Tick Tock tells the story of Tommy Phan, a successful Vietnamese-American novelist who, despite his success, is often consumed by familial guilt. His traditionalist family disapproves of the path he’s taken in life—namely, away from his culture and heritage, shunning even his native language to fully assimilate into his idea of the “American Dream.”
Tommy’s story begins on what should be the best day of his life, a day he has dreamed of ever since he was eight years old: his first day of Corvette ownership. After arriving home to do some edits on his current novel about Detective Chip Nguyen, however, he answers his doorbell only to find no one on his porch; that is, no one except a small rag doll with a note pinned to its hand. Perplexed—and curious—he brings the rag doll inside for a closer inspection.
Upon unpinning the note from the doll’s hand, Tommy realizes it is written in Vietnamese, which he is no longer able to read. After attempting (and mysteriously failing) to fax the note to a friend at a local newspaper, Tommy returns to his office to inspect the doll—only to find his previously blank computer screen flashing the words the deadline is dawn. And as he watches, something emerges from the doll—something that will not give up in its quest for Tommy’s blood.
Tick Tock is one of my favorite Dean Koontz novels. I’ve read it enough times that I practically know it by heart. It’s short, sweet, and intense, and it’s also pretty hilarious. From some of the reviews I’ve read on Goodreads, some people apparently think the language is too forced, and I admit that sometimes it is. But most of the time it’s just fun.
Deliverance Payne is also one hell of a character. She’s pretty much the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl: picture Zooey Deschanel from 500 Days of Summer, except make her a blonde racecar-driving sharpshooter artist waitress. Of course, since this is Dean Koontz, she also has a preternaturally intelligent dog; this time, a black lab named Scootie.
Del is the reason Tommy is initially able to escape the monster that emerges from the doll: after it causes his Corvette to flip, she happens to drive by and rescues him in her van. She’s also just completely off the wall and—in Tommy’s words—is a total fruitcake, but she’s so fun to read about. Her mother (who we meet late in the novel) is a hoot, too.
If you’re looking for a quick, fun read and you enjoy Dean Koontz, you should definitely go for Tick Tock!
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