Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (2003) is the first book in the Odd Series. Koontz is a writer whose work is often hard to classify sometimes. Some of the work he writes are straight up horror stories and some are not.
Odd Thomas is a story in between where you have a blend of paranormal aspects mixed with suspense. The story is narrated by the lead character of the story, Odd Thomas. Odd is a twenty-year old, happily content fry cook living in a fictional town in California and is gifted (or cursed) with a sixth sense: he can see dead people.
Odd Thomas sees dead people but they do not speak to him. Often they appear to him because of some unresolved issue that has kept them earth bound and in need of his help. Or he just sees them, period, in the manner of death that has made them exit this life and fail to move on. Odd’s secret life is shared by only those he trust and those people make up the bulk of the secondary characters who help move this story along.
Starting with Wyatt Porter, chief of police and more of a father figure to Odd, takes Odd’s concern for a stranger who blows into town very seriously. Then there’s Terri Stambaugh, his lifeline and mentor, who has a fascination with everything Elvis. I really liked her character. Little Ozzie, a writer who likes to quote the classics, often offers up advice to Odd. Last but not least, Stormy Llewellyn who is the love of Odd’s life and his anchor. Their relationship is one of the best parts of this book.
The plot of the story revolves around Odd’s attempt at foiling the plans of a mass murderer. It’s a nightmare he’s had for three years. When a stranger comes to town, Odd immediately senses danger. The reader learns that Odd can see other things besides dead people, that go bump in the night. Demonic creatures whose mass is ill-defined and their presence foreboding seem to cling to this stranger. This is where the atmosphere of the story gets downright creepy and the suspense is turned up a notch. The stranger is accompanied by “bodachs” whose very presence screams violence.
The narrator goes on to explain what bodachs are to the reader. Readers learn that their presence around humans signifies several things and that is death, destruction and carnage is near. Their increase in number quantifies the level of destruction or carnage that is capable by it’s potential source. In this case, the stranger who has come to town that Odd dubs “The Fungus Man” seems drawn to him like a magnet. Fungus man seems to attract a handful of these “bodachs” and by the time the stranger leaves the diner, they have increased in number.
Odd is suspicious and worried about this stranger and sets out looking for him. He gathers what information he can and gives it to the police. As the plot slowly progresses, something happens to lead readers down another path and to another conclusion. I admit to being surprised at the plot twist but as we reach the climax of the story, the plot started losing a lot of it’s steam for me and I was just grateful that it finally ended.
After closing the book, I realized that this story was more character driven than anything else. There’s not very much action until the end. The author uses a lot of scare tactics and creepy atmosphere to keep readers on edge. The pacing was bit uneven and the narrator was completely unreliable to me. I’m a fan of action and down on excessive internal monologues so the scenes where the author expounded on the culture, the town, the area, the history, the lives of the people was just a tad bit boring to me.
Mostly I skimmed those sections of the story. What really captivated me was the relationship between Stormy and Odd. Odd’s love for her was unwavering and emotionally touching. It’s not the central aspect of the story but it plays a significant role in the ending. The suspense was somewhat weak to me and stretched very thin. There were scenes that for me were heart-stopping, page-turning suspense but others were yawn-inducing.
There are some humorous moments in the story, examples being the ghosts of Elvis and Lyndon B. Johnson to name a few, who made token appearances in the story. However, the ending left me shocked and it was somewhat unexpected. After reading Odd Thomas, I was reminded of why I quit reading Koontz oh so long ago. Odd Thomas is not his best work for me. However, I haven’t read his complete backlist to make that type of assertion. Koontz is good with dialogue and action, good with plotting too but not here. Consider me slightly disappointed with this effort.
After closing the book yesterday, I came away with mixed feelings. I didn’t read this book straight through and put it down a couple of times so it’s not a keeper for me. There were certain aspects of the story that kept me reading but alas, I feel as if Odd and his adventures will have to go on without me unless I can be convinced otherwise, my grade, B. Others did enjoy this book more than me (like Xina who has read almost the entire series since we last spoke/emailed each other) so check this review at AAR. Ellen’s right, the ending will have you reaching for a box of Kleenex. I do plan to read another Koontz title that hopefully will have more action in it.
[tags]Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas, Series, Paranormal Suspense[/tags]