by velocibadgergirl

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas was my first Dean Koontz book, even though I've been aware of his work for years. As with many books (including the Stephanie Plum series and the incredible American Gods), I was alerted to the existence of this one via an audiobook my mom was listening to the other day when I stopped by the house. The book is not great literature, it is not going to change the world, but it's really, really enjoyable. Be warned -- it's not a happy story, though there are some really funny lines, and the ending is not entirely without hope. I previously associated Koontz with gory horror stories, but Odd Thomas is not a nasty book. It's more of a character-driven paranormal-tinged mystery, and a page-turner to boot (I started the sequel today, and in two hours reached chapter 19 / page 111).

The titular character, Odd Thomas, comes by his name honestly if strangely. His mother sometimes told him she meant to name him Todd, and other times claims he was meant to be named Dobb, after a Czechoslovakian uncle, and blames a typographical error for his unusual name. His father says his name was always meant to be Odd, but offers no explanation. Odd is regularly visited by the unhappy dead, who sometimes seek justice through him, though they never speak. He also suffers grim semi-prophetic dreams. Because of his complicated secret, Odd keeps his life as simple as possible--no car, no life insurance, no plans to ever leave the smallish city of Pico Mundo, California. He works as a fry cook at a local grille, spends lots of time hanging out with the ghost of Elvis, and knows trouble is coming when the streets of his hometown begin to fill with dark entities called bodachs.

The book is populated with well-drawn secondary characters, such as Odd's soulmate, the lovely but unlikely-named Stormy Llewellyn; his tragic landlady, Rosalia, whose entire family went "invisible" when their plane was hijacked on September 11 and who needs Odd to visit her each morning to verify that she herself has not turned invisible; and Odd's mentor, 450-pound mystery author Little Ozzie Boone, who keeps a Greebo-like cat named Terrible Chester. With their support, Odd must face down the greatest evil ever to brew under the blistering Mojave sun.

The entire story takes place in less than 48 hours, but never feels rushed or over-filled. For this achievement alone, I'd recommend it, but Odd is also one of the most endearing characters I've discovered lately, and his first starring gig has many things to recommend it. If you're in the mood for something with action, suspense, highly likeable characters, and just enough depth, give Odd Thomas a try. I don't think you'll regret it.

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