Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Books: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Genre: Koontzian good vs. evil thriller
Published: 2003
Verdict: &&&1/2

If The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan were dead, his ghost would be haunting Haley Joel Osment, urging him to help exact revenge on thriller writer Dean Koontz. Not only does Odd Thomas, protagonist of the novel of the same name, see dead people, there's a twist – far less jolting than Shyamalan's – lurking at the end. It took, um, guts on the part of Koontz to shamelessly revisit such unoriginal territory. Nevertheless, nine years after reading my last Koontz, I decided this was the one that would bring me back to the fold. From the moment I read in a review that Elvis is one of the lingering ghosts, I wanted to read this novel. What turned me off Koontz around the Dragon Tears and Hideaway era was the numbing predictability; every novel had become the same basic tale of good versus evil with tedious chase scenes. The exciting spark of a Lighting or Strangers had gone cold. Here, Odd Thomas is a young fry cook whose "gift" attracts lost souls; like Sixth Sense's ghosts, they often want his help. He also sees entities called bodachs – slithery wisps that gather where death occurs or is imminent. The police chief knows about Odd's gift, which he uses to help subvert crimes. When a stranger in Odd's beloved desert town of Pico Mundo bellies up to the bar in his restaurant with an entourage of bodachs, Odd's sixth sense goes ballistic; he foresees impending doom. Much of the novel centers on Odd's sleuthing to learn the man's identity and what horrible crimes he plans to commit, and Koontz effectively layers on the tension and dread. There's also a sweet love story, but some of the writer's most moving prose emerges when he details the cruelty humans can inflict upon one another; the most brilliant scene of the novel may be Odd's encounter with his cold and troubled mother near the end. When the climactic confrontation between Odd and the villians finally arrives, it may not be altogether unpredictable. And this, too, is a basic tale of good versus evil, with a chase of sorts, to boot. But this is Koontz with spark.

// Linkage //
Official Koontz page

1 comment:

Casey said...

You nailed Koontz on the head with the predictability comment. This is the method I use to tell if each book was going to be interesting or just another quota filler: Pick up the book and check out the font size. If it's a thick book with tiny font, it's going to be a good one. If it uses big fonts, it's another formulaic novel. Not very scientific, but it works pretty well. ;-)