Book Reviews: Odd Thomas is Awesome, but Forever Odd Isn’t Quite

As I understand it, Dean Koontz is a prolific author who writes suspense thrillers that contain elements of the paranormal, horror, science fiction, and other genres. The Odd Thomas series, containing seven books and five novelettes, is only one of many he has written. It has a definite paranormal/horror bent, as well as a strong “literary” feel to it, being grounded more in the “odd” gift of the titular character, and the consequences of that gift, than in the pace of those consequences. It is, in my mind, an odd combination. Forever Odd is the second book in the Odd Thomas series, the first book being named Odd Thomas.

I read the first one a couple of years ago. I listened to, rather than read, Forever Odd during my commutes (yay for audiobooks!) about a year ago.   Both books follow a young man named Odd Thomas (yes, that’s actually his name) who is able to see dead people and feel a kind of “psychic magnetism” toward them or toward people that are in trouble.

The First Book: Odd Thomas is Awesome at Being Odd

Goodreads describes the first book’s plot as follows:

“A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15. Today is August 14.”

Sounds pretty ominous, right? It was. I highly enjoyed Koontz’s somewhat lyrical style and unique characters–his gun-toting girlfriend Stormy Llewelyn, and his morbidly obese, famous writer friend Little Ozzie–among others. I also really enjoyed the plot, which was tightly-woven, suspenseful, and intense.

The Second Book: Forever Odd Falls Flat

This second book, though, I didn’t enjoy nearly as much. This is its synopsis:

“A childhood friend of Odd’s has disappeared. The worst is feared. But as Odd applies his unique talents to the task of finding the missing person, he discovers something worse than a dead body, encounters an enemy of exceptional cunning, and spirals into a vortex of terror.”

The first half of the book is Odd’s discovery of the disappearance of his childhood friend and the brutal murder of the friend’s stepfather. He searches for his friend Danny, thinking the murderer and kidnapper is Danny’s biological father, a convict. He discovers (warning: start of a semi-spoiler) halfway through the book that the blame, in fact, lies with a different culprit, and spends the rest of the book trying to figure out how to defeat her.

It is out of this structure that my main complaint arises. The villain, Detura, is evil, sadistic, and bloodthirsty to the core. She seeks out ghosts and  the ability to see them. She revels in causing pain. In short, she is a flat character. She has no intriguing backstory, redeeming motives, or even moments of uncertainty; she’s just horrible (end semi-spoiler). This flatness, or simpleness, is a great exception to the many other utterly unique and delightful, oxymoronic and relatable, complex characters that inhabit Koontz’s books.

And, without a complex, truly interesting villain, the conflict and plot of the book fall flat. It becomes simply a struggle for Odd to keep his friend, who has brittle-bone disease (a handy plot device) and himself alive. While propped up occasionally by bursts of action as Odd fights off Detura’s henchmen, the plot mainly consists of him trying to outthink his way out of the maze of problems she creates for him.

In my ten-star system, I would only give this one a four.

Beyond, by Haverlock and Larkin: a Spirited Read

As part of the festivities of the Storymakers writers’ conference that I went to this past May, I attended a mass book selling and signing event. It was awesome! One of the many books I picked up there was Beyond by Catina Haverlock and Angela Larkin. It had a great premise (“Presley Hale has no idea the guy she just told off in the school parking lot died…four months ago. Stunned by Presley’s sixth sense, Landon Blackwood rethinks his planned departure.”) It sounded like a mixture of Ghost (that ’90s movie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) and Sixth Sense (of course), only from a young adult perspective. Then, I was contacted separately by the authors, who follow HeadOverBooks, offered a free copy of the book, and asked to review it, none of us realizing that we’d met each other at Storymakers and I already had a copy of the book. Long story short…today, I offer that promised review of Beyond, along with a free copy (ebook or paperback) to one of my lucky followers!

So read on…

What Beyond is About

If it were just the mystery of why Presley can see Landon, even though he’s dead, there would have been sufficient intrigue. Add to that, though, the fact that a romance develops—more than one, in fact—and the urgency of evading other ghosts insistent on taking Landon’s “passage,” and you have a dynamic, spirited plot. Yes, she can see him, but she’s also best friends with Landon’s twin sister, who is still very much grieving his death but can’t see him, and a love interest of Landon’s cousin, who can’t see him either nor understand why Presley won’t give her whole heart to him. Add to that the backstories and actions of the various side characters and you have a potent recipe for action and emotion.

What I Thought of Beyond

All in all, I thought this was an excellent read. If not for a very few editorial glitches, awkward or nonexistent transitions, and sparse setting descriptions, I would give it a perfect 10. There were enough that a non-editor regular reader of the book might notice them too, but probably not.  In the face of otherwise very strong writing, as in this passage:

Like the last tremulous leaf clinging to a tree upon winter’s approach, my will to fight detached and floated down and away to a place I couldn’t seem to call it back from.

and fantastic pacing, multi-dimensional characters, and a relatively fast-moving plot, I dare say I loved it. If you enjoy books with intrigue, emotion, and romance, and without sex, profanity, or violence, you’ll enjoy Beyond.

Gif?    

via GIPHY

Nutrition facts? As mentioned, no sex, profanity, or violence. The description of Landon’s death involves the drinking of alcohol. There were some good examples of familial loyalty (Presley’s brother has autism and she is his primary caregiver) and selflessness.

To get a free copy of Beyond (either as an ebook (.mobi) or paperback, signed by Catina and Angela [although addressed to me]), subscribe to receive post notifications on my main page or follow me on Twitter. I’ll pick a random winner on July 30th and announce it on Twitter that same day! You can also enter to win a copy on Goodreads here.