Book Review: Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz

Today’s book review is actually a rewrite of the one I composed yesterday. Unfortunately, that post seemed to trigger some sort of automated alert on another blogging platform, and my blog was suspended. I keep picturing the robot from Lost In Space shouting, “Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!” and waving his arms about madly as the automated robot on the other blogging platform seemed to think that my post was a nefarious scheme to undermine Western society or something. Or worse, I said that God is good and Satan is bad. Yes, that’s the turn my book review took, and I’m going to do my best to recapitulate the highlights from that post here, now, in this of what I hope to be the first of many posts on our new blogging home.

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz is the type of book that elicits huge variances among reviewers. Some love it, some hate. I’m on the “I liked it a lot” but didn’t love it category. I have never really loved the Deeply Odd series of books the way I truly love Koontz’s book From the Corner of His Eye. But Koontz is one of the few sci fi and horror writers today who has a deeply Christian, and in Koontz’s case, Roman Catholic worldview undergirding his stories. It is perhaps for this reason that I overlook some of the flaws in his Odd Thomas series and instead cheer the universal truths espoused in his books.

(Warning! Spoiler Alert!)

Deeply Odd finds the character of Odd Thomas, the fry cook from Pico Mundo who sees the ghosts of the unquiet dead, with Annamaria and Thomas, the eerie never aging child rescued in the last book, in a cottage somewhere.  The mysterious tinkerbell he wears around his neck chimes, summoning him to the rescue of three children he sees in a vision.  Along the way, he finds himself in a parallel universe he dubs Elsewhere, not exactly hell but definitely not earth, either. He eventually discovers that the horrific vision of children being killed is part of a larger vision of evil. A Satanic cult, led by a man he dubs the Rhinestone Cowboy, is kidnapping children and plans to sacrifice them to their master. Odd Thomas, aided by a mysterious and kookie old lady named Edie Fischer, the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock, and a ghost dog named Boo must rescue the children, escape from an angry released demon, and avoid a pack of amoral Satanist.

Sounds like a crazy plot? It is.

All of the Odd Thomas books contain an element of the surreal. Heaven and hell are real places in Koontz’s books, and good and evil aren’t gray, murky, relativistic concepts. Instead, they are clearly defined concepts. Priests and nuns are the good guys (except when taken over by aliens, in which case you forgive them, because the aliens are running the show.) Dogs are always good. Cats get names like Terrible Chester and pee on shoes. (Okay, they do that in real life, too.) But throughout the books, there’s a golden thread of optimism and faith in human nature that makes Koontz’s books something beyond a mere horror novel. Yes, people die – sometimes in gruesome ways. Ask the guy in Deeply Odd who got his soul sucked out of his body by a six-eyed demon that escapes from Elsewhere. Yet like the old movies in which only the Nazis got killed in gruesome ways and the good guys died bloodless deaths, the man whose soul is eaten by the demon is a satanist, a cult member who is looking forward to murdering children.  That’s not to say that bad things don’t happen to good people; they do, especially in Koontz’s other books. Serafina in From the Corner of His Eye is raped as a young teenager by her physical therapist; children flee evil forces; bad things do happen. But in Koontz’s world, a loving God cares about the fall of the sparrow and the well being of a child and sends furry Golden Retrievers to shower children with love and affections. Is it any wonder I’m a fan of his books?

Deeply Odd does suffer from several literary flaws, but so do all the Odd Thomas books. Several readers who shared reviews of the book on Amazon panned the book for his “conservative speeches” but I don’t have an issue with conservative OR liberal speeches if the character in a book is clearly of that mindset. I do have an issue with Odd Thomas’ monologues in which he spins metaphor after metaphor. It’s a character trait that almost made me abandon the series at the start, and it hasn’t endeared itself to me or to many of the readers who disliked the book.

This book is indeed darker in tone than others in the series. Odd is a little down, but who wouldn’t be? He’s had to flee the job he loves, his girlfriend is dead, and he keeps getting plunged into metaphysical mysteries for which his love of cooking fluffy pancakes at the diner hasn’t prepared him.  All he yearns for is to return to his hometown and his simple life as a fry cook at the diner, but universal forces keep pushing him to confront the tangible manifestation of evil in today’s world. And that’s probably why I, among Koontz’s millions of fans worldwide, keep returning to this series.

The author said originally that there would be only six books in the series, but he has indeed left a cliff hanger and a big opening for a seventh book. I hope he does write it. I hope the series ends with Odd Thomas being happy. When you’re saddled with the first name of Odd, and baggage as big as a tractor trailer truck like his main character, readers tend to root for his eventual happiness.

Disclaimer: This is an unbiased review. I obtained a copy of the book Deeply Odd from the library.

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