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Prolific Koontz's recent horror efforts (Strangers, Phantoms, Whispers) smothered readers under ungainly layers of fatty subplots and scleroid exposition. In this 49th novel, he strips away much of the excess to deliver his leanest book since The Vision (1977), and his best ever, an imaginative and unusual blend of suspense and sentiment as man, woman, and dog flee from horrors both inhuman and inhumane. The dog, a golden retriever, is the novel's centerpiece. World-weary Travis Cornell stumbles upon him snarling at something deep in a California woods. Showing uncanny wit, the dog leads Travis out of the forest, responding to every command with near-human intelligence. Adopting the dog, Travis names him "Einstein." Meanwhile, two villains wreak havoc in the L.A. suburbs, Koontz's excuse to indulge in his customary gory excesses: some thing is decapitating random loners, while, in an unnecessary subplot, a KGB-hired assassin kills scientists connected with a gene-splicing lab. Days later, Einstein saves a lonely woman, Nora, from rape. As she and Travis romance, they explore the dog's powers, even teaching him to read and write. With the use of Scrabble tiles, Einstein explains that he, as well as a murderous baboonish creature so vile as to be called "The Other," are results of an Army genetic experiment. Einstein escaped; The Other, jealous of his charm, broke out to kill him – and all who stand in its way. Grateful to Einstein the dog for reviving their tired lives, Travis and Nora hide out with him in S.F., where, amidst domestic bliss highlighted by a pregnancy and the dog's obsession with Mickey Mouse videos, they await the coming of The Other. But the assassin, hoping to steal Einstein, shows up first; Travis guns him down. When The Other arrives, razor teeth flashing, it meets the same fate. At the close: a happy ending foretelling a race of super-dogs to grace the earth. More a fable about love and trust than an outright chiller, this work, with its echoes of Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau, still peppers enough tension and mayhem throughout to satisfy horror fans. And the touching, if often hokey, interplay between dog and human could attract new, non-genre readers. A break-through for Koontz.