Saturday, June 5, 2010

Odd Hours (book) by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is back, willing to lay down his life for some strange pregnant lady who refuses to give him a straight answer. Also, he kills several people and is a witness to lots of additional deaths. One of the reasons I enjoyed the first book in this series and continued on from there was because Odd is such a likable character. He's still likable, but now I kind of feel like I don't really know him anymore. Plus, I'm having a hard time understanding why he trusts that pregnant lady so easily - there's something about her that keeps setting off my "She's Secretly Evil" alarm.

By the way, if her refusal to answer any of Odd's questions in ways that actually make sense seems annoying to you, you'll be especially annoyed by the ending, which is one giant "To Be Continued," with, again, absolutely no answers from the Pregnant Lady Who Knows All But Smiles And Says Nothing.

Synopsis:
I don't really feel like doing a super-detailed synopsis for this one. Plus, I kind of waited too long - I've forgotten a lot of the details. Anyway, Odd is now living in a town called Magic Beach, cooking food for an elderly ex-actor. Odd keeps having dreams in which "the tide flows red and the sea throbs with a terrible light" - that doesn't sound good, but, other than that, Odd's life is pretty relaxed.

Until he saves the serene and unhelpful pregnant lady (Annamaria), that is. Then he attracts the attention of some bad people, at least one of which seems faintly non-human in his evilness. Odd realizes that these bad people have something to do with his probably prophetic nightmares. He decides to hide and protect the pregnant lady while he figures out what kind of evilness the bad people are going to be responsible for.

Back at Pico Mundo, he could count on help from the local law enforcement, but that's a problem in Magic Beach. It turns out that Chief Hoss Shackett of the Magic Beach Police plays a big role in the local evilness. Odd can't even necessarily trust people who might normally be trustworthy - there's no way to tell who's on the police chief's side.

So, if the police chief is doing evilness, why are people helping him? Money, of course. The Chief is part of a plan to deliver some nukes to other bad guys - Odd's dream is showing him what will happen if those bad guys get the nukes. Odd, like James Bond, only with less confidence and practice, manages to get on the ship that will be delivering the nukes, stop the people on the ship (killing a few of them - he may not have enjoyed it, but it still happened), and notifies several different authorities about the nukes (so that no one group will have access to them and therefore try to keep them quiet and use them for their own purposes). Odd is upset by the thought of all the people he killed in this book, but Annamaria, the serene pregnant lady, tells him it's ok because he saved whole cities by doing what he did. The book ends with the two of them traveling, and Annamaria displaying an unexplained knowledge of things only Stormy Llewellyn, the deceased love of Odd's life, could have known.

Oh, and, if you remember, Elvis is now gone, but Odd has a new ghostly companion: Frank Sinatra.

Commentary:

Seriously, Annamaria creeped me out. Although I'm guessing that Koontz will probably make her out to be some kind of holy figure, a modern Mary with her immaculately conceived baby, all she does for me is creep me out and annoy me. She won't ever give Odd a straight answer and, instead of getting angry with her for that, he just accepts it as the way things must be. Right.

As far as the bad guys in this book go, I expected something more supernatural. With the connection to Odd's dream, and the one bad guy whose eyes are apparently yellow, a supernatural explanation seemed like a good possibility. When the reality turned out to be greed and corruption that was only unusual because it was so massive and deep, it was kind of a letdown. I still expected there to be some kind of supernatural explanation, because it was too disturbing, thinking that the Chief was only an ordinary guy who was just very corrupt.

Overall, I'm not really sure how I felt about this book. Odd seems to be turning into someone I don't really recognize and am not sure I like anymore. He's still a nice guy, but he killed so many people in this book - an ordinary guy just can't do that kind of stuff. Sure, he breaks down a bit, but still. And I did not like how Annamaria tried to tell him that what he did was ok because he saved cities. If she's all that's good and holy, I wonder, if saving cities could be accomplished by killing one or two innocent people, would she be ok with having Odd dirty his hands with that, too? If there's going to be hard stuff that needs to be done, I personally feel that she or whoever is behind her should be doing it.

Read-alikes:
  • The Manhattan Hunt Club (book) by John Saul - After being wrongly convicted of rape and attempted murder, Jeff Converse finds himself on the run, with homicidal maniac Francis Jagger for company. If Jeff and Francis can make it out of Manhattan's underground tunnels and back to the outside world, they'll live. If not, they'll die. It's all part of a game being played by some of the city's most powerful men and women, who have prisoners hunted and stuffed like trophy animals. Those who'd like another suspenseful book with a main character who's on the run and potentially can't trust anyone around him might want to try this.
  • Symphony (book) by Charles Grant - This is the first book in a quartet dealing with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Reverend Casey Chisholm lives in the outwardly quiet town of Maple Landing, trying to deal with its problems as best he can. One day, he discovers that he has developed miraculous powers, which include the ability to heal, dispel an angry swarm of bees, and more. While strange things go on in Maple Landing, a malevolent white car slowly makes its way towards Rev. Chisholm, bearing a woman named Susan who brings death wherever she goes. She plans to do battle with the Reverend and is accompanied by an unsettling group of people. Those who'd like something else that features steadily building suspense, even stronger religious aspects (for those, like me, who got a religious vibe from Odd Hours), and a large-scale menace with small-scale focus (one man, who will need to stand between evil and humanity) might want to try this.
  • Black Hills (book) by Dan Simmons - A young Lakota boy, Paha Sapa, touches the body of dying General Custer at Little Big Horn and ends up with the man's spirit inside him for the next sixty years. Paha Sapa also has the ability to see the past and future of many other people he meets, and one day he has a terrible vision of the future in which his beloved Black Hills are destroyed. In order to prevent this from happening, he tries to blow up Mount Rushmore before it's completed. Those who'd like something else with a sympathetic main character, some supernatural elements, and appearances from real people might want to try this book.

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