The House at the End of the World
“while Koontz generally spins a good yarn, this one is not good enough to keep turning the pages.”
To call Dean Koontz prolific is to damn with faint praise. Like Stephen King, he seems to be able to write as easily as he breathes. Sometimes the results are a home run (such as the Odd Thomas series) sometimes not so much. Case in point is The House at the End of the World.
Katie has lost everything to a horrific act of senseless violence, so she runs away to a small island called Jacob’s Ladder in the middle of a large lake. There she lives a life of a virtual hermit, preferring solitude and loneliness to carefully nurse her grief. However, this does nothing to heal the wounds of her traumatic past.
A neighboring island of Ringrock is close enough for her to realize that there is something amok on that island. Could it be a corporate facility of some kind? Perhaps something nefarious is going on?
Two mysterious men from a government agency she’s never heard of arrive looking for someone or something, she comes to realize that Ringrock houses more than just some strange facility. Even the animals of Jacob’s Ladder are acting oddly, including a fox she calls Michael J.
Dean Koontz is a proven wordsmith, and this novel is no exception when it comes to prose, but the first half of the book is an incredibly slow burn, forcing the reader to stubbornly soldier on instead of putting it down. When the action and horror finally emerge, it is with the same breakneck speed that finally carries one to the end. The problem is the first half, which is mostly tedious plot exposition.
Even though the book finally breaks free of the first half, barreling down the second to the considerable enjoyment of the reader, the first half is enough of an anchor. It makes one wonder if the ride was worth the purchase price.
The other flaw in this book is the horror aspect. Not to spoil the surprise, but it reminds the reader of a famous John Carpenter movie starring Kurt Russell (NOT Escape from New York). Koontz has used this trope once before in one of his Odd Thomas books and it seems a little stale here. It’s an overused device (featured in several B movies in the past 40 years). Because of this, it mutes the enjoyment of the second half.
While a pleasant read filled with wonderful imagery, beautiful prose is not the only ingredient that makes a good book. Pacing, plot, and originality all are needed to really hit a homerun with a reader. Unfortunately, while Koontz generally spins a good yarn, this one is not good enough to keep turning the pages.