Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Nod to Odd

Odd Hours, the fourth novel in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, finds Odd living in the small California coastal town of Magic Beach. After spending several months in a monastery after he thwarted an attack of massive violence upon his home town of Pico Mundo, Odd is drawn to this ocean-front town for reasons unclear to him. As the story begins, Odd is working as a cook, chauffeur, and companion to the 88 year-old faded film star Lawrence Hutchison.

Don’t let Odd’s name fool you. Odd is his real birth name. Despite being “the only child of a mad mother and a narcissistic father,” Odd has a sunny disposition and is level-headed and quite normal, both in appearance and lifestyle, except for the fact that he possesses a peculiar gift. Odd is able to communicate with spirits of the dead and has been endowed with paranormal perception that acts as a magnet to his psyche. Like most super heroes, he is drawn to situations in which a person or persons are in danger. But Odd Thomas does not view himself as a hero or a celebrity.

“I have kept the nonsupernatural part of my life simple,” writes Odd. “[I have] as few possessions as possible. I have no plans for the future. I make up my life as I go along.”

One night Odd awakens twice from apocalyptic dreams—prophetic visions in which “the tide flowed red and the sea throbbed with a terrible light” These dreams embody images of a pregnant young woman.

The next day, fueled by his “irrestible intuition,” Odd heads for the beach. Accompanied by his ghost dog, Boo, he finds the pregnant young woman of whom he dreamt the previous night. Her name is Annamaria and Odd’s intuition tells him that she is in grave danger. Annamaria asks Odd if he is willing to die for her. Although the young woman is a stranger to him, Odd feels a visceral trust in her and agrees that if necessary, he will, indeed, die for her.

From this point the novel takes off at breakneck speed as Odd struggles to foil a ruthless terrorist plot bent on annihilating several United States cities and murdering millions of innocent people. It is up to Odd to single-handedly disassemble this doomsday scenario.

All four of Koontz’s "Odd Thomas" novels are written in first person from Odd’s point of view, as though Odd were crafting a memoir. A brilliant technique, it allows the reader access to Odd’s thoughts and emotions without the burden of unnecessary dialogue. Odd is a contemporary Everyman, acting in a modern morality play in which we all are characters and with which we can identify. Odd is a simple, humble, self-effacing young man. He holds no illusions of greatness or grandeur. His needs and desires are few and his purpose in life is to use his paranormal gifts to rescue persons in eminent danger.

As in most of his novels, Koontz uses humor to temper Odd Hours’ somewhat dark plot. Odd puts it this way: “Ozzie Boone, my novelist friend and mentor in Pico Mundo, had instructed me, on the writing of the first of these accounts, that I keep the tone light. He says that only the emotionally immature and the intellectually depraved enjoy stories that are unrelentingly grim and nihilistic.”

There is additional comic relief with the ghost of Frank Sinatra as Odd’s companion. Spirits of the dead cannot speak, nor are they capable of inflicting pain or injury directly upon a living person. But some disgruntled spirits have the ability to become poltergeists and wreck havoc upon non-living objects. This is exactly what happens when Odd is taken into custody by a malevolent police chief. Odd goads the ghost of Ole Blue Eyes until he becomes enraged and destroys the interrogation room, allowing Odd to escape.

Odd Hours can be appreciated on several levels. The novel can be read straight through as a great mystery/thriller. With Koontz’s skillful use of symbolism and allegory, the book should also be acknowledged as a contemporary literary work. And given Koontz’s use of comic relief which tempers the non-graphic violence and infrequent expletives, the novel is appropriate for the young adult market.

One would be hard pressed to find a more satisfying read for your summer list. Not since Watchers has Dean Koontz created such an endearing and enduring character as Odd Thomas. Odd Hours is a superb story from one of our greatest master storytellers.

If Odd Hours doesn’t satisfy your Odd Thomas cravings, stay tuned for the next installment, In Odd We Trust, a comic, to be released on June 24 and visit Odd’s website at

This review can also be found in the San Antonio Express News at

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