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Dean Koontz is back --- not that he ever left. I am referring to the fact that his latest effort is a technothriller, which for me fondly recalls Koontz in his early days. If you've been reading his work since the early 1970s, as I have, you will recognize that he made his name initially with outstanding science fiction and suspense/horror. ELSEWHERE is a clear shout-out to those days, and it thrilled me as I eagerly turned each page.

A subject like parallel universes would be a plot element of older Koontz tales, and it is firmly evident here as the action takes place over multiple versions of Earth. This makes for quite the suspenseful story and allows Koontz to do whatever he likes, no matter how outlandish.

Early in the book, Jeffy Coltrane is talking with his 11-year-old daughter, Amity, about how they live on a kind of time machine. Part of the planet is in the present, part in the past and part in the future. It's an ironic discussion as we understand that this is a novel about a form of time travel involving multiple realities. One day while walking home, Jeffy leaves Amity to chat with the homeless man she refers to as “Mr. Spooky.” It turns out that Mr. Spooky’s name is Ed, and Jeffy always enjoys talking to him. This time, though, is different. Ed seems disturbed and claims that he is being hunted. At the end of their conversation, he hands Jeffy a box with something he refers to as "the key to everything.” Ed then makes Jeffy swear that he will never touch it or do anything with it.

"This is a genre-busting work that happily will appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers, horror, sci-fi or just a flat-out well-told story with a breakneck pace that never lets up."

Not long after that exchange, Jeffy and Amity receive a knock on their door from John Falkirk of the National Security Agency. He has a slew of questions about a man named Ed Harkenbach, which Jeffy handles by saying that he may have seen him in passing. Jeffy realizes that what Ed has given him may be extremely valuable, and he and Amity are curious to see what it looks like. "The key to everything” resembles a TV remote, and touching it yields a silvery glimmer. Their entire house seems to shine as two buttons stand out. Almost as quickly as it starts, the glimmer fades and their home is back to normal again.

As they examine the device, they now see three buttons on it: HOME, SELECT, RETURN. Jeffy and Amity still have no idea what that means, but based on Jeffy's many discussions with Ed and their meeting with Falkirk, they assume that they are holding something that gives them entry into other versions of their Earth. Now the possibilities for them are endless, but their main goal is always to reconnect their family as Jeffy's wife and Amity's mother, Michelle, walked out on them seven years earlier. Perhaps in another universe, they all can be together once again.

Jeffy and Amity begin messing around with the key, and this is where the book really takes off. As they jump from dimension to dimension, they find that some are similar to theirs and some scarily opposite. In one dimension, it appears that their world is under some kind of totalitarian lockdown, and they are immediately targeted as infidels who must be caught. They soon realize that Falkirk exists as their archenemy in each dimension, and they cannot risk letting the key fall into his hands. What would be best is to locate Ed in another dimension and gain his assistance.

They find a version of Michelle in one dimension, but she is married to a man Jeffy could not stand in his reality. The two have a son named Rudy, who immediately can tell that Amity doesn't belong and blows the whistle on them. Throughout the novel, Koontz builds up just as much frustration as he does suspense, which takes the narrative to the next level. The most frightening reality that Jeffy and Amity find is one in which it appears that all of humanity has been wiped out. Inside what looks to be a luxury hotel, they find piles upon piles of human skeletal remains. They later learn that, much like the Terminator films, mankind has been eradicated by artificial intelligence machines and they are still out there looking to strip the skin off the bones of any living thing. This is truly terrifying and perhaps one of the darkest bits that Koontz has ever written.

Dean Koontz has never been one to craft a completely unhappy ending, and the same is true with ELSEWHERE. Things do wrap up in a very satisfying manner, but it is quite a wild ride to get there. This is a genre-busting work that happily will appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers, horror, sci-fi or just a flat-out well-told story with a breakneck pace that never lets up.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 9, 2020

by Dean Koontz

  • Publication Date: March 23, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1542019877
  • ISBN-13: 9781542019873