The Funhouse by Dean Koontz

(No Series)

Once there was a girl who ran away and joined a traveling carnival. She married a man she grew to hate - and gave birth to a child she could never love. A child so monstrous that she killed it with her own hands…Twenty-five years later, Ellen Harper has a new life, a new husband, and two normal children - Joey loves monster movies and Amy is about to graduate from high school. But their mother drowns her secret guilt in alcohol and prayer. The time has come for Amy and Joey to pay for her sins…And the carnival is coming back to town.

The carnival is always a unique, exciting setting for any horror novel. Amidst all the freaks, gloomy funhouses, maniacally grinning clowns, and … well, candy, there’s a man with a mission. To seek out and destroy his ex-wife’s children, the ex-wife who had taken away his own mutated son. Besides this juicy tidbit, there’s also a misled creature that delights in killing innocent men and raping/shredding apart women in each town it visits.

One thing that really made The Funhouse work was the characterization. Their lives were so rich, so deep, I truly cared and believed. Each one had their own internal struggle going on. Each one with their own personal demons to slay, their unique hurdles to stumble over, and their ultimate prices to pay.

The characters are the meat behind The Funhouse.

The atmosphere is a bit hard to explain. Below everything there is a seemingly endless sense of desperation, a struggle to sniff out what is right and what is wrong. To overcome the miserable lives led and make things better for themselves.

In short, the atmosphere is bleak, dark, and at times depressing -- but in the end uplifting and hopeful.

Amy is a strong heroine to latch on to. A typical teenage girl in a chaotic household, she longs for acceptance, excitement, change…but is also afraid of all those things, for she has secrets fears that her mother may be right - she really may be evil. Little Joey is adorable and I felt incredibly bad for him at several moments in the story. He’s a realistic little kid and I loved seeing through his young, impressionable eyes. The mother, Ellen, was just as enjoyable to read through, but unlike some of the others, not quite “fun”. Being in her mind was like walking on a psychological tight rope. Conrad is a unique enough villain of a man, but I would have enjoyed finding out a bit more on him. He was driven purely by hate and the lust for revenge, and that’s all Koontz really allowed him to show.

The pace is heady with it’s strength; just the beginning alone may get you high off the fumes of desperation and depression. It plunges into the abyss of despair immediately, does a few bumps and curves along the way, but never raises high enough so that you can feel the sun shining full force on your face.

Koontz’s style changes a bit from some books; here he writes well, enhances his characters to an amazing degree, describes things with fine detail but not overly so to where it becomes repetitive, and take care to allow terror to shine through when it should.

The Funhouse beams with an incredible array of colors. The ending is a bit of a let down, but that can be overlooked when it‘s all added together. When the last door of the carnival is locked, every last mark has gone home and is now safely snug in their beds, The Funhouse gets the rating of an event akin to sitting on an intense roller coaster that delivers all it originally promised.