Review: “Brother Odd,” Dean Koontz

Pros: Earnest, whimsical, delightful
Cons: Slow first half of book; not as quotable as the first two
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

 

Brother Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel (from The Odd Thomas Series 6-Book Bundle) is the third book in the series. Sadly, it is not as fantastic as the first two.

Odd Thomas needs a break from reality. His psychic abilities–in particular, his ability to see the lingering dead, who so often want his help–have confused, bewildered, and stressed him out. To this end Odd becomes a guest in a monastery, trading his efforts in the kitchen and around the grounds for a simpler existence. Of course he can’t get away from his gifts and his mission, and soon he’s seeing bodachs again–bogeymen whose presence indicates that something terrible and bloody is about to happen. Considering that they’re haunting the building that houses boys and girls with physical and mental disabilities, Odd is particularly worried.

 

Over the years, in pinches and crunches, I have survived–often just barely–by the effective use of such weapons as fists, feet, knees, elbows, a baseball bat, a shovel, a knife, a rubber snake, a real snake, three expensive antique porcelain vases, about a hundred gallons of molten tar, a bucket, a lug wrench, an angry cross-eyed ferret, a broom, a frying pan, a toaster, butter, a fire hose, and a large bratwurst.

Brother Odd is a slower, more contemplative book than its predecessors. On the one hand, this is sort of appropriate for a book that takes place in a monastery and is about Odd trying to take a break from his stresses. On the other hand, this makes for a dull first half of the book. I found myself repeatedly putting the book down during this time because it just didn’t suck me into the story. It also wasn’t as relentlessly, wonderfully quotable as the first two books. Since Dean Koontz is typically a master of fast pacing and tense events, this is surprising.

The humor in this one felt a bit ‘off’ from that of previous books. Odd comments on his own identity as a smart-ass, but in the past his humor always felt a bit more… earnest. Now it’s dryer and sharper. I could see this as character development, particularly given some of the dark events in Odd’s life. It’s a rather sudden break from the last book, however, and I would have thought it more likely after the events of the first book rather than the second. Also, Odd’s endearing wit has been the strongest part of his offbeat narrative, so changing that too far throws off the feel of the book.

Thankfully the tension and pacing pick up in the second half of the book. By the end it had sucked me in quite thoroughly, although I never found myself even tempted to shed tears–in some ways for me that’s the mark of connecting emotionally with a book, and the first two books had a tearful moment each.

While Brother Odd isn’t as tense and whimsical a ride as Odd Thomas and Forever Odd, it is quite engrossing for half of the tale. It has an imaginative plot that’s extremely different from those of the first two books; I love Koontz’s ability to come up with something totally new for Odd to do in each installment. I particularly enjoyed the more colorful personalities among the monks and their guests (I doubt I’ll ever quite forget Brother Knuckles).

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