on 25 September 2004
Its not often I read a book by DK, but when I do I am often very impressed and wonder why I haven't read more of his books more often. This book excelled all my expectations. The very core concept is similar to a film by M. Night Shymalan, but then it veers off into a totally new direction and has a lot more depth and he makes it his own. The characters are very rich, and so very human and terribly flawed, you empathise with the main character but dont pity him as in a strange way he is sort of everyman who just wants to fit in and live a quiet life, but circumstances and powers beyond his control have conspired to make his life interesting. The author also manages to keep you guessing as just when you think you know, there is another twist, and then something you think you knew already is turned on its head. I think the book is outstanding and cant recommend it enough as a good read that I flew through in a few days, but then slowed down as I wanted to savour it more. I could have spent hours just reading about all the weird ghosts in the town, but leaving me wanting more is definately a good thing. I'm going to break the habit and find another of his books to read sooner rather than later.
on 2 February 2004
I've been a BIG DK fan for years now and have ALL his (post-sci-fi period) novels. I love most things he's done, but usually there is a small thing that I would criticize - in recent times his novels seem to have got longer and with slightly disappointing endings. Perhaps it has something to do with the contrast between this book and his last, The Face - which I thought was disappointing, that makes this book all the better, but nevertheless - THIS book is the BEST Dean Koontz novel EVER. It is so easy to read, so compelling, so exciting and compulsive. The characters are all great. It keeps you gasping in shock and surprise with every turn of the page, and all my attempted guesses at what was happening were wrong. I liked that it was written in the first person, and found it very easy to read with a light-hearted comedic style. The ending was so surprising and had me in tears. My ONLY criticism, and it's not really a criticism, is that some things weren't explained properly - I appreciate that some things are unexplainable, that's the whole point - but I would have liked to understand what was going with the 'time-jump' experience in Robertson's house, since it was one of the best parts of the story. Also, Dean - what is it with you and these ridiculously stupid names these days!? It makes me laugh though. Odd Thomas is both a loveable character and a loveable book. Odd himself is reminiscent of Christopher Snow (from the Moonlight Bay trilogy). To sum up, I must say that my friends have sometimes asked me to recommend them one of Dean's books to get them into his work, since I often sing his praises to the world. I can never think of one that is exactly right, but now the world has ODD THOMAS, which is a masterpiece and should be read by everyone.
Having discovered that Dean Koontz wasn't the generic horror scribe I'd always assumed he was I have ended up reading pretty much everything he's put out, and it never ceases to amaze me how diverse a writer he is. With "Odd Thomas" Koontz is back in an oddly (sorry) humorous frame of mind, despite the sometimes heavy nature of the story; a greasy spoon cook with two talents and a strange name, the first of his special gifts relates to the grill and the second to communicating with the dead. Odd spends his time between helping the dead settle old scores (a little bit "Sixth Sense"-y) and hanging about with Elvis (yes, the dead one) and his soul-mate - Stormy Llewellyn - until one day the dung really hits the fan. If you liked "Life Expectancy" you will love this, its funny, very sad and a pretty snazzy page turner to boot. By the way five stars are for absolute masterpieces and this is a tad shy of that accolade.
on 8 March 2007
Dean Koontz is at his best when he starts writing about the paranormal and nowhere is that more evident than here where we have a character called Odd who sees dead things and has a girlfriend called Stormy.
Its so bizarre but its great, we see the world through Odd's eyes and its genuinely hilarious, the plot is excellent, unpredictable and never gets dull for a moment, and its not hard to see why Odd was brought back by popular demand.
Dean Koontz's stories may have evolved a lot from the style he had on the classics like Midnight, Lightning and Strangers but this stands out as one of his best books of recent years.
on 9 September 2012
From looking across the internet, ODD THOMAS appears to be one of Koontz' most loved books and one of his best reviewed. Several people on Amazon declare it to be the best book they've ever read, and it was clearly financially successful as Koontz has now produced a whole string of novels featuring the same character.
But personally, I just don't understand why people seem to love this ridiculous and poorly paced novel.
Odd Thomas is a short-order fry cook who can see dead people. He also sees `bodachs', shadowy hyena-type creatures who seem to turn up at scenes of past or impending violence, and so when he sees dozens of them milling around his home town of Pico Mundo he knows that there is some seriously bad stuff about to happen. The bodachs are particularly following one guy around, a guy whom Odd follows and discovers that he is planning some kind of atrocity for the following day. So it goes that Odd wanders around the town, warning his friends and neighbours to stay at home tomorrow, while also trying to solve the mystery of what and where the violence will occur.
Sounds quite good, doesn't it, but the plot is only the first thing wrong with this very odd book. The set-up of the story is fine. It's all a bit Sixth Sense but to a regular reader of Koontz, this is no problem. Seeing, and helping, the dead is fair enough, but when the main character regularly sees and spends time with the ghost of Elvis Presley, for no clear particular reason, the whole concept gets ridiculous. And all this only detracts from a very jumpy plot; the first hundred or so pages set up the situation, and there's around forty pages of flat climax, but all the space in the middle is taken up with Odd wandering around town, meeting various people, driving here and driving there, some ill-explained gubbins about a time-travel room, and some of the most grammatically perfect yet viscous prose that I've ever had to wade through;
"The air flash-dried my lips and brought to me that summer scent of desert towns that is a melange of superheated silica, cactus pollen, mesquite resin, the salts of long-dead seas, and exhaust fumes suspended in the motionless dry air like faint nebulae of mineral particles spiralling through rock crystal."
In his earlier books, Koontz has never written like this, but it seems increasingly in the late 90's and afterward that some kind of literary pretensions have crept into what used to be fast moving and engaging stories. His dialogue, too, has been upgraded and enhanced, meaning that now it is incredibly stilted and too clever by half. Normal people, even in fiction, don't speak like this:
"I've listened with my heart for so long I've periodically had to swab earwax out of my aortal valve."
It gets worse; the dialogue comes out of the mouths of terrible, unbelievable characters that are either too sickly sacharrine sweet or are overly hysterically psychotic. Is Mr Koontz's real world populated with these kinds of people?
I could go on; the tone of the book is lost on me, its too cheery in tone to be disquieting, and too unrealistic to compel; there is a ticking clock, a shadow over the town, a madman on the loose and forgettable secondary characters have pace-killing conversations about literature or cooking methods. In the last fifth of the book, when it should be tightening up towards a conclusion, there are lengthy characterisations of Odd's parents. To be fair, these are fairly well observed but completely upset what little momentum the book had. The climax, when it comes, is fast and underwhelming; ODD THOMAS is a book of build-up, with scant returns in pay-off. Generally, I found it to be a novel that seemed to try very hard in putting the reader off; I had to almost fight with the book to finish it.
I have a few good things to say, but usually with disclaimers; the plot is quite interesting, but there's just too much running around. The bodachs seem like excellent and atmospheric creatures but they are very under-explained, as is the time-travel room. I liked very much a small portion in the middle of the book, an exciting and well-written part about a face-off with cayotes in the desert.
I do enjoy Koontz' books, but I definitely believe he did his best work before the mid nineties. Novels like LIGHTNING, MIDNIGHT and THE VOICE OF THE NIGHT are all very good reads. ODD THOMAS, I found, was a difficult-to-pick-up mixed up novel that was hard to read and even harder to digest. I believe that the `shock' sad ending has coloured people's memories of this book, and they have remembered it much better than it actually is. 5/10