How my first foray into Koontz world left me bewildered and disappointed
Everyone I know who has read Dean Koontz raves about him, so needless to say, I was really keen to be reading my first ever Koontz novel.
The man is a master – one of those great authors I can only aspire to be like. And he’s sold over 400 million books! I was also desperate to read a book that could scare me, and who better to turn to than Koontz or King?
Admittedly, my first foray was with a book I picked up cheap at a discount store. But when I checked the Amazon and Goodreads ratings for Brother Odd, it had some really good ratings. What was even better; it was a book I had chosen for myself, not one I had to read for someone else (I’m sure other book bloggers know the importance of that little fact) AND it was a paperback.
I was so, so excited to start reading.
And Brother Odd started with a great, big bang!
Koontz is a master at creating fresh, new descriptions. Even the simple act of describing Odd Thomas and how he came to be named Odd drew me in. By page 3, I knew Odd saw dead people and had faced catastrophe in the past (previous books).
On page 4, I was introduced to the concept of bodachs – supernatural harbingers of impending death (I imagined them much like the dementors in Harry Potter). Odd makes it clear that the last time he saw one bodach, terrible, terrible things happened to those he loved. By the end of the first chapter, not only had one of the monks at the monastery gone missing; there were 3 bodachs hovering over the bed of one of the orphan children!
Koontz had me – hook, line and sinker.
I read on, desperate to find out what terrible things were going to happen…
Odd has a strange conversation with one of the orphaned children. Then gets startled by one of the nuns… Hmm, where’s all the action? Don’t worry, it’s still early days. Plenty of book left for Koontz trademark scare tactics.
Only, it never really comes.
By Chapter 15, all Odd has really done is search for the lost monk, have a few strange conversations with monks and nuns, suspect the Russian staying at the monastery of being the bad guy, and have some more strange yet harmless interactions with his ghostly friends (who include Elvis).
But it’s Koontz. It has to get better.
I push on, struggling to read at night – the book acting more like a sedative than the bringer of fear-induced insomnia. Now it’s a struggle to even pick it up at night, and I have to force myself to read. Instead of the simple joy of reading I’d hoped, I’m back to feeling like reading is a chore.
Further on, Odd goes outside into the coming blizzard and has some bizarre encounter with some kind of creature I don’t really understand – nor can I picture it or connect with it from the jilted description. But I’m hopeful the action is finally picking up; that I will now find out what this terrible thing is that will happen…
But before I know it, I’m rolling my eyes through pages of Odd watching the Russian he suspects decorate a cake. Is this Koontz or have I stumbled into a parallel universe that’s part Betty Crocker cookbook?
A couple more weird run ins with supernatural creatures I can’t quite fathom and Odd convinces the nuns they need to get a couple of the beefier monks over to the orphanage to protect the children. Okay, we must be reaching the crux of the story.
Ah no – we have a couple more pages of Odd conversing with Elvis, who for some bizarre, unknown reason changes his look every couple of minutes to coincide with a movie he starred in. Now Elvis is a blond…
Are you freaking kidding me? I want gore. I want fright. I want to feel terrified of going to sleep at night! Yet all I’ve got is some drugged out party bender with Elvis, who is nothing like his Sixth Sense counterparts. He’s not even remotely frightening but more of a joke.
Now I feel like I’m swimming upstream in a thick, toffee river. I’m having trouble making it through one page at a time before my eyes glaze over and I’m falling asleep.
And then I do the unthinkable. I start skipping pages, trying to get to the exciting parts so I can at least get some kind of return on my time investment (by this stage, it’s taken me more than a month to read 257 pages, which is completely unheard of from me). What’s worse; by the time the action does start to speed up, I’m beyond caring. I no longer care what the bodachs signify. Perhaps all they were meant to signify is the terrible, time sucking waste the book would turn out to be.
It is unlike me to choose not to finish a book. In fact, I can only count on one hand the number of books I’ve never bothered to finish. But today, as I wake up, I realise there are better things to do with my time than to struggle through a novel I am clearly not enjoying. Sure, those last 80-odd pages may contain the elixir for why people rated it so high, but somehow I doubt Odd Koontz will impress me so late in the game, when he has failed so miserably to do so in the beginning. So for the moment, I won’t be finishing the book. (If anyone wants to do me the favour of condensing the plot line down into a couple of sentences for me, so I at least know what happened, I’d be grateful).
Completely disheartened, I return to Amazon to re-read the reviews. Out of 429 reviews, it has an overall rating of 4.2 stars out of 5.
What are these people reading and loving that I just don’t get? Only 48 people seemed to feel, as I did, that the book was a complete waste of time; that it barely managed a plot line at all. If I was rating this book, I wouldn’t give it any higher than a 2.5 and that only because of his brilliant descriptions. There was definitely no fear factor involved, unless of course you count my fear of actually finishing it.
And now I find myself with my biggest dilemma of all: do I write-off Koontz as an author I just don’t get, or is this an anomaly in an otherwise brilliant career? Did I just choose the wrong book, or is this a pattern I can expect in other Koontz books? I so wanted to love his work – I really did. And I feel awful dissing such a popular author. But Brother Odd, Odd Thomas and Odd Koontz just weren’t my cup of tea.
Can you recommend a Koontz novel I might enjoy?