This passage from Dean Koontz’s novel The Eyes of Darkness made the rounds of social media yesterday, painting the author as a clairvoyant.
Culture Books

Did this 1981 Dean Koontz novel really predict the birth and spread of Coronavirus?

Let’s all calm down: the answer is no. 
Jacs T. Sampayan | Feb 19 2020

Yesterday, social media and viber groups were furiously sharing a photo of Dean Koontz’s novel The Eyes of Darkness, specifically of a page that apparently alluded to this year’s COVID-19 outbreak.

In the passage that was cited, a man-made virus called the “Wuhan-400” was being described in detail. The fictional disease was described “a perfect weapon” that was developed at RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan. As we all know, Wuhan in China’s Hubei province is ground zero for the COVID-19 outbreak, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives around the world so far.

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“It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature can carry it. And like syphilis, Wuhan-400 can’t survive outside a living human body for longer than a minute, which means it can’t permanently contaminate objects or entire places the way anthrax and other virulent microorganisms can,” the excerpt reads. “And when the host expires, the Wuhan-400 within him perishes a short while later, as soon as the temperature of the corpse drops below eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit.”

A lot of people online, however, were quick to puncture a hole in this Koontz-as-Nostradamus theory, with some even speculating that he might not have even made the reference at all.

 

Fact or fiction

Dean Koontz began his life as a novelist at the age of 23, starting with the 1968 novel Star Quest. Now at 74 years old, he has created a bibliography of suspense thrillers that regularly makes use of horror, mystery, and science fiction elements. He has written over 120 books, with 17 of his works adapted into a movie.  

The Eyes of Darkness was first published in 1981, and was written under one of Koontz’s 10 pen names, Leigh Nichols. In it, a mother, Christina Evans, grieves the loss of her son Danny, who perished suddenly and inexplicably along with a group of campers. But after starting to accept her son’s death, she suddenly gets messages and signs from nowhere telling her that Danny is still alive. Christina then begins hunting for the truth of what really happened.

Dean Koontz has been writing suspense thrillers for more than 50 years. Photograph from @deankoontzoffiicial on Facebook

Those who do not buy into the whole prediction narrative have made a couple major points. For one, when The Eyes of Darkness first came out, it did not even make use of the name “Wuhan-400.” Instead, it was called “Gorki-400,” making Russia as its country of origin. The name was only changed to “Wuhan-400” years later, with some hypothesizing that it wasn’t even Koontz who made the change, but a book editor looking to ease up on the demonization of Russia. (Or maybe to just diversify on the demonization. After all, Russia shouldn’t have the monopoly on fictional, best-seller or blockbuster villainy.)

Apart from this, many point out that COVID-19 and Wuhan-400 are just too starkly different. The latter has a 100 percent fatality rate while the former is only floating around at two percent. The manmade fictional virus can kill in about four hours while the COVID-19 can incubate inside the body for as long as two weeks.

As of this writing, the author has yet to comment about his book’s supposed sudden clairvoyance. He’s currently more preoccupied with promoting his other titles, or gushing over his wife Gerda and dog Elsa. At this point, it’s safe to say that it’s all just a panic-inducing coincidence.