Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Odd Thomas

I haven't read much by Dean Koontz, because the few things I've read by him have been a little too realistically creepy and have gotten unpleasantly under my skin.  I said as much to a customer at my library, who had come up to the reference desk to ask me when the next book in this series was coming out (2013). He told me that this series is more along the lines of a supernatural mystery series, with a crime-solving protagonist who can see ghosts. Sounded good to me, so I downloaded the audiobook from my library and gave it a listen.

Our hero's name is actually Odd, and he is twenty years old. He has a girlfriend he adores, works as a fry cook at the local diner, and he's great at his job. He also can see ghosts, and unlike many protagonists (who spend a large part of the narrative whining about their ability, seeing it as a curse, wishing it would go away so they could live normal lives), Odd sees his unique ability as a gift, and even though it causes problems in his life, he does his best to help the dead who come to him looking for justice.

Aside from seeing ghosts, Odd can see odd, malevolent creatures that seem to appear when acts of particularly horrific violence are going to occur. When a creepy guy shows up at the diner trailed by more of these creatures than Odd has ever seen, he knows he has to investigate. He discovers a terror plot that, if it succeeds, will be catastrophic to his small town of Pico Mundo.

This was a promising start to a series (in fact, it reads like a standalone novel), and, like the few other novels by Koontz that I've read, it succeeds at ratcheting up the tension to nearly unbearable levels. Odd is an interesting character - while he has a vocabulary that is not what one would expect from a fry cook (he says things like "In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion." Really?) I found that a little jarring and it created a distance between me and the narrative that I doubt the author intended. But as the story unfolded, and I grew to know the characters and the little town of Pico Mundo, I found I didn't mind so much. Readers who enjoy supernatural mysteries should like this one, but be warned that there is a lot of violence, and sensitive readers might want to give it a pass.

Books in the Odd Thomas series:
1. Odd Thomas
2. Forever Odd
3. Brother Odd
4. Odd Hours
5. Odd Apocalypse
6. Deeply Odd (2013)

Odd Thomas (#1 in the Odd Thomas series) by Dean Koontz; narrated by David Aaron Baker (Books on Tape, 2006)

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