***If spoilers trouble you, skip this review***

Odd Thomas

Good God, I loved this book.  The premise was what hooked me.  That is typically the primary selling point for me.  If the concept is good, I will give the book a try.  Sometimes, the execution of said concept fails to deliver, but this book is not one of those debacles, though it skirts the edge of credulity due to Koontz’s proclivity toward spectacle.

In the book, we meet Odd Thomas.  He seems to be your above average fry cook, but in his off hours – and sometimes during his on hours, too – he sees dead people.  These people tend to want something from Odd, whether it be justice (i. e.: murder victims) or companionship (i. e.: a certain King of Rock & Roll).  Odd is whip-smart and self-deprecating as he narrates his story and, as is typical of Koontz, has a host of colorful side characters in his life.

The humor in this book reminded me very much of “The Dresden Files.”  I found myself going beyond enjoying the story and falling in love with the voice of Odd Thomas himself.  He has a way with words so much that I often found myself forgetting that this was a character written by Dean Koontz.  I thought of him as an entity unto himself, which is the highest compliment any writer can receive.

The plot itself is where I found the primary snarl, though it was a small one.  It’s as though Koontz sincerely wanted to write a story about this bizarre kid with the ability to see the dead, but figured it would never sell unless the story had that BANG, POW, and ZIP that Koontz fans have come to expect.  Thus, the simple murder investigation escalates into a hunt for a potential mass murderer and ends up ***SPOILER ALERT*** being a desperate search for a team of mass murderers intent on killing everyone at a mall.

I follow the KISS Principle when I read books.  In this case, the main character and his quest are so compelling that I gave the over-escalation a chance and was thrilled to have done so.  The story paid off in ways I could have never imagined, though not everyone lived happily ever after.  I think my love of certain characters was substantially boosted due to how they dealt with the aftermath of the story.

So, when I finished the first book, I immediately jumped to the next one in the series.

Forever Odd

If you have watched other Keanu Reeves movies, you will perhaps remember watching The Matrix for the first time.  Maybe you even found yourself thinking, “Wow!  Keanu is actually doing a good job in this flick.”  It was refreshing to see him actually acting and not falling into his typical Ted Theodore Logan antics.

Then came the scene where Morpheus jumped from one building to another with impossible ease.  We all waited with bated breath to see what Keanu would do.  Would he have that Keanu Moment and let Ted slip out?

Then he tilted his head and said it.

“Woah…”

Oh Keanu.  You had to let Ted out, if only for a moment.  So sad.

That was what “Forever Odd” felt like to me.

***Do I need to keep warning about spoilers?***

It started out simple enough, but quickly escalated into this farce about some sincerely screwed-up woman who desperately wanted to see a ghost.  She needs this so bad that she searched out Odd, kidnapped a close friend who was never mentioned in the first book, and held him captive to draw Odd out.  Oh, and this friend has brittle bone disease, so he can’t run.  Oh yeah, she also knows everything about Odd and can almost predict his every move with startling accuracy.

Still, it was a fun book.  I had to swallow the premise like a dose of bad medicine to get the healing goodness of Odd Thomas himself, but it was great to see Odd again.  It felt like that really good friend who you love hanging out with, but he keeps bringing his horrid girlfriend with him.  Then you have to put up with her to hang with your buddy.  But I digress.

Brother Odd

I thought that this would be the book to get the series back on track.  The setting and premise was simple enough: Odd feels the need to escape from life for a time and goes to St. Bartholomew’s Abbey for a little R&R.  While there, chaos ensues, proving that Odd can not run from his gift.  Sounds simple, right?

***Enter Spoilers***

You know that moment in Batman Forever where you finally knew that they were never going to take that particular Batman franchise seriously?  This was that revelation for the Odd Thomas series.  One of the monks is a former physicist who has created a computer model of the innermost fabric of reality.  He creates bone monsters and a Grim Reaper to attack Odd and the other monks, one of whom is a former mobster called Brother Knuckles.

Oh, and Elvis crosses over, which would be sweet, except that he is replaced by… Frank Sinatra.  BANG!  POW!  WOWZERS! Yeesh…

I started to read the next in the series, “Odd Hours.”  I read the Wikipedia article about it and decided that discretion was, indeed, the better part of valor.  I ran for it with my tail between my legs lest the proposed plot completely ruin the entire series in much the same way that “Batman & Robin” ruined my memories of the Batman franchise up until that point.

Oh, the humanity!

So here I am, the aspiring novelist casting aspersions on a well-known novelist.  Brilliant tactic, right?  Well, fear not, true believer.  Next up is my thoughts on “The Husband.”  Here’s a hint: I liked that book quite a bit.

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Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

~ E.L. Doctorow

 

Listening to: Weezer – Freak Me Out

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