334 PAGES · £17.99
He churns them out, does ol’ Mr Koontz. Books by the score, by the truckload even. So it’s with trepidation that you approach a work by the “poor man’s Stephen King”. More so, as this is a sequel to Odd Thomas (reviewed in SFX 122). Is it going to be a total pile of tosh? Can it be read as a standalone novel? The answers, luckily, are no and yes, in that order. Phew.
Odd Thomas is a short-order fry cook in the small desert town of Pico Mundo. He’s a modest man, taking a temporary break from his job because his other life is getting to him. So, does he collect bus tickets, or indulge in a spot of opera singing or bungee-jumping in his spare time? Nope, not exactly. He sees people who have died, the “lingering dead” in Thomas-speak, and shares his house with the non-speaking ghost of Elvis, who tries to communicate with Thomas through gesticulations. And occasionally he helps the local police with, er, problems, such as when murder victims come-a-callin’ on him, even though they are unable to talk – the local police chief is one of the few people who know of Thomas’s skills. So when his childhood friend Danny, who suffers from brittle bone disease, is kidnapped and Danny’s father is murdered, Odd sets out to rescue him…
The result is moving, impressive and surprisingly subtle. Odd Thomas is delicately and believably drawn (not the first words you’d associate with Koontz), the plot tense, sweat-inducing and credible. There’s some excellent dark humour – the silent late-Elvis is a great creation – balanced with some flesh-creeping action and restrained prose for a superlative supernatural novel. Forever Odd is at times reminiscent of John Irving’s work, with Odd Thomas evocative of Irving’s creation Owen Meany, another outsider with remarkable (though in his case not supernatural) powers.