By Dean Koontz
It could be anything.
The story starts off with a quick taste of fear and danger, then slows things down with a car ride conversation between two sisters. This is the pattern the author adopts for much of the story; a brief moment of true terror, followed by a long cool down. Characters spend large portions of the story sharing anecdotal stories about themselves as they try to cope with the stress of what’s happening. These backstories help to lull the reader, preparing them for the next fresh scare.
The scares themselves are vivid and well done, with careful attention to graphic details that bring the horror to life.
Unfortunately that’s all the story ever amounts to. At first the rationed scares help to populate every shadow with an unseen threat, but over time it becomes clear that a true attack will only come once an allotted span of time has passed, and some characters cannot die.
To his credit the author makes a valiant effort to make every character feel real, and it is in the characters that this story shines, but the central plot of the novel runs a bit thin. Large portions of the book are spent waiting. The story masterfully manages information, providing just enough o spark new questions, but once the mystery is solved the answer turns out to be simple and rather crude. The resolution feels less like a climax and more like an obligatory cleanup afterwards.
Phantoms is a good demonstration of suspense, but suspense also builds up expectations. The greater the hype around a question, the stronger the answer must be.
Best of Lovecraft Condensed