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Odd Thomas Hardcover – December 9, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Once in a very great while, an author does everything right-as Koontz has in this marvelous novel. Odd Thomas, who narrates, is odd indeed: only 20, he works contentedly as a fry cook in a small fictional California town, despite a talent for writing. The reason for his lack of ambition? A much rarer talent: Odd sees and converses with ghosts, the lingering dead who have yet to pass on, a secret he has kept from nearly everyone but his girlfriend, an eccentric author friend and the local police chief, whom he occasionally helps solve terrible crimes. Odd also has the ability to see bodachs, malevolent spirits that feast on pain and whose presence signifies a likelihood of imminent violence. The proximity of bodachs to a weird-looking stranger in town, whom Odd dubs "Fungus Man," alerts Odd that trouble is brewing; breaking into Fungus Man's house, Odd discovers not only hundreds of bodachs but a shrine to serial killers that helps him deduce that somehow Fungus Man will wreak widespread havoc very soon-so Odd is caught in a classic race against time to deter catastrophe. As with Koontz's best novels, this one features electrifying tension and suspense, plus a few walloping surprises. But Koontz fans know that the author has recently added humor to his arsenal of effects, and this thriller also stands out for its brilliant tightrope walk between the amusing and the macabre; one of the dead with whom Odd interacts frequently, for instance, is Elvis, still pining for his long-dead mother, Gladys. Above all, the story, like most great stories, runs on character-and here Koontz has created a hero whose honest, humble voice will resonate with many. In some recent books, Koontz has tended to overwrite, but not here: the narrative is as simple and clear as a newborn's gaze. This is Koontz working at his pinnacle, providing terrific entertainment that deals seriously with some of the deepest themes of human existence: the nature of evil, the grip of fate and the power of love.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Odd Thomas is just that. He works as a fry cook in the fictional California town of Pico Mundo. Should he ever leave that position, he sees a future in selling tires or shoes. What he lacks in ambition, he makes up for with a special gift. He communes with and sees the dead, some of whom enlist his help in avenging their deaths from foul play. His gift is a secret from everyone except his beautiful girlfriend and the Chief of Police, who never questions Odd's tips, advice, or presence at a murder scene. The man sees "bodachs" as well, small, evil creatures, fluid in shape, that feed upon horrific acts of carnage. He is horrified to see hordes of them gathering in his town. He spots a weird looking stranger in whom the bodachs appear very interested, nicknames him Fungus Man, and rightly assumes that he is involved in the impending disaster. Breaking into the man's house, Odd finds a mysterious black room, a shrine to serial killers, and a page from a calendar that tells him the date of the planned event. Now it's a race against time to foil the plot. The rapid pace, eerie circumstances, and bizarre characters will keep readers turning pages. Just when the suspense is almost unbearable, Koontz exhibits his wry sense of humor to break the tension. The last chapters are so powerful and heartrending that they should be read several times.
Katherine Fitch, Rachel Carson Middle School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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In most stories where the main character has some special power, he/she is rarely if ever believed. I like that Odd has a fantastic support system and numerous friends including even the chief of police. Police officers are usually the least likely people to buy into such madness, but Chief Porter does. He's like a father to Odd, something our young hero desperately needs. Odd doesn't have to bear the burden of his ability alone. It's not a completely secret power; it's just a power.
The people who know not only accept that he has it, they trust him with it, and his friends are all so eclectic: Viola and her daughters Nicolina and Levanna, Terry his boss with her Elvis obsession, his landlady Rosalia Sanchez, who asks him every day if she is visible, the fore mentioned Chief Porter and his wife Karla, Little Ozzie who is probably the largest man in the town, and of course, the love of his life Stormy Llewellyn. While all of them do not know what he's capable of, they all accept that he is Odd. He is an example of the "hiding power in simple places" trope where we often see the orphan or the foundling who was left or hidden to conceal and protect who they are and what they have. Odd is also extremely polite, another thing I enjoyed especially coming from one so young where they're often and tritely portrayed as rude. He calls everyone either "sir" or "ma'am" and there's no one he treats with disrespect.
Koontz pulls you in right away with Odd's powers manifesting themselves in a little girl named Penny Kalisto. The dead never talk to him, but they have a way of making themselves heard. The ones that still linger do so for a reason, and Odd feels it is his duty to divine. Seeing the dead is not his only power, but I won't spoil the surprise.
Even though I figured out the major twist long before the final chapter, I still give this tale high marks and have added the second novel, Forever Odd, to my reading list. There's also apparently a movie that I'll need to check out.
Odd Thomas wears its sadness like a pall. It lurks between each word and is the foundation of every sentence.
"Perseverance is impossible if we don't permit ourselves to hope."
It all boils down to the fact that Odd Thomas can see dead people. But as Mr Koontz says in his own words, "... he [Odd] actually DOES something about it...”. It is a good thing, therefore, as an incredibly bold (or is that naive?) twenty one year old, that he has strong connections with the town Sheriff. And that in the context of this story, his girlfriend - Stormy Lleweyn - is the niece of the village Catholic Priest. As i approach the halfway mark, I am yet to meet the entire cast of characters, but those that have been introduced to the reader are full of depth, humour, intelligence and to summarise, are all beautifully and immaculately presented. My favourite is the amateur mystery novelist Ollie, who is so overweight that the term “obese” does not even fit his literary persona. But what an amazingly intellectual mind he has! And with such friendship and plutonic love he holds for Odd, he is almost like the Father Odd never knew. There is a plethora of supporting characters, too, which are a joy to meet, but I won’t ruin the surprise for any of those that have not completed this supernatural fantasy by mentioning them here. But brace yourself. *grins*
And speaking of the bad guys - which I wasn’t - but I am now - they too are as delightful and fun to read about as they were for Mr Koontz to write about. The main antagonist for Odd is a “gentleman” called the Fungus Man - who not only turns out to be a devoted follower of some of the most evil men in history but also possesses the rare (and unwanted) talent of attracting sentient voids of the universe (aka “bodachs”) just about anywhere he goes. And of course the Fungus Man has an almost supernatural ability to “be” just about anywhere he “needs” to be virtually at will.
For readers who are interested, there are a couple of phrases inserted into the body of the book that could almost be described as Mr Koontz being autobiographical. For example, taken from location 1504 of the kindle version: “Ozzie’s success doesn’t in the least surprise me. He likes people and he listens to them, and that love of humanity shines out of his pages.” The quintessential Koontzanism? I think so.
So what is the book really about? Is it a standalone novel? Or merely the prologue to arguably the first and greatest supernatural fantasy series of all time? Well in my opinion, it is both. Clearly the Fungus Man must be stopped. He is bad. Odd Thomas (and his small army of friends) represent the forces of good in the tiny town of Pico Mundo and they will (of course) do their darnedest to protect its integrity. So our role as readers, of course, is to sit on the sidelines, cheer on the good guys, and hope for the outcome we all want. Because if Mr Odd fails to overcome the invading evil and achieve his destiny, how on earth is Mr Koontz going to write eight more fantastic books to read?
I hereby award this book a very solid four stars, despite its status as the opening stanza to a legendary series. I cant wait to see how this story finishes, and of course i can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the books and start devouring them like a vampire devouring virginal blood. But just don’t let Odd Thomas see me!