Newest Review: ... it would shift more copies. The truncated timeframe of the novel doesn't really work either. Presumably, arranging the plot so that Odd... more
Odd Hours - Dean Koontz
Member Name: SWSt
Odd Hours - Dean Koontz
Advantages: Odd Thomas remains an engaging character; easy to read
Disadvantages: Inconsistent tone; underdeveloped characters
In Odd Hours, Odd comes across a strange young woman and has a vision of a terrible impending disaster that will cost the lives of millions. Odd has no idea what this event is, just that he has only a matter of hours to stop it.
Odd Hours represents an unsuccessful attempt by Koontz to raise the stakes for Odd Thomas and give his adventures a more epic feel. In previous books, his adventures have mostly occurred in small communities - such as his home town of Pico Mundo or a monastery. This is the environment in which Odd works best. Although Odd Hours puts our hero back into a small town, the plot he uncovers is a far more wide-ranging conspiracy that pits him against a massive, unknown and all-powerful enemy. The plot just feels wrong for an Odd Thomas book. It feels like it is actually the plot for a different book for a different character; as though Koontz got halfway through and then his editor (or whoever) decided to badge it as an Odd Thomas book so that it would shift more copies.
The truncated timeframe of the novel doesn't really work either. Presumably, arranging the plot so that Odd only has a few hours to prevent disaster is intended to introduce a race-against-time element. Yet, nothing is really made of this. The plot meanders along, Odd ambling through as if he has all the time in the world and, apart from the odd glance at a watch or clock, the time element is almost totally forgotten. This means that the book is severely lacking in either tension or atmosphere.
Totally forgotten is also a phrase that could also be applied to some of the characters. Odd himself remains as engaging as ever (although there are some issues) but the rest don't don't work quite so well. Early in the plot, Odd comes across a young woman whom he must help, yet having been briefly introduced, she then disappears until the very end. This is a complete waste of a potentially interesting character and robs Odd of some much needed company. In Odd Hours, Odd is on his own for almost all of the book, which is a shame. A highlight of previous books has been the banter between various characters, something which is sorely missing here.
The rest of the characters really are seriously underdeveloped. They are all slightly lazy, feeling as though they were created purely to serve the needs of the plot and for no other purpose. Characters come and go as the plot demands and then disappear for ever. As such, they feel weak and lacking in personality. The bad guys are particularly sketchy and really give you nothing to be scared of, and because they are so anonymous and bland, there's no real sense of triumph when Odd bests some of them. Worse still, the real bad guys are never properly identified and this leaves a very unsatisfactory, unresolved feeling to the book.
Odd himself also seems to have undergone something of a character transformation, and not an entirely successful one, either. He's changed from a character who gets his way out of peril in all sorts of inventive (and lucky) ways and seems to have turned into Jason Bourne overnight. Rather than bumbling his way along, escaping by the skin of his teeth, he is much more calculating and action driven. This is particularly noticeable towards the end of the book and he suddenly single-handedly takes on a boat crew, despite the fact that they are all stone-cold killers. All of this (including Odd's sudden seeming willingness to kill at the drop of a hat) sits badly with the character we have come to know over the last three books.
Amidst all this disappointment, it's easy to forget that although it's not a patch on the books which preceded it, Odd Hours can still be fun. Koontz invests Odd with a real sense of personality and a very quirky outlook on life. The things Koontz makes him say and think are often wry, frequently amusing and sometimes downright funny. Whilst it might nit be as prominent as in earlier books, there are patches of that amusing banter, particularly later on when Odd bandies words with one of the chief bad guys.
This makes the book at least some fun to read. Although it's standard novel length (around 400 pages), I ripped through it in just a few days because, despite its flaws, it was an easy read. It's not a book you have to concentrate on; it's something you can sit down when you have just a few moments and there's a lot to be said for a book like that. Koontz maintains that fine balance between action, humour and tension/horror. OK, sometimes the mix is slightly wrong, but it's never catastrophic.
The two-star rating perhaps seems a little harsh, as there are bits of Odd Hours which are enjoyable. The reason for the rating is two-fold. Firstly, whilst the fun elements are there, there is an inconsistent tone to the book which mars things slightly; secondly, I'm trying to rate fairly and consistently in relation to the other Odd books. I gave the third book three stars and this was isn't as good as that so whilst two stars might seem a little harsh, I think it's a fair reflection.
Harper, new edition, 2009
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: Odd is still on a downward spiral