Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz

A thriller writer who needs no introduction, 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 reason 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 other writer's appear positively blocked.

For those not familiar with our protagonist, Odd Thomas is basically the boy from The Sixth Sense all grown up. While reader's of supernatural fiction might find this foundation insipid (knowing it's been tapped in the genre numerous times before), Dean managed to charge the original novel with an almost magical sentimentality. Its sequel, Forever Odd, felt somewhat lackluster in comparison, falling short of capturing the original charisma. Whereas the best books are often written from the heart, Dean seemed to use his head in that instance. With this in mind, I hesitantly approached Brother Odd, hoping the author had received critical feedback. 

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

One glowing positive: the cast in Brother Odd is eccentric and hilarious, Dean using his continued tradition of humor to the fullest extent. However, one of the main players, the Russian born Rodian Romanovich, could have been handled more deftly - his character is clumsy and often oppressive, his lines out of sync with the real. The salvation to the book comes in the form of Koontz's philosophical questing on the nature of reality. In recent journeys (such as One Door Away From Heaven or From the Corner of his Eye), this blend of science and the supernatural is always enlightening. Whether it be 'spooky effects at a distance' or 'a strange order underlining all chaos', the optimistic and life-affirming messages are there for people to decode. And for pessimists like yours-truly, this can be 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. A true enigma, the amount of words poured out reflects someone born to the pastime.

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