Ah, the good old Stephen King versus Dean Koontz debate.
There’s no debate.
Stephen King is the better writer.
Perhaps I’m biased. (But this is a blog, so sue me for being completely subjective about what I write about. [Please don’t sue me.])
I read Stephen King before I read Dean Koontz. I was in middle school, browsing through the paltry offering of books our library had. During my careful examination of every shelf for something I’d like to read, The Dark Half caught my eye. I picked it up, read the first chapter, and I was completely hooked.
My first Dean Koontz book was From the Corner of His Eye. It was engaging. That’s…about it.
Both King and Koontz come up with great concepts. That was one of the fantastic things about From the Corner of His Eye. In fact, concept-wise, From the Corner of His Eye beats The Dark Half.
It’s their respective styles of writing that sets King apart from Koontz though.
King has a style that delves, while Koontz’s style just polishes the surface.
I recently finished reading Koontz’s Life Expectancy, and despite the story involving killer clowns, I rarely felt on edge. In fact, the plot and the characters felt all around hunky dory compared to my usual King fare. Life Expectancy read like a romantic comedy (almost). That’s not the only Koontz book I’ve read, so don’t think that’s my only point of reference.
In another Koontz book, Intensity, a spider-eating serial killer relentlessly pursues a young woman after brutally murdering her friend (and her friend’s parents). Even though that sounds plenty terrifying, it never reached the pinnacles of unease that Stephen King has set.
Stephen King could write a book about furniture, and it would probably frighten me more than a Dean Koontz book about a supernatural murderer.
There’s a deep grittiness that layers King’s words. At times, it feels as if he’s writing in a stream-of-consciousness style when he describes what a character is thinking. You get to know their hidden recesses, their flaws. It’s like he has no hesitation about facing the darker sides of humanity, reality, and fantasy.
The reason King is king of horror is because he’s able to craft immersion the way a tree can sprout leaves. Creepiness just spews out of him naturally. (That’s supposed to be a compliment.)
Koontz isn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read a lot of his books as well. And I bet he’s sick and tired of being compared to Stephen King.
But Stephen King grabs me into his novels until I’m truly lost, and no other writer has been able to do that for me half as well as he can.