Tuesday, January 24, 2023

[Review]—Dean Koontz's "The House at the End of the World" is a Curiously Unusual Thriller

I've been trying to remember which Dean Koontz novel I read first all morning. I kept telling myself it was Phantasms (Buy on Paperback or Kindle), which I presumably read after watching the mediocre 1998 Ben Affleck movie adaptation. But after giving it some more thought, I realized that it was Hideaway (Buy on Paperback or Kindle) since I can still clearly recall looking for a copy after seeing the 1995 adaptation starring Jeff Goldblum and Alicia Silverstone. Let's say I was a teenager when I found Dean Koontz, and I'll be 42 later this year and continue reading his novels. That speaks something about the author's impact on readers; they stick with him over time.

The House at the End of the World (Buy on Hardback or Kindle), Dean Koontz's latest novel, was released today by Thomas & Mercer (an imprint of Amazon Publishing). I've read and reread Dean Koontz's earlier paperbacks, but I haven't read one of his more recent books, so when the publisher sent me an ARC of The House at the End of the World, I was eager to devour it.

The protagonist is Katie, a lone resident of a stone house on Jacob's Ladder Island that resembles a fortress. She had relocated to the island after a traumatic event set her life on an emotional roller coaster. She now lives alone with her pet fox, Michael J. When Katie isn't hiding out in her paintings; she obsesses about what the hell is going on on Ringrock, a neighboring island that she thinks is the location of a secret government research facility.

Then, when two federal officials show up on her island looking for someone or something, Katie pulls the trigger and shifts into survival mode. Later, a teenager, Libby, comes to the island wanting Katie's assistance. To survive the end of the world, Katie and Libby must battle for their lives after the "not-from-Earth" experiment from the Ringrock facility escapes.

The narrative remained ingrained in my consciousness throughout pauses from reading The House at the End of the World—a curiously unusual thriller—that had me yearning to return to Koontz's oddly bizarre world every time I closed the book. Even though I have nothing in common with Katie, I found myself immediately drawn to the character through Koontz's captivating prose. There are many unexpected turns and twists in this tale. At the 3/4 mark, when the story starts spewing directions, I kept wondering where the hell the plot was taking me, but in the best way that only Dean Koontz could navigate. ╌★★★★★

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