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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Odd Hours" + "In Odd We Trust" by Dean Koontz

Read An Excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: For over thirty years Dean Koontz has been thrilling audiences with his novels of suspense and horror and is only one of a dozen writers to have at least ten titles reach the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcovers. Dean’s novel, “Frankenstein: Prodigal Son”, is currently being adapted as a five-issue comic book miniseries by Dabel Brothers. On June 24, 2008, Del Rey Manga will publish “In Odd We Trust”, a 186-page graphic novel that explores Odd’s earlier years. Dean Koontz’s next novel of suspense, “Your Heart Belongs To Me”, will be published in November 2008.

PLOT SUMMARY: Odd Thomas’ legend began in the obscure town of Pico Mundo, California, where the charismatic young fry cook developed a reputation, among a select circle, for his extraordinary ability to communicate with and help the lingering dead. After a memorable stint in a monastery in the High Sierra, now accompanied by his new friends, the ghost of Frank Sinatra and a German shepherd dog named Boo, Odd has been drawn to the small coastal town of Magic Beach where he works for a one-time movie star. Here his dreams are disturbed by visions of an all-encompassing red tide of death and destruction, and after chance encounters with an enigmatic young woman and a trio of thugs, Odd will discover a devastating secret and embark on a stage of his remarkable journey in which the stakes are higher than ever before…

CLASSIFICATION: Like the other Odd Thomas books—Odd Thomas, Forever Odd and Brother Odd—“Odd Hours” is a contemporary suspense thriller with a dash of the supernatural. Readers can also expect the novel to be humorous, sly, a brisk read, and light-hearted with little cursing, zero sex, and just a bit of graphic violence…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 352 pages divided over forty-nine chapters. Narration is a first-person accounting of events already occurred via the protagonist Odd Thomas. “Odd Hours” takes place around a month after “Brother Odd”, which was preceded by “Forever Odd” and the book that started it all, “Odd Thomas”. “Odd Hours” recaps a few events from the previous books, but like the others, the new Odd novel is mostly self-contained, although this volume, more than the others, will leave readers hanging until the next Odd Thomas sequel.

May 20, 2008 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Odd Thomas” via
Bantam Dell. The UK version (see inset) will be published July 1, 2008 via HarperCollins. US cover art is provided by Tom Hallman.

ANALYSIS: Odd Thomas is the kind of hero that is impossible not to like. Even though he’s cursed with supernatural abilities—prophetic dreams/visions, psychic magnetism, and being able to see and communicate with the spirits of dead people who are reluctant to move on—which constantly places him in danger, has already experienced tragic loss at the age of 21, and is always around the darker side of humanity, Odd manages to maintain a positive outlook on life. Factor in his charismatic everyman personality—he wants nothing more from life than settling down with his best girl and working as a fry cook, tire salesmen, or owning his own ice-cream store—a vivid imagination, witty comebacks, an aversion to cursing & violence, and his fear of dying an undignified death, and it’s easy to see why millions of readers have fallen in love with Odd Thomas.

Now if you’ve been following the series up to this point, you’ve probably noticed that the books follow a certain pattern. Such as a vision of a catastrophe that only Odd can prevent, his use of psychic magnetism, being accompanied by the ghost of a celebrity, and his famous verbal sparring skills ;) In this fourth adventure starring the ghost-seeing fry cook from Pico Mundo, California, you can expect all of that—with Frank Sinatra replacing Elvis in the role of celebrity ghost—as well as some new twists. Like for instance the absence of any bodachs—shadowy spirit creatures that appear before a death or disaster—in the book. Trying to prevent a threat—tied into terrorism—that is much larger than anything Odd has faced in the past and which requires him to be more ruthless than ever. Having unknown supernatural forces aligning against him. Dealing with things that have never happened before including passing on his visions to others and witnessing what he believed was the devil. And meeting a person in the mysterious Annamaria who is even stranger than Odd Thomas. The biggest departure though is how much stuff is left unresolved in the book, especially regarding the mysterious Annamaria. All of the previous volumes were self-contained, but “Odd Hours” acts more like a bridge novel to the next Odd Thomas adventure, even going so far as introducing characters in the aforementioned Annamaria, Blossom Rosedale and the golden retriever Raphael who look to figure more prominently in the sequel(s)…

While the story was a little unfulfilling, the writing nevertheless remains top-notch and is one of the best features that a Dean Koontz novel has to offer. I particularly love the dialogue and the author’s ability for distinctive similes/metaphors. Of the former, Odd Thomas is a master of the snappy repartee:

Don’t push me, kid. I have nothing to lose.”
Oh, Chief, don’t undersell yourself. You’ve still got a lot to lose. Your arrogance, your self-importance, your greed, that insane gleam of historic destiny in your eye—

Of the latter, I wish I had Koontz’s gift with words: “His nose had once been as straight and proud as every sadistic fascist facilitator of terror would like his nose to be; now it resembled a mutant pink zucchini.” Of course, Koontz can also be insightful as well as clever: “Loss is the hardest thing. But it’s also the teacher that’s the most difficult to ignore.” As to the rest, pacing is fast-paced as usual, the plot has its share of surprises, Shakespeare is often quoted, and the characters are well-crafted, although I was a little disappointed in the mundane villains.

CONCLUSION: Out of all of Dean Koontz’s characters, Odd Thomas is one of my favorites and it’s been a real treat following the series so far. While this novel feels incomplete, leaves the reader hanging, and is nowhere as magical or heartrending as the first Odd Thomas book, “Odd Hours” is another solid entry in the series partly because it is an Odd Thomas adventure, but also because it introduces some exciting new elements that I can’t wait to see developed in the sequels :) On a different note, why haven’t these books been adapted into a film or television series yet!?!? Some literary characters are just meant to be a star and Odd Thomas is such a person…

BONUS REVIEW — “In Odd We Trust” written by Queenie Chan & Dean Koontz with illustrations by Queenie Chan:

Order “In Odd We TrustHERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Queenie Chan is a Chinese-born, Australian manga artist and author of comic books. Her works include The Dreaming series (Tokyopop) which has been translated into four languages, three one-shots, a variety of short stories, and “In Odd We Trust”.

PLOT SUMMARY: Odd Thomas is a regular nineteen-year-old with an unusual gift: the ability to see the lingering spirits of the dead. To Odd, it’s not such a big deal. And most folks in sleepy Pico Mundo, California, are much more interested in the irresistible pancakes Odd whips up at the local diner. Still, communing with the dead can be useful. Because while some spirits only want a little company . . . others want justice…

When the sad specter of a very frightened boy finds its way to him, Odd vows to root out the evil suddenly infecting the sunny streets of Pico Mundo. But even with his exceptional ability—plus the local police and his pistol-packing girlfriend, Stormy, backing him—is Odd any match for a faceless stalker who’s always a step ahead . . . and determined to kill again?

FORMAT/INFO:In Odd We Trust” is a graphic novel, but it comes packaged as a 7 ½ X 5-inch Trade Paperback. Page count is 186 pages divided over seven Chapters. Like the novels, the narration is in the first-person via Odd Thomas. Queenie Chan’s artwork is manga-styled in black, white & grey tones. Also includes “The Odd Face in the Mirror”, a little note from Dean Koontz about the image of Odd’s face; the first chapter from the book that started it all, “Odd Thomas”; and an Artist’s Sketchbook. “In Odd We Trust” is a standalone prequel to “Odd Thomas”, but I certainly hope there will be more of these graphic novels :)

June 24, 2008 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “In Odd We Trust” via
Del Rey. July 1, 2008 marks the UK Trade Paperback publication via HarperCollins UK. Cover design is by David Stevenson while the cover illustrations are provided by June Kim.

ANALYSIS: It’s always cool to see a favorite book or series by a favorite author get the movie, comic book or videogame treatment, and Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas is no exception :) As usual, the best thing about a graphic novel is the artwork. More specifically, seeing these characters that have only lived in our imagination for so long, come to life. In this case, Queenie Chan is given the honor of realizing Odd Thomas and friends, and she does a fabulous job, particularly with her interpretations of Odd himself, and especially his girlfriend, Stormy Llewellyn. Stylistically, Queenie’s art is manga-influenced so expect certain characteristics like the big eyes, outlandish faces depicting certain emotions, and amusing playfulness such as Lyndon B. Johnson’s naked backside covered by a huge CENSORED sign :) While I wish the graphic novel had been inked in color rather than just black, white & grey tones, I wasn’t too bothered by the decision because the artwork is so energetic and charming.

As far as the written side, I’m assuming that Queenie Chan scripted “In Odd We Trust” based on a story by Dean Koontz, but that’s just a guess. What I do know is that the story is much simpler and kid-friendly than the actual Odd Thomas novels, and lacks any of their suspense, humor, or cleverness, particularly the snappy dialogue and inventive similes/metaphors. That said, the writing does retain the charm and personality of an Odd Thomas book and is funny in its own way. Plus, everything you would expect from an Odd Thomas story is here: ghosts, Elvis, psychic magnetism, a mystery, heroism, spirituality and so on.

CONCLUSION:In Odd We Trust” may take less than an hour to read, is aimed at a younger audience, and lacks color, but it’s an original story, fun to read, and the artwork is delightful. So whether you’re a diehard Koontz fan, a follower of the Odd Thomas books, or just now discovering the charms of Pico Mundo’s ghost-seeing fry cook, “In Odd We Trust” is a winner…


T said...

I agree... though another great book in the series, I felt robbed when I read the last page. In fact, once I got to the final chapter, my mind was racing to piece all the subtle hints of the puzzle together only to find it didn't matter. At least, until the 5th book is released.

My only hope is that, Dean is much more eager to release the next book as soon as possible. Whereas, I've been STILL waiting for book three of Abarat (C. Barker). S-T-I-L-L!

Robert said...

T, well Dean seems pretty excited by his Odd Thomas books so I don't think we'll have to wait too long :)

As far as "Abarat", the third book is supposedly coming out September 1, 2008 in the UK according to, although I don't know how reliable that is. But if you want to talk about a wait, I've been waiting for the third Book of the Art by Mr. Barker for over a decade now ;)

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