Thomas & Mercer
October 6, 2020
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Dean Koontz has been a favorite author of mine for decades. One would think that after all this time he would have exhausted his topics for terror – but that is not so. Elsewhere is the exploration of parallel worlds, or the multiverse. Koontz has toyed with this to this theme for before, like in From the Corner of His Eye or his Frankenstein series. But this time, it is much more in depth.
Jeffrey “Jeffy” Coltrane lives with his daughter, Amity, in Suavidad Beach – a fictionalized version of Laguna Beach, California. Jeffy’s wife, Michelle had left them many years before, and the little family of two were doing pretty well. Jeffy sometimes talks to local eccentric “Spooky Ed”. One day Ed gives him a package telling him never to open it, and certainly never use what is inside, what he calls the “Key to Everything”. Moments later, the NSA invades their home. Jeffy opens the package to hide the contents more easily. It is in about the size of a smartphone, or remote control. They accidentally activate the device and Jeffy and Amity are immediately transported – elsewhere. It takes a bit of figuring, but they determine that they are on Earth 1.13, an alternate timeline in which America has become a fascist state. They are hunted down and return home just in the nick of time, but not without bringing an unexpected passenger.
“Elsewhere” is a science-fiction thriller in a contemporary setting, with an emphasis on family ties. The “Key to Everything” is a good McGuffin. The characters are likeable and it’s easy to become caught up in their story. The antagonist, government agent, John Falkirk, reminds me of the Agent Smith from the Matrix. Jeffy is a normal guy who ends up in abnormal circumstances. Amity is different from the children Koontz had previously written about in his stories. She is still more mature than her age would suggest, but she is also a real child. Attitude and all. The chapters alternate regularly between the characters, so the reader has multiple perspectives on the multiverse.
This is a very exciting story. I finished the book in one go – really didn’t want to put it down. Koontz makes very clear use of this rule in this story: always let the worst happen to your characters. Fortunately, Jeffy and Amity get help, because they do need it. But in the end, Koontz comes through and brings us a satisfying finish.