Forever Odd

ForeverOddThe next novel that I finished in my current reading spree is the Dean Koontz ( b. 1945) story Forever Odd.  It is the second novel in the Odd Thomas series and was released in 2005.  I did read the first novel in the series, back in 2015. Overall, I liked this second novel more than the first because it was somehow just slightly less gory or dark or something. Well, there were some really dark parts in the first novel.  There are also some dark parts in the second novel, but they are somehow a bit more balanced and manageable, at least to me.

In 2015, I was not sure if I would continue the series. My household has, though, and I wanted to read the next novel so we can move the book on out, as we do when its been read by everyone.  Its weird and dark and yet there is something intriguing about the main character.  My problem with the first book is that the main character, Odd Thomas, seemed more mature and more intelligent than most twenty year olds that I meet.  That same problem holds in this book. In fact, in this book it becomes really obvious that Odd Thomas is not “just” a character, but he actually is, to some extent, the mouthpiece and alter-ego of the author. To what extent, I cannot say.  Is all of this a problem? Not at all. And to be very honest – maybe that is what I am reading these books for. I am a bit interested or intrigued or bemused or something about this situation. Do not misunderstand me, I am not rapt with fascination about anything here. I just find it curious and I want to see how all of this goes.

As I have said before, I have shied away from Koontz’ novels because I was not interested in how they seemed to be very much in the horror genre or even the dark and disturbing category.  I have a vague concept of a friend’s father reading a Koontz novel. He read whatever his wife picked up for him at the library book sale. He seemed to enjoy reading, but it was utterly diversionary – and I found it so strange that he would read whatever his wife purchased for him. As I recall, he would read mostly these sorts of paperbacks:  Koontz, Clancy, Grisham, et al.  I only read non-fiction back then. The reader I am speaking about died a few years back and I can still remember him lounging reading a Koontz novel.

Anyway, abandoning my digression – I just want to say that I never thought much about Koontz novels. Now that I am through two of the Odd Thomas novels, I find the author far more interesting.  Odd Thomas is interesting.  Koontz creates some of the weirdest, most bizarre, incredibly twisted characters.  Two books in, I find these books to be some of the most unbelieveable things ever.  More science fiction and more fantasy than actual books “officially” in those genres.  This is perfectly acceptable, though, because these are entertainments, not instruction manuals etc.  Still, if a reader likes suspense and thriller novels, these seem to even push the necessity for suspending disbelief farther than most fiction.  The plot is far out there, the characters are far out there, the novel’s events are far out there, and everything is just quite a bit, well, far out there.

There is something endearing and interesting about the main character, though, and I do mean beyond his “special” paranormal abilities.  A fry cook with occult skills is a unique character.  Very noticeably Koontz makes Odd Thomas much wiser than he ought to be.  For example, in this book, what Odd Thomas is able to accomplish tends to run beyond unbelieveable. He ends up doing stuff that one reads about in other novels done by career special forces guys with lots of awesome training. It is not just his lack of physical training – but also his skillful tactical thinking that seems stretched.

However, as a reader, I am pulling for him the whole time – c’mon, kiddo, you got this! And then every time one of the “oh nos!” happens I am indeed worried and scared for the guy.

Odd Thomas is likeable.  You root for him because he is unlucky yet he seems to still be humble and honest and a generally good person.  He laments things like his choice of shoes. He quips down-to-earth and utterly matter-of-fact things. For example, the contents of his backpack, which he eventually admits to selecting poorly, but which at the time seemed utterly correct. Its amusing, but also probably “realistic” (I mean, inasmuch as any of this is realistic).

The storyline in this one is a doozy, I am not sure it has believeable setup motives. It hinges on the bizarre – and I mean the really bizarre. So bizarre that its truly difficult to be horrified correctly. Drilled down directly, the whole plot stems from coincidence. A phone call connecting two people. What are the odds [pun!]?

I like the setting a lot. I am a sucker for rundown, abandoned buildings, chases in mazes, singular locations like hotels and forts. It is super weird – but put the weird in a fired-out, earthquaked ex-hotel and I am all in.

I mentioned above that this novel seemed less dark than the previous Odd Thomas novel.  I think because the humor and wit is even more present here – it really balances the totally bonkers weird dark stuff that is going on.  Ever been in an earthquake and a blizzard simultaneously? I have. Trust me, I was laughing like a fool because the utter ridiculousness of the situation was not lost on me – even as I worried about the damage/safety. Some day when I have a lot of spare time on my hands and I can just write frivolous nothings all day long, I am going to write an essay investigating the similarities of humor and horror.

This novel is not for all readers. The dark twisted stuff is dark and twisted, no matter how Koontz balances it with wit.  Still, Odd Thomas is an interesting character and worth reading a few novels for.  I think I will continue in the series, which would put me halfway and then, of course, why not finish it off? Readers who hate outlandish plots and action scenes may want to steer clear, there is a whole lot of “really out there” impossibilities.

3 stars

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