Friday, April 25, 2014

Book AND Movie Thoughts: "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz

Truth be told, I completely forgot about this series until a few weeks ago, when I saw Odd Thomas sitting on the new release shelf in my local video store (yes, we still have those here). I remembered having read it in middle school and liking it quite a bit, so I decided to not only give the movie a shot, but dig in to the whole series all over again. The results were mixed.

I'll start of with the original. Here's my copy, which has held up remarkably for being eleven years old:

Our protagonist, aptly named Odd Thomas, can see dead people. The dead can't speak, but they still manage to communicate with Odd in order to solve crimes, find closure, or just hang out with someone who actually knows they're around. Odd can also see these sort of shadow-beasts he calls bodachs, the presence of which always indicates some sort of impending tragedy. The story revolves around his noticing unprecedented numbers of these bodachs gathering around certain individuals in town and his puzzling together what's going on and how to stop it.

Upon rereading, the story isn't quite as great as I remember. It's not that the novel is bad, it's just that I've since read books that do the whole I-see-things-no-else-does trope in better and more imaginative ways. Also, since neither the spirits or bodachs can affect the living world in any way, at its core Odd Thomas is less of a supernatural thriller and more of a story about an amateur detective with a little ghostly flair thrown in. Overall, it's a quick and pretty fun read, but nothing that will stick with you afterwards or make you think too hard. Literary popcorn, you could say.

The movie was similar. The biggest crime here was the overly-stylized editing: a lot of jump cuts alternating with dramatized slow motion of seemingly random events. This seemed to be an attempt at playing up the comedic elements of the story. Unfortunately, not only did it largely fall flat, it took away from the more somber moments. In the end you had both a comedy that wasn't quite funny and a tragedy that wan't quite sad. At least the movie spared us the tedious and largely pointless meeting of Odd's parents, which in my opinion took up way too much space in the book and was nothing more that an attempt to garner sympathy for a main character who didn't really need it. The film also does a much better job at foreshadowing than the book, so there's that.

So, after spending nearly a week of my life with this character that amounted to little more than a "meh", I still went ahead and read the next two books in the series since they were available at my local library. Here are my mini reviews:

Book Two, Forever Odd: If the first book was literary popcorn, this here was stale bread. I was thoroughly annoyed with how boring and linear the plot was, not to mention that, for a character who reminds us at least once every few chapters how much he hates guns, Odd sure doesn't hesitate to grab and use one whenever the opportunity arises. In this book Odd's best friend is kidnapped and blah blah blah, it seriously doesn't matter because this book was a waste of time and I almost didn't even finish it. Lastly, Odd tells us this best friend of his is more like a brother, except we didn't hear one word about him in the first book, and how much do you want to bet we never hear about him ever again?

Book Three, Brother Odd: No brother/friend here, that's for sure. That being said, I'm actually glad I persevered up to this point, because Brother Odd finally delivered what I'd been looking for in the previous books. This one takes place in a monastery and incorporates some science fiction elements that really energize the story. We got some interesting characters, and a plot that actually developed instead of just telling us everything outright. I'm not sure if this book is objectively good, or just seems so in comparison to the others in the series, but it was enough for me to request the forth Odd installment at the library. I'll let you know how it goes.

After my second week of Odd, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. If the rest of the series goes the way of Brother Odd, it should be a fun ride, but for now I think this entry has gotten bulky enough, so I'll leave you with the details for the movie and first three Odd books:

Title: Odd Tomas
Studio: Fusion Films
Run Time: 93 minutes
Would Recommend: If you're a big fan of the book, you may very well like this movie a lot. Otherwise I'd say it's not worth going out of your way to see.

Title: Odd Thomas
Published: 2003, Bantam Dell
Pages: 399
Would Recommend: Don't let the page count fool you, this book is a quick, light read, and fairly entertaining. Check it out if you're looking for something along those lines.

Title: Forever Odd
Published: 2005, Bantam Dell
Pages: 334
Would Recommend: No. So boring. The story here is almost entirely self contained, as well, so you could easily skip over this one if you're interested in the series. Anything you need to know going forward is explained in the opening of Brother Odd.

Title: Brother Odd
Published: 2006, Bantam Dell
Pages: 364
Would Recommend: Again, a pretty light read in spite of the page count. Also, a compelling story with interesting characters, so yes, I'd actually recommend this one.

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