Dean Koontz recently released the latest installment in his Odd Thomas series, Deeply Odd. These supernatural thrillers have gained quite a following among conservatives because the books reject moral relativism and critique America’s political correctness.
Though they are thrillers, the books are also funny, and Koontz’s political commentary is especially witty. But they are worth reading because they have a fabulous hero. The series chronicles the adventures of Odd Thomas, a simple fry cook with a special gift. Odd sees dead people, and he uses this gift to solve crimes and right wrongs.
Odd is an entirely likeable character. Though he’s just a simple fry cook (who happens to see dead people), Odd is a classic hero. He’s faithful, brave, dutiful, and just about every other heroic trait you can think of. Most importantly he’s humble. Odd knows that he must step in and right wrongs, but he never feels in charge, and he always feels inadequate.
But Odd isn’t the only likeable character. Koontz populates these books with a number of quirky and fascinating good guys. It’s this quality that I think makes the Odd Thomas books worth reading. Interesting villains are easy for authors. John Milton’s Satan and George Lucas’s Darth Vader steal the show. The thriller genre is especially known for churning out the fascinating bad guys. Everyone remembers Annie Wilkes from Misery and Hannibal Lector from Red Dragon, but who were those other characters again?
In the Odd Thomas series, Koontz intentionally makes the villains pedestrian, even clichéd. In Deeply Odd the hero comments:
Evil is not imaginative. It inspires the same transgressions over and over again, with such infinitesimal variation that only the weak-minded are not quickly bored by that way of living. It seeks to destroy, and destruction takes no imagination. Creation takes true imagination, the making of something new and wondrous, whether it’s a song or an iPad, a novel or a new cooking surface more durable than Teflon, a new flavor of ice cream or spacecraft that can travel to the moon.
The villains are a little boring, but Odd’s friends are delightful. These friends are not complex characters in the sense that they are heroes with flaws. Rather they are complex because they show the reader new ways to love life, love beauty, and love the truth. And they’re fun. The good guys tend to have a lot of fun in these books.
These fun good guys operate within a distinctly Christian framework. Good is good. Evil is evil. Acknowledging the difference brings the heroes joy. Brother Odd is probably the funniest of the books so far, and it takes place in a Catholic monastery. The characters do not necessarily espouse orthodox Christian theology (although Odd does seem to get more orthodox as the books wear on), but Christian themes are found throughout. Faith, hope, and love figure prominently, along with the notion of self-sacrifice.
In Deeply Odd Odd Thomas must track down some kidnapped children before something bad happens to them. The book contains the trademark political commentary. This passage from the beginning of the book seems to take a shot at Obama.
The line between moral behavior and narcissistic self-righteousness is thin and difficult to discern. The man who stands before a crowd and proclaims his intention to save the seas is convinced that he is superior to a man who merely picks up his own and other people’s litter on the beach, when in fact the latter is in some small way sure to make the world a better place, while the former is likely to be a monster of vanity whose crusade will lead to unintended destruction.
Honestly though, the political commentary doesn’t sparkle quite as much as it did in previous books. My speculative nature wonders if our current political climate is wearing on Koontz. The two most recent books are less funny, and they have taken a turn towards the phantasmagoric. Koontz seems to be setting up a final show down between good and evil in the next book.
Deeply Odd is a worthwhile addition to the series, which now spans six books (or seven if you count the e-book serial). None of the sequels match the original, but the sum of the series seems to be more than the parts. The books are quirky, and they won’t suit the tastes of everyone. But I think they’re worth reading. They acknowledge that this world is broken, and they can be a bit scary at points. But if you’re paying attention they’ll also encourage you to love the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Books in the Series