When I was in high-school, I had a part time job as a page at the Oxford Public Library. One of my favorite parts of this position was having patrons return their books and give me their reviews of what they were reading. People would share what books they loved and hated – sometimes in great detail. I still remember one of these reviews vividly, and it was from an older gentleman. He walked up to the circulation counter, placed the book Intensity by Dean Koontz on the counter, and looked me directly in the eye. “This is the scariest book I've ever read,” he said firmly, “you shouldn't read it.” That was it. Of course, at seventeen, a warning telling me not do something lead me to immediately do the opposite. I checked the book out and couldn't wait to see what the fuss was about. I remember sneaking it home in a paper bag with other less threatening library materials. Despite being seventeen, I lived in a very conservative household and I knew my parents wouldn't be thrilled by me having a horror novel in my possession. I took the book straight to my room and began to read.
It didn't take me long to understand why the man who had read it before me was disturbed – it truly was terrifying. The book begins as we meet a damaged girl named Chyna Shepard who is finally getting on her feet thanks to a friendship with a woman named Laura. Laura invites her to spend a night at her family's giant estate in wine country, and that's where the horror begins. In the night hours, a killer named Edgler Vess makes his way to this property. He kills out of a perverse desire, going room by room, sparing almost no one as he commits random acts of violence. Chyna is able to hide, but witnesses her friend get kidnapped and carried into a motor home for reasons we don't want to imagine. As all the phone lines are cut, Chyna decides to sneak onto the vehicle and try and save her friend. Thus begins a horrific journey
This is one of those books where the characters make incredibly stupid decisions, but it's so fascinating we can't stop turning the pages. Where the book is most successful is in the development of the killer, who is both sadistic and believable. Edgler kills for pleasure – your pain is his aphrodisiac. It's terrifying, especially an early scene that takes place at a convenience store. I won't spoil the details, but it's been over ten years since I read the book for the first time, and the scene still comes to mind every time I walk into a 7-11.
When I finished the book, I felt like I had achieved some great accomplishment. I began reading many other horror thrillers, and to this day I still haven't found a book that was as scary as Intensity. It certainly isn't the best book I've ever read, not even close. But if you're looking for something to keep you turning the pages at a rapid pace (and leaving your lights on), check this book out. If that's not what you're into, well, you've been warned. What is the scariest book you've ever read?