Saturday, November 4, 2017

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Photo: paperback book cover, from its Goodreads page

I haven't read a Dean Koontz book since the 90s, when he wrote about gov't conspiracy crap. Dan Simmons' Flashback reminded me of that stuff, and Flashback was every bit as crappy. I mean, really bad. A shame, because Koontz in the 80s was almost as good as Stephen King, and sometimes better. Koontz's A Bad Place, Phantoms and Whispers, among a couple others, were really good then, and hold up very well now. So it was with some trepidation that I started Odd Thomas; but I did so because it got some really good reviews, because I'd heard good word of mouth, and because I'd seen it at a lot of yard sales, which is a good thing--because it means that people bought it to begin with, rather than just renting it from a library.

I'm happy to report that Odd Thomas is mostly very good. The narrator is likeable, though perhaps a little too much so, but whatever. The supporting characters are well-drawn and pleasant to deal with. His small town is well-wrought. And of course you love his flame, who Koontz fates with writerly tricks, in a kind of double-twist at the end. He knows you like her; he knows you want her to do well; he knows you expect that she won't; he knows you'll appreciate it when she seems okay. And then...

I knew it was a series, of course. And, knowing that, I see where Koontz also realizes it's a series, especially towards the end when one of the lovely nurses practically throws herself at him. That's when you know the fate of someone else, too. But it's all very good, if not over-the-top at times (especially with an Elvis who can't stop sobbing hysterically), and overall the book deserves the positive responses it's gotten. I don't know if I'm going to read any of the others in the series, but I guess I will if I run into one at a library or a yard sale, or something. I should mention that I'm a little concerned about Koontz's prodigious output, which makes King seem under-published by comparison. Does he write every word of a book that has his name on it? I don't know. I think he does here, but overall I don't know. The tone and patterns of this book do not match those of the ones I read of his in the 90s, which is a good thing. He could've changed, of course, but writers usually don't. He does still go on and on a little too much. I skimmed a few pages in this one; otherwise it would have gotten five stars. I didn't skim pages that were badly written, though; they just seemed superfluous. He goes on, for example, about a spider in the desert, for about 4-5 pages. The spider never does anything to him, nor he to I skimmed some pages, but that didn't hurt the quality of the book overall.

You'll like the characters and you'll feel for them, and the overall suspense is gripping. You may wonder, as I did, how three psychopaths could all function unnoticed in a small desert town. From what I know about them, they can't hide too well for too long, especially in a sparse population, without people whispering, or their behavior being noticed. And at high profile, highly public jobs? But that, oddly, didn't detract, either, so that's good. I guess this book works despite a few things, but it works nonetheless, and is therefore highly recommended. I read it all in one day, which also speaks well for it. 

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