The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz from Thomas and Mercer #BookReview #horror #thriller
The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz
Thomas and Mercer, hb, £19.99
Reviewed by Ian Hunter
In many ways, this is my sort of book, given my self-confessed status as a reluctant reader. My heart sinks when I hold that hefty tome in my hand and find out that the chapters inside are some thirty pages long. Coming in at just over four hundred pages long, The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz doesn’t suffer from that long chapter problem given that it is told over nine parts, starting with “Alone” and finishing with “Aftermath” and divided into ninety chapters. So far, so good, but I have never found Koontz to be an easy read, and this is no exception, maybe because it is classic Koontz, and by that, I mean it has all the key ingredients of a Koontz novel: a woman with a secret past, who is on the run from that past, who has isolated herself in a remote location, who is suspicious of others. Then add in other Koontz tropes: a shadowy government agency, a secret research facility, a teenage girl, and a cute animal – this time a fox that Katie, the lead character names Michael J. All of this adds up to some standard Koontz fare, that is, a novel that is a mash-up of thriller, science fiction and horror.
Koontz will almost be a sprightly 78 soon, and he’s written more books than he has had years, starting way back in 1968 with “Star Quest”, published by Ace Books, and over the years, he has been very prolific, publishing (counts fingers, and quickly runs out of them), some 160 novels and novellas, and that doesn’t include the graphic novels or complete collections of some of his series. On the way, he’s written as Deana Dwyer, Brian Coffey, Owen West, Leigh Nichols, and a few others and used them to crank out the novels. In 1972, he managed to have nine books published in various guises, and his 1995 novel “The Eyes of Darkness” was his last under another name and the last of the books “penned” by Leigh Nichols. He’ll turn 78 in July 2023, when another novel – After Death – is due to be published.
As for this one? Well, for almost three years, our heroine, Katie, has hidden away on an island called Jacob’s Ladder. She uses her talent for painting as therapy and immerses herself in the local wildlife and surroundings. She has survived a devastating personal tragedy and used her savings, insurance payout and the proceeds of selling property to buy Jacob’s Ladder. She is alone without any electronic devices to keep in touch with the outside world. Her only concession to technology is CD players playing classical music throughout the day. There are two neighbouring islands – Oak Haven and Ringrock, which house an environmental research station. But Katie thinks it is much more than that, perhaps the home of some sinister goings-on, and her worse fears seem to be realised as strangers appear on the island, backed up by drones, and they are obviously searching for something, something dangerous and then events start to take a downwards turn. On the way, we find out about the events that led Katie to this reclusive life, and despite the barriers she has put up, she is going to have no choice but to let people back into her life, some friendly, some not, with the prospect that things might change for the better for her if only she can stay alive. What is the threat? Well, to be honest, it isn’t that original, and if I alluded to some well-known horror movies or TV series, it would completely give the game away, so no spoilers here.
Koontz is very good at describing characters, and he’s on top form here with his physical descriptions; likewise, he’s very good at describing the natural surroundings of Jacob’s Ladder and Katie’s view of what lies beyond it; however, I did find some of the passages to be bland, almost meaningless, and there were some odd diversions to further describe some of the characters or their situation which did knock, me, the reader, out of the story. I did also find it slightly preachy in places, not a lot, but I’m sure if you are a Koontz fan, you’ll lap this up.