June 16, 2009

Book Review: "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz

Title: Odd Thomas
Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam Dell (Random House)
Published: 2003
Pages: 302
Genre: Horror

Odd Thomas is a short order cook in sunny Arizona. He's dependable, friendly, and madly in love with his girlfriend, Stormy. Oh, and he can see ghosts. He's been able to see them ever since he was a kid, though he's kept it from most people because, well, it's just damned odd.

It's not all bad. The ghosts he sees are friendly enough, though tormented in some way that keeps them from moving on. Heck, even Elvis Presley is hanging around the town of Pico Mundo for some reason. And, the local sheriff sure appreciates a little clairvoyance in solving violent crimes, even though it can be a headache to keep it all from getting out in public.

But, there's a stranger in town who is attracting wraith-like creatures that seemingly feed on death--they're always around the people or places where the shit meets the fan. And the stranger is attracting more of them than Odd has ever seen in one place. Something bad is going to happen in Pico Mundo, and his only real clue is the date of August 15 ... and it's already August 14. So, Odd has less than twenty-four hours to figure out who the stranger is, what threat he poses, and how the heck he can stop it.

For me, Dean Koontz novels are hit-or-miss. I loved Watchers and thought Intensity was a great thrill ride, but Sole Survivor left me with a "meh" feeling at the end. Hey, nobody bats 1.000. I had a good feeling about this story though because a lot of people online and in-person put it over big time. They were right; this is a fine story.

There was a psuedo-surreal tone to the book that reminded me of the shows Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me. A dark undertone that was balanced with a hip, we-get-the-ridiculousness-of-this approach. And all the while, there is genuine suspense as Odd tries to save his town from a catastrophe he's not even sure will go down the way clues are leading him to think they will.

It's a bit like a detective mystery, bundled with a supernatural thriller, and a dash of satire. On paper, readers might see an ad for this book and turn their nose up at it, but it only takes a few pages to get sucked in. And with little more than three-hundred pages to tide you over, the action goes by quick.

Watchers remains my favorite Koontz novel, but I dare say this runs a close second.

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