Books: Odd Apocalypse

I like Odd Thomas, but Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels are getting odder and odder. In the first book, it was just Odd Thomas who was odd – the events happening around him were perhaps unusual but not truly odd. I enjoyed his common sense approach to life, and his particular sort of humor.

In Odd Apocalypse, it is the situation in which Odd Thomas finds himself that is truly odd, more so than he is. His ability to see the “lingering dead” (spirits who have not yet crossed over) plays a role in the book, but it is almost peripheral – just enough to get him on the right track to solving the mystery. His new companion, Annamaria (“the Lady of the Bell”) is in some ways even more odd than he is, though her role in the novel is also minimal.

The series has gotten progressively darker, and including more elements of fantasy/science fiction outside of Odd’s odd abilities. This seems to be common in series (not just those by Koontz)┬áthat are character-based, where readers want to see more of a well-loved character but the author seems to feel obliged to “raise the ante” in each successive installment, perhaps to justify adding another book to the series. I don’t know if the first book seems best because it was less dark, or because the character was fresh and seemed more vibrant, but I don’t care as much for the later entries, and this is no exception.

Koontz tries to keep the tone from getting too dark by throwing lots of humorous lines (thoughts, usually, rather than dialog) by Odd Thomas, but these are starting to get tiresome. In the first novel I loved his use of humorous understatement, delivered with what I am sure is a deadpan expression. The first few in this book also charmed me, but after that they seemed forced – included because that’s what Odd is supposed to do, rather than because it really fits.

I suppose I should like the fact that this book includes time travel, since I generally do find such stories interesting. But the context in which time travel takes place makes it just more weirdness rather than the interesting plot device that it often is. There is some interesting information about Nikola Tesla, but much of it is myth rather than history. I enjoy science fiction, but I don’t think it mixes well with Koontz’s particular brand of speculative fiction.

Odd Thomas does have valuable things to say about life, and about good and evil.

We are all the walking wounded in a world that is a war zone. … Yet everywhere I look, I find great beauty in this battlefield, and grace and the promise of joy.

The devil and all his minions are dull and predictable because of their single-minded rebellion against truth. … Virtue is imaginative, evil repetitive.

Evil does not relent; it must be defeated.

And that’s part of why I’m sure I’ll be reading the next Odd Thomas novel when it comes out.

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