NOTE: This is the tenth in a series of 31 reviews of scary short stories and novels. As part of All Hallow’s Read, I will be sharing all the scary stories that I think you should consider giving to someone for Halloween. Because this is a tradition intended for people of all ages, some of these titles will be for children and young adults, while others are meant strictly for adults. Happy Reading.
I sort of have a love/hate relationship with the work of Dean Koontz. Most of the time I can’t stand it. His voice reads bland and technical. Rarely is there any life coming from the print on the page. Bootprints are more riveting than the majority of Koontz novels.
Like Stephen King though he has always been a part of my literary consciousness. A handful of his paperbacks served as my reading material as a child. (remember, most of my reading did not go beyond critical blurbs and plot synopses.) At yard a sale my mother struck up a conversation with a stranger about Koontz. I think they were both browsing the books placed out for purchase and the woman commented that she’d never read him. My mom said that he’s like Stephen King with more of a sci-fi bent. Years later, a friend mentioned that his mom liked Dean (he’s got a big mom following) because he didn’t deviate from the plot for five chapters at a time to talk about some side character’s past the way King does.
So I had imagined that Koontz may have been the coolest writer ever. I loved sci-fi and hated being bored, so clearly I had to seek him out!
In middle school, I signed up for a book club that had a special Dean Koontz collection. Every month one of his novels would come in the mail with a nice leather(ish) cover and his signature stamped right on the front. What fun it was for a book hoarder like me to receive those nifty volumes. I’d open them up, leaf through the soft pages, skim the introductions, sit down to begin the story…
…only to be stupendously bored seconds later.
At some point while I was getting these books in the mail (only to neglect them shortly after) I fell in love with audiobooks. The abridged ones my school library had anyway. I checked out Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, listened to it in a single night, returned it, then checked out Ticktock by Dean Koontz. That night I gave it a listen and didn’t stop until the last tape wound down to the end. It was an action-packed, spooky book with some really quirky characters. Why couldn’t all Koontz novels be this good?
It was a while before I found another DK novel I enjoyed as much.
Odd Thomas is unlike any Dean Koontz I’ve ever started. The titular character (and narrator) is a young guy named Odd (depending on which parent you ask, it may have been a typo on his birth certificate), a fry cook who also happens to see the dead. You might be tempted to think of him as the Sixth Sense kid all grown up, but Odd is a thousand times more engaging. He’s a simple guy who loves his job, his friends, his town, and his girl, Stormy. When he can, he tries to help put the lingering dead to rest.
I can’t tell you how unique it is to not read about anti-heroes anymore. Yeah Odd has his issues, like his two psychotic parents, sometimes prophetic dreams, and the whole seeing dead people thing, but he is such a genuinely nice, sweet, caring, and noble person, that his demons (the personal ones, not paranormal) make him heroic. It also makes for some genuine moments of suspense.
Every character surrounding Odd Thomas is exactly that – a character. They’re often larger than life, (especially his morbidly obese mystery writer friend, Little Ozzie, who loves to cook fine food and has a sixth finger on his left hand) always entertaining and lively.
One of the more surprising aspects to the novel is how funny it is. Odd has a quick wit without resorting to sarcasm and cynicism. Everyone around him has some extraordinary quick that makes them loveable. Speaking of love-ability, I literally fell in love with everyone in this book. I envied Odd and his simple life. Well, sort of simple.
At the very core of the story is a sinister plot. As much fun as it is to read about Odd, he does come up against some truly horrific things. When Odd needs to handle something he might try is best to look on the bright side, but here even the silver lining begins to fade.
Odd says he isn’t afraid of the dead, they can’t harm him. It’s the living who frighten him. He is after all attempting to prevent the terrible actions of living people. But there is something else he fears. Formless metaphysical shadows he calls bodachs. They appear at the sites of great tragedy, feeding off of the residual anguish. He’s not sure what they are, but he has a theory, a disturbing one.
So you see, I loved Odd Thomas. It was everything a novel should be. The novel (and its sequels, with a few big exceptions) were so influential on me that the very first thing I ever got published was directly influenced by it. No matter how much I may hate Koontz’s other novels, I’ll always love him for Odd Thomas.
Quick P.S: I may have been a little harsh to Mr. Koontz (he can take it. He’s way more successful than I’ll ever be) but no one has ever been crueler to him than Hollywood. Not only do most of the few adaptations of his novels suck, they’re horrible. Finally one film seemed to make him happy. It was Odd Thomas (with the genius casting of Anton Yelchin as Odd). He said on his website that he absolutely flipped for the movie. I couldn’t wait to see it. Turns out I’ll have to. Due to some legal BS the film is on hold indefinitely. A real shame, it looked fun. Koontz can’t catch a break.