“The dead don’t speak. I don’t know why.”
No, this isn’t a review of The Sixth Sense, though insofar as it features a main character who can see and interact with the dead Odd Thomas does share some similarities with that remarkable film. However, the comparison will end there. Bruce Willis has nothing to do with this story, living or dead or in between. Instead, this is the story of Odd Thomas (yes, that’s actually his name), a fry cook in the small town of Pico Mundo, California with an unusual gift. Or curse, depending on how you look at it. Odd sees the dead that have refused to move on for some reason, whether it be that their murder has yet to be apprehended or that they’re just too stubborn to leave. (Elvis Presley likes to hang out around town, for example, and Odd was once mooned by the ghost of Richard Nixon.) He also sees shadowy spirit-beings that seem to feed on the dark emotions surrounding tragedy. And a stranger has just come to Pico Mundo with thousands of them in tow……
This book is an absolute must-read. A beautifully-written novel, this book taught me the beauty of a well-written tragedy. For a tragedy it is at heart, despite its cheerful tone. You will start to read it and disbelieve both me and Odd, the narrator, but I promise you it will get you in the end. That said, its not a book for kids. There is some foul language, though far from being gratuitous. Likewise there is some sexual content, nothing very explicit but still there, implied and discussed, including topics such as rape and child molestation. There is violence as well, though I don’t recall it being too graphically described. So be aware of what you are in for, but by all means read this book.
Dean Koontz is one of my absolute favorite authors. And Odd Thomas is quite possibly my favorite Dean Koontz novel ever. There are a few others that could maybe rival it, but I’ll leave those for other reviews. Koontz’s writing successfully captures the tension and drama (sometimes the horror, depending on the book) without becoming as bleak and hopeless as some of this peers, especially Stephen King. (Don’t get me wrong, I like King’s work, but a lot of what I have read has been pretty bleak.) Evil exists, and it must be countered, but Good exists too in all its wonder. And whatever horrors happen along the way, Good ultimately triumphs over Evil. But there may still be tragic consequences…..
On a related note, I recently discovered that there is a film version of this in production as I write this. I am somewhat skeptical of a film’s ability to capture the magic of Odd’s narration that really sells the book, but we’ll see. And who knows, maybe we’ll get some Bruce Willis connected to this after all!
MOVIE UPDATE: The good news is, Dean Koontz has seen the finished film and gives it two thumbs up! The bad news is, its locked up in a financial lawsuit at the moment and there’s no telling when it will be released…..In the meantime, we do have a promo trailer. The video quality isn’t great, and the article’s author is dubious as to whether this is going to be any good, but I’m still excited.
SERIES UPDATE: In addition to the subsequent sequel novels, Koontz has teemed up with Queenie Chan and a couple other comic book folk to release several manga prequels to this book. I recommend reading this first to become acquainted with the characters, but they are worth checking out. I posted a review of them here.
THE ODD THOMAS SERIES, BY DEAN KOONTZ
Prequel: You Are Destined To Be Together Forever
Book I: Odd Thomas
Book II: Forever Odd
Book III: Brother Odd
Book IV: Odd Hours
Interlude: Odd Interlude
Book V: Odd Apocalypse
Book VI: Deeply Odd
Book VII: Saint Odd
Manga Prequel Series
Odd Passenger (Non-Canon Webseries)