Dean Koontz is one of those hugely popular authors that has largely left me unmoved. He’s put out tons of books, but I’ve only read a couple of them (one reviewed here), both very forgettable.
So, I don’t know why I was drawn to Odd Thomas when I saw it in the library last week. I knew nothing about it, it’s not one of those popular books that set the blogosphere on fire, but still it seemed like one of those quietly interesting books.
Odd Thomas is an extremely odd young man. He is twenty years old, lives contentedly in the small town of Pico Mundo bordering the Mojave desert working as a short cook in a diner. He is rapturously in love with his beautiful girlfriend who he plans to marry.
What makes him really odd is his gift. In his own words:
I see dead people. But, then by God, I do something about it!
When an evil-seeming stranger comes to town, Thomas has to use his gift to prevent a blood-bath in his town.
When I realized this book was about a man (boy really, Odd is just twenty years old, and yes, Odd is his real name) who sees dead people, I was quite apprehensive. I wasn’t a big fan of The Sixth Sense, and I didn’t think I wanted to read a book that runs on such similar lines.
The writing style at the start is also a little clunky, with too short sentences and generally the book started to look very unpromising.
However, 50 odd pages in, I was utterly and completely hooked. Here’s why:
- Amazingly sweet yet funny main character and charming secondary characters – Odd Thomas is adorable. His relationship with his girlfriend is just totally aww-inducing, and his friends are all such downright fun and quirky. I just enjoyed reading about them all.
- Great scene-setting – Setting a story near the Mojave desert is a genius idea. The small-town atmosphere combined with the menacing feel of the heat and the desert, and upcoming evil just means that the book is atmospheric as hell, and I just loved reading the story as it unfurled in a rather leisurely way.
- Chock-full of philosophical insights – Odd Thomas is like another Forrest Gump, outwardly a simpleton but on the inside wiser than most people, and this book written from his view point reflects his thoughts.
Some might say that this book got a bit preachy in parts, and that Odd makes a very unbelievable 20-year old, and while I agree with that criticism, it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book.
What did kill my joy a bit was the unpredictable nature of Odd’s gift. I don’t want to say more because spoilers, but it did feel that his gift came and went as per the convenience of the story, and that made me feel that Koontz was not really playing fair with me as a reader.
Of course, there is some information upfront indicating that Odd Thomas is not a reliable narrator, but still, this particular issue has nothing to do with him being an unreliable narrator, or an unreliable psychic.
It’s just a technique used to build some suspense at the end. After all, if Odd had understood everything right at the beginning, there would be no story, right? So, I don’t mind the technique as such but it would have been great if Koontz had given some explanation for this failure in Odd’s abilities.
Overall, I loved this book. Yes, there were a couple of weaknesses, but if you are looking for a paranormal atmospheric mystery, Odd Thomas would be a good choice.
However, it is the start of a long-running series, and while I loved this book, I am not sure that I am up for reading 5-6 books more about his adventures. I felt the same way after reading Outlander. Why do so many books have to be series nowadays? Why not just stop after one great outing? I am a little tired of having to keep up with so many series 🙁
What about you? Have you read Odd Thomas and its many sequels? Do you recommend I continue with the series?
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon