Originally published September 11th, 2015
It seems obvious, having gotten to the end of the book, that this was going to be a sensationalistic tale. Going in to it I wasn’t certain, just hoping for an eerie supernatural mystery. And that’s definitely a large part of what I got. Koontz peppers his novel with unusual characters and manages to avoid the majority of the pitfalls of stereotype. He even manages to include characters who aren’t white, although I think he forgot to put in a woman who wasn’t pretty. To put it another way, he doesn’t describe a female character without also mentioning that she’s physically attractive, or was when she was younger (can’t be 50 and pretty, apparently. I was gonna cross that off my to-do list anyways). The male characters are just described, without commenting on whether one would find their appearance pleasing. Because, you know, men can do that. Be more than their faces. But I digress.
I wasn’t expecting, in a tale where the main character can communicate with ghosts, to have the author toss out that old urban legend that satanists run about higgledy-piggledy planning mass murders and being serial killers. Koontz seems to have some strange blind spots when it comes to accurately representing the portions of his world that are based on reality. He has the main character spout detailed statistics on the popularity of bowling in the states, and then a few pages later completely gaff the description of a coyote. For the record, yes, they are carrion eaters. They’re opportunistic. I have a hard time describing them as “big…rough-hewn…a demon that had slipped through the gates of hell” and an even harder time picturing groups of them stalking and attacking adult humans. (274) Or rather, ganging up and threatening to eat an adult human. There are records of attacks, but they’re uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but this sort of inaccuracy really smelled to me like Koontz was distorting information deliberately just to make his novel more thrilling. And when he threw in satanists I just rolled my eyes. He may as well have had his character attacked by wolves. It’s just cheesy.
[Ok you’re safe now]
My last quibble with Koontz is his penchant for adjectives. It’s like his motto is “never use one adjective when three will do.” “Robertson had gone, and quickly, as if with an urgent purpose.” (129) OH YOU MEAN LIKE QUICKLY THEN? IS THAT WHAT YOU MEANT? I WASN’T QUITE SURE. It actually reminds me of reading Fifty Shades of Grey (shush.) The same sort of overstated repetition in place of greater creativity. (With a lot of the same sort of hang ups around sex, ironically enough. “Purity” and chasteness being put up on a pedestal and held as guarantee that your relationship is meant to be/will work out/is better than anyone else’s.) I hope that the success of the Odd Thomas novels isn’t a harbinger of an eight book series of various shades of grey.
To sum up, this isn’t a terrible book. It’s a decent distraction for a day or two when you don’t have any plans. But don’t expect it to thrill you.