Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

A thriller writer who needs no introduction whatsoever, whose scalpel clean prose has given an entire generation reason to read, Dean Koontz delivers us the third book in his popular Odd Thomas series. Although at times his tomes have given us numerous grounds to skip them altogether , or perhaps throw them across the room , one cannot help but feel admiration for such a prolific, industrial and unbelievably swift composer whose work ethic makes most writers looked positively blocked.

For those not familiar with our protagonist, Odd Thomas is basically the boy from The Sixth Sense all grown up. Readers of supernatural fiction might find this foundation unbearably insipid, knowing it's certainly been tapped in the genre numerous times throughout history. But Dean charged the original novel in the series with an almost magical sentimentality; the sequel, Forever Odd, was somewhat blighted in comparison , and fell very short capturing the charisma of the original. Whereas the best books are written from the heart, Dean seemed to use his head with the sequel: a strategy that more often than not ensures failure. With this in mind - I hesitantly approached Brother Odd, hoping that Dean had received critical feedback regarding the second book - and attended to what was said.

In this volume, Odd Thomas has retreated into the snowy Sierra mountains and joined a phalanx of monks as a 'guest' resident of St Bartholomew's abbey. He also shares his space with nuns (of which some are privy to his secret), psychically and mentally challenged children , a dog named Boo and the ghost of Elvis Presley. But his peace in isolation doesn't last long as one of the monks goes missing and then is subsequently murdered in a hellish manner as an affront to his beliefs. It's not long before the shadowy Bodach's make their return, sniffing and salivating along the corridors of St. Bartholomew's as harbingers for future carnage to follow. Unless, of course, Odd can outwit this destiny with all the talents at his disposal.

The cast in Brother Odd is eccentric and hilarious, with Dean using his continued tradition of humor to the full extent. However, one of the main players, the Russian born Rodian Romanovich, could have been handled more deftly; his character is clumsy and oppressive, his lines out of sync with the real. The salvation to Dean's errors comes in the form of his philosophical questings on the nature of reality. Those of us who have taken the journeys One Door Away From Heaven and From the Corner of his Eye will know his blend of science and the supernatural is often enlightening. Weather it be 'spooky effects at a distance' or 'the strange order that underlies all chaos' , the optimistic and life-affirming messages are there for people to decode. And for pessimists like yours-truly, this can often be beneficial and gratifying.

Dean Koontz is a writer guarantor, an author whom (like a four-star restaurant that rarely disappoints), promises a story that will sufficiently entertain even when he is batting at the bottom of his game. Rarely, when such huge input is put out into the masses can we criticize. I must admit, the green eyed jealously bug has surfaced within me regarding him: This guy is an enigma; the amount of words spewed out reflects someone who is born to the pastime.

Brilliant, sometimes terrible, but nevertheless a treasure - the religion of reading and its disciples are ultimately lucky to have him.

Note: Although originally published in November 2006, I felt a personal review was warranted given the popularity of the trilogy.

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