Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas #1)" by Dean Koontz

When I picked this up (on a whim), I didn't expect much. A book about a fry cook who can see dead people? Please. I thought I would read it because I must read more books, and I'd never read a Dean Koontz novel, so this one should do.

Fast forward to when I'm polishing off the final pages. I'm crying. I rarely cry reading books. I rarely laugh so much reading books as well. Odd Thomas merited every tear, chuckle, and grin it wrangled out of me, as I'm a tough critic when it comes to emotional response (think of me as the female Spock).

This book is one of the few that clicked with me, as I'm usually the most offbeat person in a crowd, the one with the wild hair and ultra pale acne-marked skin, the one who is a diamond peg trying to fit in a circular hole. Odd Thomas (yes, that is his name) is very much like that- different from other people. Although he claims he's just your ordinary guy, he just isn't- there may be millions of other short-order cooks, but he's probably the only one who sees (but doesn't speak with) dead people.

The Plot:
Odd Thomas is a twenty-year-old fry cook, who can see, but not talk to, dead people. A dead version of Elvis hangs with him for no apparent reason. Contrary to popular belief, he finds the dead cannot speak, and so helping them is made more difficult and more time-consuming. But things in his small town get even more strange when he begins seeing shadow figures trailing a newcomer to Pico Mundo, someone with a sinister presence. Will he be able to solve the mystery of these dark figures before they threaten those he holds dear?

Having such low expectations for this book, I was confounded when I finished it. Why had such an unassuming book made me laugh, cry, and root for someone I had known only for 446 pages? Why haven't I heard about this book before? Is this why Dean Koontz is so venerated? I was thrown for a loop, as I've read many "mainstream" authors' works before, and left the final pages with a bad taste in my mouth.

The characters leapt off the page, while feeling authentic. How many books actually have overweight people as characters? I've read a lot of books, but have found very few who actually feel a part of the story (like Little Ozzie), and when you consider the population of people who go through life struggling with weight issues, shouldn't there be more?

Overall, I found Odd Thomas a very entertaining and exceptional read. With characters you aren't likely forget, a plot that builds on issues that occur all too often in America, and a paranormal twist, this is a book I feel deserves the hype. Odd Thomas is a hero I can truly relate to, his story is engaging from the first to last page, and his tale is just beginning. If you're looking for a classic "hero's journey" yarn with offbeat elements, this is your book.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars, for an unexpected gem of contemporary significance.

Content: Violence, death, dead people, horror elements, and maybe swearing. Better read when you're age 18+

Page Count: 446 pages in my paperback edition

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