I wanted to like The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen. I really did. On the surface it has everything I love. A young couple, pushed by financial necessity, moves into a house with a bloody past. Something awful hides in the basement. Slowly but surely, their lives fall apart as evil takes over. The problem is that, aside from some minor cosmetics, the book just brings nothing new to the table.
The entire story read as a thinly, very thinly, veiled tale of drug addiction and the destruction it wreaks. Unfortunately, the story follows that metaphor too closely, and to it’s inevitable end. This is a book where you know the ending almost from the first page, because it is rendered so, so horribly clear, and yet the characters seem powerless to step away from their own demise.
Compounding the problem of predictability and an uninspired plot is that throughout the book, the characters never really seem to establish who they are. Were they better realized, I might have cared more as the world fell apart around them. As it is, I felt like I was watching cardboard cutouts meant to represent people go through the motions of an after-school special about why you shouldn’t start skin-popping heroin.
If you are hard up for something to read, and you want a predictable, but slightly creepy, take on the “don’t go in the basement” trope, grab a copy of The Chrysalis. Otherwise, I must regretfully say, there’s nothing in this basement you haven’t seen before. Save your time. Save your money.