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 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.
on 27 May 2006
This has to be one of my favourite books! I don't know about you, but don't you hate it when you read a book and you don't really care about the characters! Well "Odd Thomas" is so well written and you just have to keep turning the pages to see what's going to happen to Odd next. This book is exciting and one of the few books to make me cry - AND laugh(out loud)!
Once you've read it, if you're anything like me, you'll be overjoyed to discover that Dean Koontz has finally written a follow- up to this story! Add "Forever Odd" to your 'Amazon Wishlist' NOW!
and decided to buy the book.
Odd Thomas can see dead people and can also predict large scale catastrophes. When he starts seeing what he calls Budachs, then he knows there is going to be a massacre somewhere as these otherworldly horrors always gravitate towards death.
He has helped the local Police Chief lots of times in the past but when the Chief gets shot, Odd realises that there is more here than meets the eye. He must work fast to find out where the next incident will be to save his girlfriend, their friends and many unknown people.
Well written and fast paced so you don't get bored. Highly recommended if you like this genre.
on 13 August 2004
I have read many of Koontz's books and to be honest have felt that the last couple he's printed off the conveyor belt have been missing a little something.
Wow - was I impressed with this. I was hooked from the very first chapter as the introduction of the book took me by such suprise I actually had to put it down and read it again. The characters are easy to warm to and dislike respectively and the story is flowing and engaging. I read this more or less in one sitting and I really would not like to spoil this for anyone by giving away any of the plot.
Be warned though - I had to re-read the last chapter I was so stunned by the ending. Again, saying too much will spoil it.
If you haven't read any books by Koontz then this is a very good place to start and seasoned readers will definitely not be disapointed.
Review summary: If you want a fast-paced, easy-to-read supernatural thriller that hits you a bit like the sweet, mad lovechild of Dexter and Buffy, then this coud well be just the thing for you. It didn't quite hit the spot for a number of reasons, personally. Detail follows:
The central character is a lovely creation: Odd Thomas, a 20-year-old psychic loner who sees dead people but is offbeat enough about it to apply a grim sense of humour to even the grisliest of events; he's used to weird stuff happening. He's got a good heart, with a hard-boiled center; there's a lot of Chandleresque turns of phrase evident that I enjoyed as much as Dean seemed to enjoy writing them. His occupation - that of fry cook - reminded me of Kinky Friedman; wasn't he a short-order cook too? That off-beat humour was similar in a way, too.
Odd is narrator, which brings pros and cons: we get to hear him tell his story, but it pretty much limits things in terms of 'meanwhile...'. As a result, the action takes place during a very detailed and eventful two days, all from his perspective.
This compression of the storytelling 'horizon' caused by first-person narrative means that two major plot devices - one of them being a mysterious dark doorway into... (another dimension?); the other being the motivation for the 'evil element' are never convincingly covered during the progress of the book, I feel - and therefore become just inconvenient and under-developed plot strands that have to be 'tied up' before the last page.
I detect a long plot arc for the dark room, and probably the unconvincing evil element too; Dean didn't involve either enough in the story for it to remain totally believable when he rushed the expo at the end, but I'm hoping this unevenness is because he's saving it all for the rest of the series. At times it feels like a lack of focus in the writing, though.
I'm going to carry on with this series - I like the characters, and although the whole thing is a bit purple prose at times (it's very much Odd's style, and Dean's too, I suspect!), I found it an enjoyable supernatural detective series; it has a lot of potential.
This is the second book of his that I've read where he's gone for the big twist of pathos at the end, and he didn't quite get me with either of them; I hope he doesn't try it in all his books, I really do. It'll get tiresome - no more violins please. I'm not totally persuaded by Dean's femle characters either, although this one was an improvement upon 'Watchers' in that respect.
I put this book down for lengthy periods of time, which was telling. Then again, I always returned.Although I enjoyed it, I was never quite sold by it all.
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
on 14 September 2004
Once you've entered the world of Odd Thomas, you'll slip from this world of daily chores and unpaid bills, into a world of shadows, nightmares and exploding cows!!
With only having read one Koontz novel before Odd Thomas, I could not confess to being a fan of his work, but having endured the rollercoaster of emotions triggered by this book, I have a feeling I will soon have a collection of his work. Through the eyes of Odd Thomas, a dark side of this world is revealed to us, invoking thoughts of whether or not we are alone while travelling the path from birth to death.
The descriptive nature of Koontz work, enables you to fully apprecaite the anxiety, passion, hatred, fear of the characters involved. The whole novel builds to climax in the last few chapters which will have you yearning for the next page.
If you only buy one book this year, Odd Thomas should be the one in your basket.
on 18 November 2005
I've attempted reading this book before and gave up on it after about 100 pages, simply because I found the characters too weird to handle. Odd Thomas is a twenty year old fry cook who seemingly has nothing at all in common with other young men of his age. He couldn't care less about all the adventures young people usually love, like going out, having fun, exploring relationships and discovering sex. He talks more like a seventy-year old lady than an adolescent boy, like "If ever I had a glimpse of heaven, it was Mrs. Porters peach pie". His dad sells real estate on the moon. He uses peach-scented shampoo. He does have a girlfriend, Bronwen "Stormy" Lewellyn who he calles his "destiny" (strong words for a 20-year old) but they don't sleep together - they are both still virgins. Instead he sees ghosts, wherever he goes.
The book starts off beautifully with Odd seeing the ghost of a twelve year old girl who has been raped and murdered. She leads him to her killer. He hunts him down and brings him to justice. An excellent start. But then it all goes so weird it's almost stupid. Odd meets the ghost of his old teacher at a tyre shop. The teacher, who'd died in an accident, carries his severed arm around and even uses it as a backscratcher or to pick his nose. Later, Elvis Presley's ghost appears at a party and starts arguing with himself and later weeps and sobs for hours. Odd Thomas is the only one who can see the deceased and he "forms a relationship with each of them". (That's where I first put the book away. At that stage, I wouldn't have given it even one star).
Months later though, with nothing else to read in the house I decided to give Odd Thomas another go.
How glad I was that I did!
After those few unbelievably stupid chapters, the book turned into something more recognisable from a usually brilliant horror novelist such as Dean Koontz. Dark and disturbing, the story evolved into an intense thriller with surprisingly sad and upsetting elements.
Eventually it became clear why Odd Thomas is so different to other young guys of his age and why his and Stormy's relationship is so special. Both were lonely children who grew up without love - Stormy's parents died when she was a little girl, she was abused in her foster home and ended up in an orphanage. Odd's parents are very much alive but don't give a damn about him or his feelings. His egocentric father abandoned him at age one and his mentally disturbed mother tells him how much she wished he'd have died in her womb. So, unsurprisingly, Odd and Stormy, who both fled their loveless homes at 16, formed a friendship which then resulted in the deep relationship they have now. Dean Koontz does a fantastic job describing Odd's and Stormy's painful youth.
The story is very intense - a crazy killer is on the loose and only Odd can stop him. But when Odd finds the same killer shot to death in his bathtub, it becomes clear that others must be involved. Odd knows that people are going to die. A horrible shooting spree has been planned but where will it happen? And who is the killer?
Being an arachnophobic, I found the scene with the tarantula very disturbing. The whole second half of this novel is masterfully written and full of suspense.
What spoiled the book for me a little was the upsetting ending. Never would I have imagined Koontz would end the book that way. It seems Dean Koontz started this novel intending to keep it light and entertaining, like he did with Ticktock, but later changed his mind and turned it into a dark and intense tale. This makes the book a little unbalanced in my opinion.
But I'm certainly glad I gave the book another chance as it turned out to be a very intense reading experience and a real pageturner.