The novel “The Eyes of Darkness” by Dean Koontz was published for the first time in 1981.
Christina “Tina” Evans is rebuilding her life after losing her son Danny in a tragic accident. She finally seems to have reached a positive turning point in her job when she starts see messages of various kinds that have in common the fact that they claim that Danny is not dead.
Initially Tina thinks that her ex-husband Michael is lashing out to her after the bitter divorce that followed their son’s death, but when she confronts him she realizes that he has nothing to do with it. She turns to Elliot Stryker, a lawyer she met through mutual acquaintances, to get Danny’s body exhumed, but someone tries to kill her.
Dean Koontz wrote “The Eyes of Darkness” at the beginning of his career, one of the novels he wrote using the pseudonym of Leigh Nichols. In the novel there was a virus called Gorki-400, produced in the then USSR. Years later, the author republished those novels with his real name to exploit the fame he had achieved in the meantime in slightly revised versions.
In the case of “The Eyes of Darkness”, the international situation had changed considerably with the end of the Cold War and Koontz decided to modify the part related to the virus giving it a Chinese origin and calling it Wuhan-400 accordingly. The novel gained new fame after the outbreak, which later became a pandemic, of COVID-19 for the reference to Wuhan, where the first cases were diagnosed. Actually, the coronavirus that was named SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 has practically nothing in common with the Wuhan-400 described by Koontz.
“The Eyes of Darkness” contains some narrative elements that in the following years Dean Koontz proposed in various of his novels. The phenomena that Tina Evans witnesses are similar to poltergeist, so the novel could be classified as supernatural horror. Certain discoveries made at the end of the novel could lead it to be defined as science fiction. The author often used elements of both genres, but over time he preferred the horror label for commercial reasons.
Another element found in “The Eyes of Darkness” that was used by Dean Koontz in some other novels is the conspiracy. When Tina Evans decides to request the exhumation of her son’s corpse she had never seen because she was told that the accident had reduced him to terrible conditions, she becomes the target of a murder attempt. Her lawyer Elliot Stryker is a former secret agent and manages to save himself from an attempt to kill him and rescues Tina.
“The Eyes of Darkness” is above all a thriller in which the pace tends to be fast and with continuous twists and turns that include science fiction / horror events. The important characters are fairly developed but sometimes Dean Koontz uses some clichés. In particular, Tina Evans and Elliot Stryker meet and something deep is born between them immediately. It seemed to me a somewhat cheesy development, but it’s a personal perception, which luckily doesn’t weigh much on the conspiracy.
After a long build-up that starts from the science fiction / horror events then adding the conspiracy, the ending is really rushed. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t even have mentioned the Wuhan-400 virus, as its story is told in the novel’s final part, but it’s at the basis of the renewed fame of “The Eyes of Darkness”, even more because a clever subtitle “A gripping suspense thriller that predicted a global danger…” was added.
In my opinion, “The Eyes of Darkness” is overall a fair science fiction / horror thriller but Dean Koontz wrote far better in the following years. If you’re looking for stories about a pandemic, this novel is absolutely the wrong one to read.