Book Review: “Odd Thomas” – Dean Koontz

By Séamus Smyth

The title “Odd Thomas,” is the name of the central character who is an unassuming high school graduate who is a rather unremarkable young man except his peculiar ability to see the dead. Yes, those who have failed to either rise to the heavens, or succumb to the heated basement of hell are viewed in 20/20 vision for Odd as he battles away as a short-order cook in his native hometown.

His choice to work a seemingly unambitious gig at the local diner is all because of his desire to be normal. He is madly in love with a woman, whose name is equal in obscurity, Stormy Llewellyn. Despite her and a handful of other characters that are aware of Odd’s strange insight into the afterlife, they all remain loyal to Odd and refuse to turn his ordinary dreams into a media circus.

With Odd’s gift comes the ability to know when death is close. Groups of unpleasant spirits gather around a home or person and await the inevitable. This early detection gives Odd the opportunity to catch a perpetrator in the act, which predictably leads to a second life as an unofficial police detective/keeper of life. It’s a story that has been written and contorted into various forms and although Koontz’s ghostly tone and metaphorical brilliance do make it a book worth reading until the final page, it is certainly not deserving of a place at the forefront of fiction.

A sudden twist halfway through the tale completely robs Odd Thomas of its surging momentum. Where once the book was heading for a colossal battle between the pure and the diluted, it instead begins from scratch, like a distance runner who has had a sudden change of heart.

The reader is instead invited to play detective alongside Thomas, but with so many warm-blooded sycophants surrounding him plus the nameless ghouls he encounters at every corner, it becomes a boar of an assignment.

The lack of soul (literally) in Koontz’s effort is made up by, predictably, the relationship between Thomas and Stormy. Yes, its two young birds just trying to build their own nest in an increasingly complex world, a story that has been replicated throughout each generation, but it still sounds fresh because the concept of young love rarely loses its flavour.

Koontz injects life into supernatural fantasies through his creative writing, although with vampires, zombies and werewolves infiltrating the shelves of bookstores everywhere, it feels as though this medicinal shot may have been unwarranted.