Strange Highways
by Dean Koontz

A collection consisting of 12 short stories and 2 novels. The title of the collection is the title of a horror novel told by God about a 40-year-old man who returns to his home town for the first time in 20 years to attend his father’s funeral. He is an alcoholic and he regards himself as a failure. The title refers to Coal Valley Road which he didn’t take 20 years ago when he left home and which no longer exists because it is undermined by a huge, underground, coal fire. As he is leaving town this time after the funeral, the highway reappears, and he takes it. As soon as he gets on this highway he is living in 1975 instead of 1995 and his body is 20 years old, although he retains his 40-year old memories. He is given the chance to relive his life from 1975 and to avoid the mistakes he made the first time around. Right away he meets a girl whose car has broken down. She tells him she has had a crush on him since high school. Strangely she believes him when he tells her he has just come from 1995. They have to deal with his brother who they discover is a serial killer and a Satanist who is determined to call all 12 remaining residents of Coal Valley tonight. The story is pure horror. It has no redeeming values. The hero is such a born loser that fate has to give him several more chances tonight to start over after he repeatedly botches chance after chance.

“The Black Pumpkin” is a short horror story. “Miss Attila the Hun” is a short story about a teacher with strong enough will power to overcome an alien seed that was trying to take over the minds of everyone in a small town. “Down in the Darkness” is a short story about a man’s new house that has Hell in the cellar. “Ollie’s Hand” is a short story about a wino who can read minds. No one likes him when they find out that he is reading their thoughts, which is why he is a loner and a wino. “Snatcher” is a short story about a purse snatcher who steals a witch’s purse that takes him to Hell. “Trapped” is a short sci-fi story about a brave woman beset by evil, intelligent, lab rats that escaped from a nearby laboratory. “Bruno” is a short, comic story about a private eye who meets a bear cop from a parallel universe. It is a take-off of hard-boiled detective novels like those written by Mickey Spillane. “We Three” is a short story about triplets with special powers who kill everyone on earth by simply wishing them to be dead. The girl triplet gets pregnant. They sense that the fetus is more powerful than they are and that it doesn’t need them. “Hardshell” is a short story about a cop hunting a serial killer who turns out to be a shapechanger. “Kittens” is the first short story that Koontz ever sold. In it a girl drowns her twin-baby siblings to pay back her parents for drowning her kittens. “The Night of the Storm” is a short story set in a time when robots have inherited the earth and humans are regarded as mythical creatures. Four robots go on a hunting trip in Montana and discover that humans exist and the world is not rational. “Twilight of the Dawn” is a short story about a father who tries to raise his son to be an atheist and fails. Chase is a novel about a guilt-ridden Viet-name-War veteran who interrupts a killer and saves a girl. The killer harasses the vet and they hunt each other.

Year Read: 2005

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