able to follow those mellifluous strains to a vent grille or a drain, or to some other route of transmission, but every attempt to seek the source ended in failure. The music seemed to issue from the air, as if passing through a membrane from another, unseen world parallel to ours.
Perhaps those who lived in the open would have found the idea of an invisible world too fanciful and would have dismissed the notion.
Those of us who remain hidden from everyone else, however, know that this world is wondrous and filled with mysteries. We possess no magical perception, no psychic insight. I believe our recognition of reality’s complex dimensions is a consequence of our solitude.
To live in the city of crowds and traffic and constant noise, to be always striving, to be in the ceaseless competition for money and status and power, perhaps distracted the mind until it could no longer see—and forgot—the all that is. Or maybe, because of the pace and pressure of that life, sanity depended on blinding oneself to the manifold miracles, astonishments, wonders, and enigmas that comprised the true world.
When I said “those of us who remain hidden,” I should instead have said “I who am hidden.” As far as I was aware, no other like me existed in that metropolis. I had lived alone for a long time.
For twelve years, I shared this deep redoubt with Father. He died six years earlier. I loved him. I missed him every day. I was now twenty- six, with perhaps a long, lonely life ahead of me.
Before I arrived, my father lived here with his father, whom I never had the honor of meeting. Most of the furnishings and books were handed down to me from them.
One day perhaps I would pass my belongings to someone who might call me Father. We were an enduring dynasty of the dispossessed, living in the secret city that the city’s people never saw.
My name is Addison. But back then we needed no names because we spoke to no one but each other.
Sometimes, with a smile, Father called himself It. But that wasn’t a real name. He called me Its It, or Son of It, which was our little joke.
By the standards of humanity, we were exceedingly ugly in a way that excited in them abhorrence and the most terrible rage. Although we were as much human as those who lived in the open, we did not wish to offend, and so we hid ourselves away.
Father told me that our kind must not be angry with other men and women merely because of the way that they treated us. They had anxieties we could never understand. He said that we of the hidden had our burdens, but those who lived in the open carried far heavier burdens than ours, which was true.
We also remained hidden to avoid worse than persecution. One night, my father was caught in the open. Two frightened, enraged men shot and clubbed him to death.
I did not harbor any anger toward them. I pitied them, but I loved them as best I could. We have all been brought into the world for some reason, and we must wonder why and hope to learn.
My little windowless residence also served as my school, where I sought to learn, and the most important of those three small rooms was the one lined with mahogany shelves built by my father’s father. The shelves were filled with books not wanted by those who lived in the world above.
Each of the deep, comfortable armchairs had a padded footstool. Beside each chair stood a simple wooden cube on which to set a drink, and a bronze floor lamp with a pleated shade of peach-colored shantung silk.
A small table and two straight-backed chairs provided a place to dine. In the days when we were two, we played cards and chess at that table.
These days, I occasionally played solitaire. I didn’t much like the game, but sometimes, shuffling the cards or dealing them out, I saw not my hands but instead my father’s. His fingers were deformed because they had healed improperly in self-applied splints after a minister had broken them on a Sunday night, when Father was a boy.
I loved those hands, which never harmed a living thing. The pale scars and arthritic knuckles were beautiful because they signified his courage and reminded me that I must never be embittered by the cruelties inflicted on us. He suffered more than I did, and yet he loved life and the world.
The table and most of the other furnishings had been brought here with difficulty or had been built in place by those who came before me.
For six years, I had not needed two armchairs. Most of the time, when reading, I sat in the chair that had been mine since I arrived there. Once in a while, however, I sat in Father’s chair, the better to remember him and to feel less alone.
The second room, like the others, was eight feet high. The thick walls, floor, and ceiling were of steel-reinforced concrete through which vibrations sometimes traveled but never any identifiable sounds other than the aforementioned music.
To each side of the doorless doorway, a hammock was suspended wall to wall. The canvas was easy to sponge clean, and my blanket was the only bedding to be laundered.
When Father still lived, on nights when sleep eluded us, we would lie awake, either in the dark or in candlelight, and talk for hours. We conversed about what little of the world we’d seen firsthand, about the marvels of nature that we studied in books of color photography, and about what all of it might mean.
Perhaps those were among my happiest memories, although I had so many that were happy, I wasn’t easily able to favor some over others.
Against the back wall, between hammocks, stood a refrigerator. Father’s father had once lived without this amenity. My father—an autodidact like me—taught himself to be a fine electrician and an appliance mechanic. He dismantled the refrigerator, brought it down from the world aboveground, and reassembled it.
To the left of the refrigerator stood a table holding a toaster oven, a hot plate, and a Crock-Pot. To the right were open shelves that served as my larder and tableware storage.
I ate well and remained grateful that the city was a place of plenty.
When Father’s father discovered this deep redoubt, electricity and a minimum of plumbing were already provided, although the rooms were unfurnished. No evidence existed to suggest that they had ever previously been occupied.
Before Father found me alone and waiting to be killed, he and his father imagined many explanations for these chambers.
One might think this place must be a bomb shelter, so deep beneath the street, under so many thick layers of concrete, that multiple nuclear blasts would not crack it open, reached by such a circuitous route that deadly radiation, which traveled in straight lines, could not find its way here.
But when you removed the receptacles from their mounting screws in any wall outlet, the manufacturer’s name stamped in the metal junction box identified a company that, research proved, went out of business in 1933, long before a nuclear threat existed.
Besides, a bomb shelter for only two, in a great city of millions, made no sense.
The third room, a bath, also concrete all around, was not designed with the expectation that the city and its utilities would be atomized. The pedestal sink and the claw-foot tub offered two spigots each, although the hot water was never more than pleasantly warm, suggesting that whatever boiler it tapped must have been far from there. The old toilet featured an overhead tank that flushed the bowl when you pulled on a hanging chain.
During construction, perhaps some official who was also a sexual predator with homicidal desires might have provided for this sanctum under one pretense or another, intending later to erase its existence from all public records, so that he could by force bring women to a private dungeon to torture and murder them, while the teeming city overhead remained unaware of the screaming far below.
But neither a city engineer nor an architect of public-utility pathways seemed likely to be an insatiable serial killer. And when Father’s father discovered these cozy quarters back in the day, no gruesome stains or other evidence of murder marred the smooth concrete surfaces.
Anyway, these rooms had no ominous quality about them.
To those who lived in the open, the lack of windows and the bare concrete might call to mind a dungeon. But that perception was based on the assumption that their way of life was not merely superior to ours but also without a viable alternative.
Every time that I left this haven, as I did for many reasons, my life was at risk. Therefore, I had developed a most keen sense of pending threat. No threat existed here. This was home.
I favored a theory involving the unseen world parallel to ours that I mentioned earlier. If such a place existed, separated from us by a membrane we couldn’t detect with our five senses, then perhaps at some points along the continuum, the membrane bulged around a small part of that other reality and folded it into the stuff of ours. And if both worlds, in their becoming, arose from the same loving source, I liked to believe that such secret havens as this would be provided especially for those who, like me, were outcasts by no fault of their own, reviled and hunted, and in desperate need of shelter.
That was the only theory I wished to accommodate. I couldn’t change what I was, couldn’t become more appealing to those who would recoil from me, couldn’t lead any life but the one to which my nature condemned me. My theory gave me comfort. If one less reassuring revealed itself, I would refuse to consider it. So much in my life was beautiful that I wouldn’t risk pondering any darkening idea that might poison my mind and rob me of my stubborn joy.
I never went into the open in daylight, nor even at dusk. With rare exception, I ascended only after midnight, when most people were asleep and others were awake but dreaming.
Black walking shoes, dark jeans, and a black or navy-blue hoodie were my camouflage. I wore a scarf under the jacket, arranged so that I could pull it up to my eyes if I had to pass along an alleyway—or, rarely, a street—where someone might see me. I acquired my clothes from thrift shops that I could enter, after hours, by the route that rats might enter if they were as born for stealth as I was.
I wore such a costume on the night in December when my life changed forever. If you were a creature like me, you expected that no big change could be positive in the long run. Yet were I given a chance to turn back time and follow a different course, I would do again what I did then, regardless of the consequences.
i called him father because he had been the closest thing to a father that I had ever known. He was not my true father.
According to my mother, my real father loved freedom more than he loved her. Two weeks before I was born, he walked out and never walked back in, off to the sea, she said, or to some far jungle, a restless man who traveled to find himself but lost himself instead.
On the night that I was born, a violent wind shook the little house, shook the forest, even shook, she said, the mountain that the forest mantled. The windstorm quarreled across the roof, insisted at the windows, rattled the door as if determined to intrude into the place where I was born.
When I entered the world, the twenty-year-old daughter of the midwife fled the bedroom in fright. Weeping, she took refuge in the kitchen.
When the midwife tried to smother me in the birthing blanket, my mother, although weakened by a difficult labor, drew a handgun from a nightstand drawer and, with a threat, saved me from being murdered.
I had seen the Fogs and Clears all of my life. I hoped one day to know for certain what they were and what they meant, although I suspected that I might never be enlightened. Or if I discovered the truth of them, there might be a high price to pay for that knowledge
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is simply a masterpiece of suspenseful literature. Koontz has outdone himself in this seemingly allegorical story of good and evil, and the free will of mankind to better his world or to destroy it with misused power and greed. Addison Goodheart is a 26 year old man who has lived all of his life in the darkness of the night and in the underground sewers and tunnels. When he does go out, he covers everything but his eyes least anyone see him and become so horrified that they would try to murder him. Gwyneth is a young woman with a social phobia, causing her to avoid any physical touch at all. They meet one night in the library and this amazing story continues. Koontz deftly goes back and forth in time building suspense while telling this present day story. Sometimes this can be confusing from other authors, but it was a must in developing this story. Koontz language was beautiful, describing snowfall in ways I've never heard before. This is perhaps one of Koontz's very best stories yet. A must read for his fans and for anyone seeking a new favorite author!
Have always been a big Koontz fan. Strangers, Lightening, The Face, Life Expectancy, Dark Rivers of the Heart, and most of all Watchers. Innocence takes me back to the best of Koontz's stand alone books. Odd Thomas, for me, has become worn and trite. This book is vintage Koontz. Could not put it down. While some would like more of Addison and Gwyenth. I pretty much think it's said and done so well that it can't be improved upon. First of his in a long time that actually moved me. A while coming.. Well worth the wait. A must read for fans.
This book is classic Koontz. It is the kind of story that stays with you long after you finish it. I have always felt that Koontz does an incredibley good job creating unlikely heroes and heroines with an incredible amount of heart and emotional depth. Once again Koontz offers up characters who represent incredible good overcoming horrific evil with their souls and hope still intact.
Chock full of wonderful word usage wasted on a poorly developed and ridiculous story. Koontz spends a lot of time being philosophic and preachy instead of clarifying his characters and their story. The reader is left puzzled and finally bored with the many paragraphs of unnecessary and seemingly gratuitous verbiage. The last fifty or so pages would have made a decent short story but the premise of the whole book was ludicrous.
Loved it. I cared deeply about the characters and loved to descriptive prose of the city. I would give my left arm to be able to write things like this: "Through the stillness, snow fell not in skeins but in infinitely layered arabesques, filigree in motion, ornamenting the icy air, of an especially intense white in the dove-gray light of the morning, laying boas on the limbs of leafless trees, ermine collars on the tops of walls, a grace of softness in a hard world."
“some hearts are dark and others full of light” Dean Koontz has a wonderfully active imagination and with INNOCENCE it’s on full display. Among his many strengths as a writer is the ability to tell a story with a purpose far greater than simple entertainment – and that’s precisely what he’s done with INNOCENCE. It’s a cataclysmic story that laments the depravity of human nature, but at the same time it gives us heroic characters that by their very nature exude innocence and hope for the world we live in. I’ve read reviews the last few years that have been critical of Koontz for being moralistic in his recent books, but I don’t really understand that reaction. Authors are free to extol any point of view they support just as readers are free to choose books aligned with their own point of view. I actually appreciate that an author as renowned as Koontz would use his writing to praise virtuous behavior and criticize what should abhor us. There’s a moment when Addison, the main character, narrates that, “there is no end of wonders and mysteries” on earth and one of them is “that some hearts are dark and others full of light.” To me that’s just great writing, but I guess others disagree. Anyway, in terms of critiquing the book, the bulk of the events that make up the story take place on one night – but the backstory that lets us know and understand and root for the two protagonists Addison and Gwyneth occurred over the previous eighteen years, so there’s a lot of back and forth between chapters. A chapter in the present, a chapter in the past, etc., and I didn’t care for that too much. I thought the story was great and the writing fantastic, I just didn’t care for the back and forth because at times it felt like the backstory was inserted just to give us some action until the present story picked up steam. The only other criticism was that at times I felt like it could have been Odd Thomas talking instead of Addison Goodheart because their “voices” were so similar, but others might not think so. Regardless, I’m a big fan of Koontz’s writing and this is a great book.
An excellent read, plenty of twists and turns with good pacing. Only minor negative is that its a bit wordy, but that's to be expected from this author. Very much recommend it!
Since first reading Breathless by Dean Koontz, I was hooked and started reading a Koontz book every week. I loved his style and the wonderful way he can grab the reader into a world of wonder, hope, tragedy and beauty. Then comes Innocence.... For the life of me, I just could not get it; I was dizzy trying to follow two plots with different time lines. I had a sense of the author was trying too hard to make the reader, actually force the reader, to feel empathy towards the boy. I just did not get it, and my sense of sadness and grief was more towards spending my hard earned money buying this book. If anyone would have told me I would have anything negative to say about Dean Koontz writings, I would never believed him/her, but that is the way it is....Sorry!!!!
Fantastic "inside the mind" book! It really makes you take a deep look at what we fear, what we should fear, and what we were meant to be. The final chapters are mind-blowing!!! I am a voracious reader - of non-fiction, popular fiction and literature alike, and I LOVED IT!!!!
This is a deeply moving book. It caused me to reflect on the past, of the things in my life that made me who I am today. Good decisions and bad decisions. Lessons learned. It also made me think about the now of life and the future. In places it made me cry. Dean Koontz is a great writer. He is a wise and good human being who writes from the heart. We know there is evil in our world and many fear the future. Can we be the better selfless person in spite of that fear? Books are not always written just to entertain us. Great writers know how to entertain but they also know how to shake us up and cause us to think. I will never forget this book. It is brilliant. THANK YOU DEAN KOONTZ
As someone who has read and mostly enjoyed every book ever written by Dean Koontz this one is almost incomprehensible. Perhaps the author needs to take some time off and smell the flowers. This book is full of characters we don't care about and whose essences are poorly described and never really fleshed out. The plot is equally incomprehensible as is most of the writing and dialogue between the characters. If I submitted this book to publishers under my name I doubt anyone would publish it.
It is a fantastic book. who ever posted - Anonymous first - you are an idiot!
Pretty prose ,not a novel
An unusual story that will open your eyes and cause both an examination of conscience as well as a great feeling of relief that a higher power is indeed present and in charge. This is a story that doesn't preach but is as effective as a heartfelt testimony to life as it should be. Thanks Mr. Koontz. From Terry Bledsoe, one of your faithful readers.
So let me just say that I have read all of Dean Koontz's books and love his stories...this book however was not what I expected it to be...it was a little wordy, but that is to be expected of dean koontz....they way he describes something so simple as the snow falling is absoulutly majestic and beautiful. The book had a nice twist that I didn't see ginning and it was nicely welcome... I have never had a bad thinhg to say about any of his books, however this was not one of his better ones
I agree with all of the negative reviews of this book, I struggled to get through it from beginning to end. I really don't get all of the rave reviews but maybe I just didn't get the story. Too long and drawn out. Will definitely read reviews first before I buy anything new he puts out.
One of the most boring books I have ever read in my life and I am 60 years old. I forced myself to finish it since I paid for it. Sure didn't get my moneys worth. Didn't like the jumping back and forth as another review also stated. This was my first and my last book by this author.
Vague storyline... What's up with the marionettes? So much left unexplained.... You can do better than this Dean!
I always like to read with interest other's critiques before I write mine to see what the general consensus is...having said that I was astonished at a few reviews of one star stating it was a horrible book. This book is one of Koontz's best. It is draws you in wondering what Addison's disfigurement is, wondering where and when it will be revealed. Maybe the reason people where horrified to look at Addison is what I projected it to be so I don't want to spoil the gist of the book, but I think those that didn't like it didn't "get" it and that it's deeper than a deformity or disfigurement. Like I said, I don't want to give away any plot, so I will just say it is poetically written with deep meaning and a compelling plot that moves along nicely. I too had gotten tired of Odd Thomas, so this was a very nice change! I think Dean could maybe eek another book out of these characters!
I have read everything Dean Koontz has written! I love the way he writes! This book is not Dean Koontz…he is either getting tiered of writing or someone else wrote it.
Dean Koontz work has always found me a receptive reader. He is a master of nuance, and Innocence is rife with masterful nuance and suggestion. It abounds with a building, culpable perception of a looming threat, but despite several signposts along the way, the nature of it came as a welcome surprise. This is a very moving, intimate work, redolent with suggestions of the writing spirit of both Arthur C. Clarke and J.R.R. Tolkien, who both in essence wrote of life as a transformational process and evolution. In the pages of Innocence, I found both and I'm sure the joy of discovery at least, will remain with me for some time to come.
This is an exceptional work of literature. Definitely one of his best works to date.
Beautifully written, fast-paced and unique. A poignant story of spiritual power and mystical intrigue. Koontz displays his singular talent for storytelling in a succinct work of beauty. Definitely different than some of Koontz's early work, but nonetheless a work of sheer genius. Kept me entertained throughout and had a satisfyingly surprising ending.
I would very much like to meet Dean Koontz. His ability t0 weave a story that will: wake one up in the middle of the night years after it is read (Intensity), get totally lost in a fictional memoir of an individual who can see those who have died (his Odd Thomas series) or find one’s hope renewed by glimpsing a “world renewed” (this present novel) is as amazing as it is prolific. A friend suggested I read this book (longer ago than I want to admit) as it spoke to her in ways she found surprising. My only regret is taking so long in reading it. Addison Goodheart lives in the tunnels and forgotten rooms far beneath the streets of a Great (but un-named) City. He does so in order to survive, as his very countenance brings such horror to those who glimpse it that his life could be forfeit in such an exchange. Addison does not let his circumstances dictate how he chooses to live his life; he is kind, generous, seeks to keep peace with the world and perceives his lot as an occasion, not a definition. He meets Gwyneth during one of his late-night sojourns to the public library. Normally, the building is deserted, on this night, however, he witnesses an event that will change his world, shift his perspective and answer questions he never knew to ask. What follows is a story that would be included the genres of (in no particular order: Science Fiction, Romance, Horror, Religious Parable and/or Crime Mystery. This is not an evenly written novel. Some of the characters are either underdeveloped or lifted from overly-used archetypes. This is flaw more than balanced in the clear image of Addison (the story is told from his perspective) as he steps out of the safety of the shadows and allows the reader to be awed by his discoveries as he walks in them. The conclusion is frightening as it is plausible, optimistic in a nihilistic milieu, complete as it is open-ended and tidy.