Review: “Odd Hours,” Dean Koontz

Pros: Odd Thomas himeslf
Cons: Slow, somewhat ‘ordinary’, with a fortune-cookie character and glaring continuity errors
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

 

Odd Hours (found in The Odd Thomas Series 6-Book Bundle) is the fourth book in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. I got my hands on the entire series to read while I recover from surgery, and I’ve been enjoying its whimsical, endearing charms. Unfortunately, book four doesn’t measure up to the previous three books, and doesn’t even come close to books one and two. An annoying fortune cookie of a character, a lack of engaging side characters, slow pacing, and errors in simple details from previous books haunt this paranormal tale.

 

Now Koontz follows Odd as he is drawn onward, to a destiny he cannot imagine. Haunted by dreams of an all-encompassing red tide, Odd is pulled inexorably to the sea, to a small California coastal town where nothing is as it seems.

In this case it should perhaps be seen as a bad sign that even the publisher couldn’t come up with much to say about the plot of Odd Hours. It’s pretty simple and straightforward–Odd has to stop an ugly group of people from wreaking devastating havoc with some extremely powerful weapons, and along the way he has to protect an enigmatic, pregnant young woman.

Annamaria, the young woman, is a walking fortune cookie. She answers every question Odd Thomas throws at her with vague philosophical cliches. She doesn’t even turn out to have all that much to do with the plot of the book, despite appearing prominently in Odd’s prophetic dreams of disaster. She disappears for most of the narrative. She’s more annoying than enigmatic, and Odd’s inability to get information out of her feels artificially prolonged.

Much like book three, Brother Odd, this installment starts out slow. Unlike that book it doesn’t pick up halfway through–it waits until much later in the narrative to evince any real tension and quick pacing. As before, the dull pacing matches up with a greatly reduced quotability. Normally Odd’s offbeat narrative includes a great deal of notable material worth sharing with the people around me, but not so in this case. The whimsical, endearing nature of Odd’s previous tales is lacking.

Added to the annoying character and dull pacing is a distinct carelessness with regard to the details of previous novels in the series. Early on in the book Odd says,

Even an accurate description of me would not help them much. I am of average height, average weight. I have no distinguishing scars, birthmarks, tattoos, moles, warts, or facial mutations.

Except, you know, for the distinct birthmark that is so central to his relationship with Stormy in the first book, Odd Thomas. Said birthmark even comes back into the picture on page 300 of this installment itself:

My birthmark is a half-inch-wide crescent, an inch and a half from point to point, milk-white against the flesh of my hand.

It’s even in a very visible place, meaning I can’t argue that the first quote simply refers to the birthmark not being obvious.

At one point Odd mentions that previously, other people haven’t been able to see the supernatural themselves–only his psychic abilities have enabled him to see oddities. That ignores the fact that the monsters in book three (Brother Odd) were notably visible to everyone. Odd comments that in his experience only “deeply malevolent” spirits are able to be poltergeists (spirits with the ability to affect the world of the living), yet again, in book three there’s a spirit that exhibits poltergeist abilities that wasn’t at all evil. It comes across as sheer carelessness.

Books one and two (Odd Thomas and Forever Odd) were flat-out delightful, and the second half of book three (Brother Odd) was at least engrossing and engaging. Odd Hours doesn’t pick up until the very end, lacks a colorful supporting cast, and contains continuity errors that make it seem like Koontz was phoning it in. It’s a real shame.

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