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Intensity (novel)

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Language  English
Pages  343
Author  Dean Koontz
Adaptations  Intensity (1997)

Cover artist  J. James
Media type  Print
Originally published  November 1995
Page count  343
Country  United States of America
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Publisher  Headline (UK) Knopf (US)
Publication date  Nov 1995 (UK) Jan 1996 (US)
Genres  Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Horror, Speculative fiction
Similar  Dean Koontz books, Horror books

Intensity is a novel by the best-selling author Dean Koontz, released in 1995.


Plot summary

Chyna Shepard is a college student visiting the family of her friend, Laura Templeton, for a long weekend. Chyna, who was abused and neglected by her mother as a child, finds the Templeton house provides something she has yearned: acceptance. This comes to a violent end when Edgler Vess, a serial killer, breaks into the house in the night and methodically kills all of the occupants except Laura and Chyna.

Chyna hides from him under her bed and waits until he goes downstairs. She searches the house and finds Laura's father shot and tied to a toilet seat, and the mother stabbed to death in the shower. Chyna sees Vess on the stairs eating a spider before she sneaks into Laura's room. She finds Laura tied up and raped. Chyna leaves, promising to return. Before she can intervene, Vess kills Laura and takes her to his motor home. Chyna hears Laura screaming and runs upstairs intending to attack Vess with a knife. Unaware Laura is dead, Chyna sneaks aboard the motor home and finds her friend's corpse. Before she can escape, Vess drives away. Chyna hides in a back room, planning to escape at the earliest opportunity. When he stops at a gas station, she sneaks out of the motor home, and heads inside the gas station to find a phone. Chyna secretly watches Vess boast to the gas station clerks that he is holding a young girl, Ariel, prisoner in his basement, before he kills them and drives away. Chyna feels compelled to follow Vess and help free the girl. She takes an attendant's car, and follows Vess. Chyna passes Vess while traveling through a state park and intentionally crashes her car into a redwood tree. While Vess gets out to investigate, Chyna sneaks on board the motor home, but unbeknownst to Chyna, Vess glimpses her. Fascinated, he decides not to kill her immediately wanting to see what she will do. Eventually, they arrive at Vess's remotely located house. Vess goes inside, feigns taking a shower, and watches as Chyna leaves the motor home. She enters the house and goes into the basement to find Ariel locked in a room and catatonic. Before she can free Ariel, Vess attacks Chyna in the kitchen, punching her unconscious before binding her with a chain in the kitchen. He taunts her for a while, revealing details about his past and past crimes. Obsessed with the "intensity" of any particular experience, sensory and existential, Vess styles himself as a "homicidal adventurer", and has killed continually since childhood. He offers to allow Chyna to live if she aids him in mentally torturing Ariel out of her catatonia. Then, Vess leaves for work. Chyna escapes from her chains by breaking away from the table to which she is chained, and slamming her chair into a wall. She releases Ariel from her prison. Vess has trained a pack of deadly Dobermann pinschers to guard his property and kill anyone attempting to get in or out. Dressed in Vess's dog-training clothing Chyna sprays ammonia on the dogs and makes it to the motor home. She and Ariel exit the house, and take off in the motor home. Soon after, Chyna sees a police car on the road, so she pulls over to signal it, only to discover that the driver is Vess, the local "county sheriff". In the ensuing showdown, she rams his police car, but he rolls clear and uses a shotgun to disable the motor home, causing it to tip over. Chyna and Ariel escape the crippled wreck, but Vess catches up to them and knocks Chyna to the ground while Ariel continues on, distracting Vess long enough for Chyna to pull a lighter from her pocket. She uses it to ignite Vess's boot which is soaked in the gas leaking from the crashed vehicles. She rolls away to safety just before the pool of gas surrounding Vess ignites. After catching up to Ariel, she turns and watches as Vess meets his end in the flames. A passing motorist stops to help them. Some months later Chyna adopts Ariel who had been living in a psychiatric hospital. The story ends with Ariel making gradual progress toward normalcy, and Chyna meeting a nice man.


Chyna Shepherd
Chyna is a 26-year-old graduate student still coming to terms with her abusive past, who risks her life to save a young girl from a killer. She is trained to use guns and is inventive.
Edgler Foreman Winston Vess
Edgler is a brutal serial killer who preys on men, women and children, according to his mood. He kills for the sheer "intensity" of it; he believes that life is all about accruing sensation, and that he must live with intensity in order to discover new sensations. He meets his match in Chyna, who repeatedly surprises him through the novel, and he even admits that she frightens him as he was not able to sense her twice in the novel. Vess tortured and killed animals as a child and committed his first murders at the age of nine when he burned his parents to death after they caught him torturing a turtle; their death was considered an accident. Two years later he stabbed his grandmother to death because she didn't clean the bathroom to his satisfaction; he was judged in need of therapy, and was later adopted. He killed his adoptive parents when he was 20, once again by fire, for the insurance money and started his killing spree six years before the novel begins. By this time, he had kidnapped and killed six women and has been holding a teenage girl for a year after killing her parents and brother. In the novel he kills eight people, making his body count at least 22. Koontz's creation of Vess was inspired by Edmund Kemper, who, as Koontz stated in an interview: "killed his grandparents when he was 14 and was released at 21 when psychiatrists said he was no longer a threat to society. He went on to kill nine more people."
Ariel DeLane
Ariel is a kidnapped teenager who withdraws into catatonia. She has been held captive by Vess for months. Vess regards Ariel as a challenge because she has taken the longest to crack of all his captives. Vess longs to see her final breakdown but Chyna is able to rescue her. After the final confrontation with Vess on the highway, she's adopted by Chyna.
Laura Templeton
Laura is Chyna's best friend, who is killed by Vess.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

  • Intensity was made into a two-part TV movie in 1997 that first aired in America on the Fox Network. It starred Molly Parker, John C. McGinley, and Tori Paul.
  • References

    Intensity (novel) Wikipedia