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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

A Very Odd set of Stories: A Dean Koontz Review

Reviewed: February 26, 2008
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Until recently, Dean Koontz hasn’t been known from repeating himself. Each novel has had a different setting, different cast of characters, and a different problem at its core. It seems that even creating a series character hasn’t changed that habit of his.

The series character is Odd Thomas, so named by a very dysfunctional set of parents who seem now play no active part in his life even though he is still working out the stunted emotional growth they bequeathed to him.

Odd’s strangeness is compounded by his talent, his gift, which he tells us he would gladly traded in for something useful, like a new pair of sneakers. He tells us about it in chapter four of the first book.

“I see dead people, but then, by God, I do something about it.”

Yes, this is a lot like the little boy in The Sixth Sense, and yet it isn’t like that too. Odd is 20 years old when we meet him in Odd Thomas (Bantam Books, 383 pages, $18.95 in trade paperback), in love, employed as a short order cook, living a simple life in an apartment over a residential garage, coping with his strangeness and providing the local sheriff with solid gold hints about various kinds of cases.

The thing about the cases is that they involve the lingering dead, folks who can’t quite move on until their issues have been dealt with. Most all of them have been killed. The exception to this is Elvis, who drops in for frequent visits, dressed in a variety of costumes from his different film roles, Elvis wasn’t killed, but he still has issues to resolve.

The lingering dead can’t talk, but Odd can touch them, and sometimes, if they are angry enough, they can touch the rest of the world as poltergeists.

There are other beings that Odd can see, He calls them bodachs, though they are not actually the same as the Scottish bogeymen of folklore. These shadowy creatures gather at scenes where great violence is about to take place, and seem to feed on the emotions generated there. They don’t seem to know that he can see them, and he wants to keep it that way.

Odd Thomas introduces us to the character, who speaks to us in his own voice, as to the cast of characters around him. It begins right away with Odd’s pursuit of a murderer, but quickly moves to his attempts to forestall a tragedy, He doesn’t know the nature of the disaster, but the sudden surge in the number of bodachs convinces him that something is about to happen - and he is right about that.

I won’t be giving away too much if I tell you that he manages to mitigate the horror, substantially reducing the body count, but at great personal cost.

Forever Odd (Bantam Books, 364 pages, $10.99 mass market) is where Koontz proves his determination not to repeat himself. While it begins in a fashion similar to the first book, this sequel quickly swerves off in a different direction and becomes a battle of wits between Odd and a woman who wants to exploit his ability. While some of the supporting cast are still present in this book, they are not nearly as evident as they would be in a standard sequel. There are still ghosts and bodachs, but they are used in a different way this time.

Brother Odd (Bantam Books, 430 pages, $11.99) brings more changes to Odd Thomas and the tone of his experiences. After the events of the previous book, Odd Thomas retreats from his growing notoriety to the sanctuary of Saint Bartholomew’s Monastery. It has been sixteen months since the end of the first volume and Odd is more than fascinated to hear from the mouth of a sleeping child at the school there the words so often spoken by his dead love, Stormy Llewellyn.

“Loop me in, odd one” means more than even the suicidal monk whose lingering ghost he has been trying to assist in crossing over. But there are bodachs gathering and some kind of monster is tearing people apart. Those who have seen the old SF classic “Forbidden Planet”, or perhaps Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, from which some of its plot elements were taken, might guess just what kind of rough beast Odd has to face in this third adventure. Suffice it to say that the element of the supernatural here takes second place to the elements of super science gone wrong.

Somewhat to my surprise Koontz’s website tells me that there will be a fourth Odd book, Odd Hours, in which we wil no doubt discover what his life is like now that Elvis has moved on and Sinatra has appeared in his life. Further, the comic book world has taken an interest in the character and there will be a graphic novel telling something of his life before we met him when he was 20.

Should be interesting.

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