Ellen left her family at nineteen to run off with a carnie, sick of her mother’s religious fanaticism and aching for a chance at a different life. At first, this new life is sweet, but barely a year later she comes to regret her escape, stuck with a husband who flies into uncontrollable rages and a child that she is sure is the work of Satan. The malformed ting that glares at her with eyes that shine with an evil intelligence must be her punishment for her sins. Horrified by the sight of such a child, Ellen does the unthinkable, and after runs away, vowing to put it all behind her. Twenty years, a different marriage, and two children later, she still hasn’t quite managed to do so. Haunted by the memory of her first child, Ellen buries her guild and fear in religion and booze, managing in the process to become an even worse tyrant than her mother. But Ellen’s past has not been idle this past twenty years. It has been looking for her, and it is about to catch up. The carnival is coming to town, and evil has been waiting to exact it’s revenge.
Not typically a Koontz fan, but I thought I’d give it a shot, and it was…okay. I actually really enjoyed the bits between Ellen and her kids, because they showed how far in the other direction she’d gone since leaving the carnival. Also, Amy’s struggle with her own sense of guilt and the conflict between how others saw her and how she wanted to see herself was very well done. The revenge plot was pointless and poorly done, though Connor’s obsession with Ellen was interesting. The problem was that it started too late, late enough that it felt far too rushed and therefore uninteresting, or like it was shoved in to fit the “horror” part, when what Koontz was really writing was a character study of sorts. Also, the random Help From God at the end was odd and felt shoehorned into the book, a spiritual deus ex machina to get the protagonists out of the funhouse and with their lives. Basically this was a read that you forget about nearly as soon as you put it down. I have to admit that I lost some respect for him after reading the afterword, as well, where he basically says that the movie that was supposed to be a companion to his novel (he was hired to write the book for the movie, actually) torched his sales because it wasn’t as good as his novel. One, I’ve seen the movie, and though it doesn’t follow the novel at all, it’s quality is about the same. Not great, but not necessarily bad. Second, way to be a dick, Koontz. Stay classy.