Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: The Isle of Shapeshifters by Otto Coontz

A daunting task lies ahead of me, one comparable to climbing Mount Everest or cleaning my basement... reading the books I have on my bookcases.  It's even more daunting because I'm adding more and more books every week.  Favorite authors, intriguing book covers, sizes and shapes, all of them crying out "Read Me!" like a piece of candy to Alice, before she inevitably shrinks or grows, or a cat meowing at an animal shelter.  So when I finish the last page of one book, I venture toward those bookcases and see which one meows at me the most.  Now, most of my books are stacked horizontally, so top ones get preference (cause I'm usually on the way to wait in a line or go to work.), and they're double stacked, so front also gets first shot.  So I pulled one off my shelves and took it to work.  It's a book called Isle of the Shapeshifters by Otto Coontz.

You certainly can't have a last name like "Coontz" and not be expected to write something akin to Horror.  Turns out, this particular book reminds me of Dean Koontz' writing, especially like his book The Taking.  It also is very typical of  the B-list horror movies that came out in the 70's and 80's.  The setting often becomes as much a character as any of the people.  It rains when bad things happen, wind, fog, earthquakes... a pathetic fallacy where nature becomes sentient, (although, in this book, it's actually controlled by the people living on the island.)  Mix that in with very well created characters, and description of the island that was amazing, and you have a great book.

After I finished the novel, I went to Google Maps and took at satellite tour of Nantucket Island, and it's exactly as Coontz described it in the novel.  Even today, so far removed from 1983, when the book was written, Nantucket is a desolate area with tourists and the local people living on certain parts of the island, but with an astonishing lack of resorts, casinos, and nature-wrecking buildings.  You could easily step back in time (as the book did) and see how the original natives of the island lived, as well as the fisherman that have made the place their home for years.

I certainly understood the ending, I just didn't have to like it. The main character, Theo, is on vacation on the island, as an invitation from the "fan club" of her vein soap opera star stepmother (typical stereotype, but it works). On the island, she meets Kip, who takes care of his elderly grandmother and whose dad works at the Oceanography center on the island. Together Kip and Theo explore the island, becoming interested in the Native American markings found on the rocks in the Moors and also on the strange pendent given to Theo by "the fan club." Little does she know it's an amulet that will draw the power she has inherited from her ancestors. Kip discovers the link, but can he save her before those that wish to use that power carry out their plans? The end doesn't tie all the ends together, as Theo leaves without even telling Kip good-bye. It feels like one of those Law & Order episodes where it ends without a satisfactory last note, like a song ending on something other than DO. It's why, when I put the star rating on this book, it only gets four out of five. Nothing I just said will spoil anything in the book, but you end up thinking, "A great book, if only...." This book is more than likely out of print, but it should be easy to find online or at used bookstores. I do recommend it for young adults, especially those that like things a little scary.

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