Jumpdrives & Cantrips

Odd Thomas
February 27, 2008, 2119
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Odd ThomasDean Koontz: ten books on the New York Times bestseller list, books stocked in convenience and grocery stores, plus an exceedingly recognizable name. Do you think I’ve read anything by him before this? You’d think so, but somehow I managed to bypass the fictionary juggernaut that is Dean Koontz. And I admit, I’m enough of a comics geek that my main interest is in the graphic novel/manga I have heard buzz about (an Odd Thomas series prequel and the Dabel Bros.’ Frankenstein). So when I had a chance to read a Big Name, I figured maybe it was time.

Odd Thomas started off what will be a four-book series with graphic novels, short films, and mucho merchandise as of May this year. It seems the books are popular. Part of the popularity, I think, can be attributed to a certain twenty-year-old short order cook, Odd Thomas, who is the titular narrator. As a character, he pulled me into his story with his honesty, humble nature, and humour. At times he describes himself as an unreliable narrator, His distinctive voice is that of an everyman, albeit one that is set apart by his ability to see the dead. Oh, and has an occasionally-tearful but dead Elvis following him around.

The plot, when it comes down to it, is relatively simple. Odd sees a man–who he soon dubs “Fungus Man”–surrounded by evil spirits that feed on violence and malicious behaviour. Odd calls these spirits bodachs, and they continue to populate the pages, usually as harbingers of potentially-avertable doom. Being the lovable protagonist that he is, he attempts to find out what evil plot Fungus Man happens to be hatching so he can prevent it. Soon Odd has put his friends and girlfriend in inadvertent danger, and he finds out there’s more to fear than he thought possible.

Koontz writes textbook thriller/suspense structure, and nearly every chapter has some “cliffhanger” to keep you reading. But that doesn’t mean it all ties together, despite the rhythmic flow. For example, Odd explores Fungus Man’s abode, entering a curious time-warp within the room, not once, but twice, after which the time change mechanism disappears from the room. This leaves a normal room, and those two instances never influence the story again. Personally, I don’t really see why this portion was included, unless it plays a role in a later book, because it has no explicit purpose.

The secondary characters are nearly more fascinating than Odd himself, and fit into the book like a worn in pair of runners. The afore-mentioned ghostly Elvis is just the beginning of the eccentricities, although I have to say, the dead Elvis as a vampire or ghost or what-have-you is starting to get really tired. Beyond character, Koontz’ writing flows smooth as can be,and even has the right amount of humour, but there was something missing. I suspect the book neglects asking some of the big questions that come up through the story. Being a series, I doubt all of those questions (life, the universe, and everything) were within the scope of the first book, but I hope they will be woven into the following volumes.

Overall, Odd Thomas is a nice fast read to wile away an evening (or few, depending on your reading speed) with fascinating characters, but nothing ground-breaking or terribly insightful. I can say that I was a little disappointed with the plot’s simplicity and the holes left in the book, but Dean Koontz is clearly a man who knows his craft, and his sales sure show it.

Koontz, Dean. Odd Thomas. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003. 302 pages. A gift–mass market runs $11.99 (Canadian).


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Odd Thomas…

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