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#1 – Odd Thomas

May 4, 2007

the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they’re perfectly alignedI have never read any of Dean Koontz’s work before; my only exposure to the guy was a TV movie he wrote where Jay Mohr was trapped in this small town by a sinister black SUV. Scary stuff. He’s apparently written dozens of thrillers, and I guess I assumed him to be the same kind of author as Stephen King. And then on the second page of Odd Thomas, there’s this blurb from Playboy: “If Stephen King is the Rolling Stones…Koontz is the Beatles.” I’m in no position to doubt the literary credentials of Playboy, so I had pretty high expectations going in – being the Beatles of bestselling paperback thrillers is a daunting title.

So, Odd Thomas: Odd is a twenty-year-old short order cook from Pico Mundo, California. He’s also some manner of psychic – without explaining too much about his powers, he says that he sees ghosts and has a vague sort of ESP. The way his powers work is very similar to The Sixth Sense – in fact, the book reminds me of nothing so much as The Sixth Sense with a greater sense of urgency, likeable characters, and a sense of humour about itself. As Odd himself says, after tracking down and catching a murderer, “I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.”

I did enjoy this one, it was similar to King in being a pretty good thriller with a few interesting ideas and some great moments. Odd is unique in that he busts out some unexpected philosophical one-liners every so often. I’ve read four or five Stephen Kings at this point, and while they’re consistently decent, his voice and little quirks as an author are so evident that they can get tiresome. I love Vonnegut and Palahniuk, so I’m not strictly against authors having identifiable voices in every book, but just having read one I don’t know if Koontz’s style would stay interesting after numerous books, or get old like King’s.

One thing that killed me about this one, though, was the manner of narration – first person, looking back on the past, wiser but withholding information from the reader. SO FRUSTRATING. Not even the “Unbeknownst to me, the Board of Shadowy Figures was meeting right down the street at that very moment” style, but the “If I had only realized then what the professor was trying to tell me I could have cracked the case right there, but I wouldn’t figure it out until it was far too late”, and then six chapters later you find out what was really going on style. I mean, you have to keep reading, but it’s a dirty trick.

I’m told by Clare, who gave me this book (thanks, Clare) that Kootnz went on to publish a few more books in the series, which I suppose are probably worth checking out. Odd Thomas is a really good character, and nobody can argue with a guy who fights crime with ghosts. I’d say that I like Dean Koontz’s writing – even if he’s not the Beatles, he’s got to be at least the Yardbirds.

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