Book Reviews

Book Review: The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz – I’m Swearing Off One of My Favorite Writers After This

Growing up, I was a huge Dean Koontz fan. His books were second only to Stephen King in my reading, and I’d put his Lightning in my top 10 books I’ve ever read. In my later years, I grew frustrated with novels that started out great, but had endings that failed to live up to the promise of the first half of the book. Recently, I was more interested again when I saw that many of his novels are now available on Kindle Unlimited. Unfortunately, The House at the End of the World was the first of those books I chose to read. It will also be the last Koontz book I ever read.

To put it mildly, Koontz has gone off the deep end. The House at the End of the World is his COVID book. He mentions the COVID pandemic several times in the past tense, and it’s made pretty obvious that he thinks the whole thing is a conspiracy cooked up by the government and scientists.

Lindblom is obviously among those naive souls who believe what authorities tell them in the name of science. These days, “science” is often nothing more than a cover story.

I did some research to figure out where all of this is coming from. Koontz touts himself to be a Libertarian. At one time, before he found success as an author, he worked as an English teacher in a high school, and for the Appalachian Poverty Program. His impression from that was that the program, while well-intentioned, was merely a dumping ground for violent children and most of the funding “disappeared somewhere.” In an interview in 1996, he stated, “I realized that most of these programs are not meant to help anyone, merely to control people and make them dependent. I was forced to reconsider everything I’d once believed. I developed a profound distrust of government regardless of the philosophy of the people in power. I remained a liberal on civil-rights issues, became a conservative on defense, and a semi-libertarian on all other matters.”

I think the past might be our future, that we’re busy laying the groundwork for new Dachaus, new Auschwitzes, all in the name of compassion, progress, justice, prosperity.

After reading The House at the End of the World, I’d say he’s become a full-scale conspiracy theorist. His politics bleeds through on every page, and it’s a condemnation of a government and science that he sees as both sinister and controlling, as well as completely incompetent. I don’t see how those can coexist. However, Koontz sees no problem with that.

She isn’t a survivalist, but she intends to survive. She’s not a prepper, though she makes preparations.

We are introduced to Katie, a woman in her mid-twenties who lives alone on an island in a very large lake. I’d guess one of the Great Lakes by the description, especially since it includes commercial shipping, but the geography doesn’t make sense later on in the book, which paints a long drive from the area of this island to Ohio and Kentucky. Koonts describes the location of these islands as an archipelago. I’ve never heard of islands in a lake described as that. My guess is that he’s talking about upstate New York in an effort to take a swipe at “East Coast liberals.”

She mocks herself by using the word armory. Unloaded and propped in one corner are a pistol-grip pump-action 12-gauge shotgun and an AR-15 that is often called an assault rifle by people who don’t know anything about guns. She also keeps a substantial supply of ammunition for each weapon.

Here’s a hint: Katie is both a survivalist and a prepper. She has food stores in the basement that include items that would be the envy of every survivalist out there. The home has secret compartments that shield anyone who might enter from the knowledge of what’s contained within.

This last redoubt now contains two long rows of eight-foot-high shelves that she assembled herself from kits that were delivered from the mainland by Hockenberry Marine Services. They are stocked with scores of three-gallon hermetically sealed cans of freeze-dried food, twelve hundred bottles of water in forty-unit shrink packs, a thousand candles, and other basic supplies needed to ride out a two-year pandemic worse than Covid-19, a collapse of the electric grid, or another crisis that might prevent her from acquiring anything from the mainland for an extended period.

Let’s make it clear: she lives on an island in a lake by herself. There are no other humans on the island. One can only reach the island by boat. She calls in orders to the marina who then drops it on the dock by her boathouse. She’s gone two years without any contact with people, except a girl on the island a half-mile away that she occasionally sees and waves to. That’s it. She locks her door as if an army is coming to invade at any moment. Koontz mentions more times than is necessary that it’s made of 3-inch oak. Yet, despite this, she keeps loaded guns all around, including an AR-15.

In addition to a few knives that serve culinary purposes, the drawer contains a 9 mm Glock pistol. She stashes the gun here, in addition to another in a bedroom nightstand, in case of a crisis that unfolds too rapidly for her to get to the weapons in her studio.

Katie suffered a traumatic event. I didn’t learn exactly what it was until about midway through.


Her parents and two daughters were killed by three gang-bangers intending to send a message to the owners of an ice cream parlor they happened to be at. One of the killers is the son of a Senator who is headed for the Presidency, so the crime was covered up. The three never served any jail time and everything was hushed up.

Suffice it to say, that is total bullshit. Is this Koontz’s “Hunter Biden” reference? Because yeah, they can’t even stop Faux News and others from blathering on about nothing there, but we’re supposed to buy that a Senator’s son committed a mass murder and he’s just sent away and it’s erased from the public psyche. Her husband, Avi, was a former Marine who started his own security company after leaving the service. He tries to get someone to pay attention to what’s happening, but he’s conveniently killed, but not before asking Katie to make him a promise to live.

Beyond the fact that we have to believe the government would go to these great lengths to protect a potential Presidential candidate (yeah, no), we also have to believe that they can silence people at will and infiltrate everywhere Avi or Katie tries to get someone to pay attention. Talk to journalists? They are killed or mysteriously disappear. Katie goes to an attorney to talk about a civil suit? The attorney is part of the conspiracy. We are also supposed to believe those involved never talk about it – never have a touch of conscience that leads them to reach out about it.

She does not believe that scientists are always honest, that rapidly advancing technology will inevitably save us, that everything that is called “progress” is in fact progress. She knows that “experts” are often frauds, that “intellectuals” can be as ignorant as anyone, and that those who most strenuously signal their virtue and are celebrated for it will always prove to be among the most corrupt.

So you can’t trust the government and you can’t trust scientists. Who do you trust? The guy on YouTube who insists the New World Order is being built under Denver Airport? (Seriously, there are people who believe this. And I’d put them in the same category as Koontz after reading this book.)

The scientists come in due to another island about a mile away from Jacob’s Ladder (what Katie calls her island). Ringrock has a government facility on it. It’s stated that it’s part of the EPA, but Katie believes that’s a cover because of course it is.

Let’s look at the logic of this. You have a facility that’s on an island in a large lake where commercial shipping routes are. To be one of the Great Lakes, it would have to border Canada. Yet, Canada is never mentioned. Wouldn’t they be aware of a government facility near their border, even if it’s “only” an EPA facility? Wouldn’t they also be interested in whatever research is going on there because it could affect their side of the lake as well? Then you have a woman whose whole family was killed by “the government” in one form or another. When she visits the lawyer, he actually tells her to go buy that house on the lake. Why would the government actually encourage someone they see as a threat to move right next to their super-secret research facility? Wouldn’t that be her first clue not to move to that island?

Paranoia can be a serious mental illness.

Yes, yes it can. Only it’s not really paranoia if they are out to get you, right?

The CDC had often indirectly funded such legally prohibited work at foreign laboratories, eventually resulting in an accidental leak and a global pandemic.

And there you have it. The government put a biological research facility in China and it leaked the COVID virus.

So what’s really going on at Ringrock? There are scientists there working with an organism that was brought back by astronauts on the International Space Station. They believe the organism could be the secret to eternal life, the cure for cancer, etc. Just in case, however, there’s a nuke buried somewhere on the island.

One night, Katie is awakened by explosions in the water. She sees boats in the water between Jacob’s Ladder and Ringrock dropping depth charges. Later, when she tries to get back to sleep, she hears drones over her island. She takes one of her guns outside and tries to shoot them down. Because, of course she does.

They were individuals of great learning and no prudence, their imagination enfeebled by the limitation of their dreaming to fantasies of power and utopian glory.

We see the scientists of Ringrock through the eyes of Libby. She’s a precocious 14-year-old daughter of two of the scientists there, who lives on the next island and whom Katie occasionally waves to. She’s a homeschooled genius and an ax-thrower. A skill that’s sure to be worthwhile when the organism escapes Ringrock and threatens the zombie apocalypse.

The two eventually get together, of course, and it’s just in time as Libby knows what’s going on from having hacked her father’s computer and tells Libby that destruction is imminent.

“You think they’ll admit the bomb was theirs? Why wouldn’t they blame it on a terrorist? Invent a whole different story about what research was being done on Ringrock, make it something that one group of crazies or another would want to blow up.”

There are some 9/11 conspiracies thrown in just for the hell of it. The book is a bit of a thriller, with Katie and Libby trying to get off of Jacob’s Ladder, back to the mainland, and far, far away from it all. Of course, they have a conscience where no one else does, and when they see signs it has spread to the mainland in one man, they must do something about it.

Nonna Giana frowns. “What president?” “Of the United States. He’s—” “A simpleton.” “Yes.” “But our simpleton.” “You don’t even vote.” “They can steal it without me.”

Let’s throw in election conspiracies as well! Have we got them all now? I need to go to my checklist….

In the aftermath of the explosion, with fear rampant and the authorities suspicious of everyone old enough to walk, anyone who openly carries a gun will likely be forced to surrender it or use it.

There it is! The government is doing it all to take everyone’s guns.

The House at the End of the World has an audience in survivalists, preppers, conspiracy theorists, and that’s about it. I will never pick up another Dean Koontz book in my lifetime.

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