Rock Bottom With Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz’s Odd Apocalypse

Normally, I avoid most popular fiction.  I’ve outgrown a lot of it as a reader, but I will enjoy a good thriller from time to time.  There was a time where I waited impatiently for a new Dean Koontz novel to come out.  Every year from 1996 through 2007…

We’ve been friends for so long.  I’ve been reading you longer than pretty much any other author.  But… I think we’re done.

And it isn’t me.  It’s you.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice the sad decline years ago.  For me, it all began with The Taking in 2004.  I was really excited to see the book begin with a quote from T.S. Eliot, as I had earlier that year done a very in-depth read of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land” and was interested to see your take on it.

And… it was pretty bad.  The plot was basically a major rehash of Phantoms, with a little bit of extra boring on top.  The Eliot quotes never amounted to much.  It felt like someone was trying to use his English degree a bit too much.  And I know about that! I try to do it too!

But then came Life Expectancy and Velocity!  Oh what wondrous thrillers they were!  Fast-paced action! Unreliable narrators! Good guys who were good! Bad guys who were bad!  Hammy dialogue and prose!  Everything I loved about a Dean Koontz novel!

Our relationship continued to spiral downward with The Husband, which many of my friends and co-workers loved.  I… didn’t.  I found it to be rather boring and recursive.  It just didn’t do it for me.  I assumed it was the lack of supernatural, but… I soon found out that wasn’t the case.

After much hemming and hawing, I decided to try reading My Heart Belongs To You.  In a disappointing twist, all the supernatural stuff is explained away with ninjas and black market organ harvesting.  Oh, spoilers on that one, I suppose.  Just save yourself the three hours the book would take you to read and skip it.

Surely, the same guy who wrote Lightning, Sole Survivor, TickTock, and Intensity wasn’t the same one who churned out the dreadful Darkest Evening Of The Year.  I mean, wasn’t From The Corner Of His Eye especially thought-provoking?  Didn’t Dark Rivers of the Heart chill me like few other books have?

Well… I still think Koontz has a lot of great work over the years (even as recently as Odd Thomas and Velocity).  But there’ve been a whole lot more hits than misses.  And the most recent novel in the Odd Thomas Odd Thomas and The Overstayed Welcome Odd Apocalypse is only the latest in a long string of disappointments for me.
Odd Apocalypse
Dean Koontz

July 31, 2012
368 Pages
What I really appreciate about going back and watching old Family Guy episodes is how well some of the pop-culture references have aged.  Peter just made a joke about Dharma and Greg?  Oh, how marvelously droll! How comically poignant!
Similarly, I imagine I’ll really enjoy the Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga references Dean Koontz places in Odd Apocalypse.
And the pages and pages of boring internal monologue, where Odd recaps his previous adventures (for those of us who haven’t been following the previous four, I assume?).  Not to mention when Odd goes into drawn out pseudo-philosophical musings about how much of assholes human beings are, how short our time really is on this earth, and how we should really just love each other.
But worst of all are the strange intrusions in Odd’s already bizarre monologuing, wherein he muses upon the evils of an oppressive government.  If you’re going to be one of those authors who decides to insert his increasingly crazed political opinions into a novel, please, please, please at least make it fit the character.  This… doesn’t fit, feels awkward, and slows an already relatively slow pace to a complete standstill.
All of these issues are rather minor if the story is good.  And… the book falls flat there too.  The entirety of the plot takes place over just a couple of days and Koontz is sure to give you a minute by minute breakdown of every. single. solitary. moment in the whole story.
The good guy is too good, the bad guys are too bad, and there’s just no subtlety to any of the characterization.  Not that I show up to the Dean Koontz party for the musical dialogue, or the elegant prose… but I at least expect consistency and readability. Give me a reason to care about all this and I will.  
But I can’t care about a long-winded blowhard of a character who continually moons over his dead girlfriend, his terrible lot in life, and drops clumsy references to popular singers. It smacks of lazy writing to be dragging this series on when Odd doesn’t seem to have anything new to say.
Odd Hours (the previous book in the series) suffered from some of the same issues, but I felt that it better constructed Odd’s persona as both a reluctant hero and a reluctant killer. I actually felt bad for him in previous books when he had to kill.  Here?  I kinda wish he’d get caught up in-between a monster and a shot-gun wielding maniac, just to get the novel to a tedious conclusion.  Especially if it freed me from having to read any more about his dead girlfriend with painfully flowery prose.
Dean Koontz will never be a Pulitzer Prize winner.  I’ve accepted this and I’m fairly certain he has too.  But he can write well if he wants to.  
His introduction to David Robinson’s book of photographs Beautiful Death is a touching and horrifying essay on growing up in a house of addiction.  Occasionally, he’ll pop up and do other non-fiction pieces (mostly as afterwords to one of his own re-issued novels) that are both thoughtful, and hilarious.
But lately, he’s been writing-by-numbers and churning out crap every second book (sometimes more) and Odd Apocalypse is really the bottom of the barrel.  Where’s the witty and erudite Odd Thomas from Odd Thomas or Brother Odd?  Heck, I’d even take the mopey, oh-woe-is-me Odd from Forever Odd over this current incarnation.
Do yourself a favor: buy Fear Nothing and Seize the Night and enjoy the weird.  Those two books (and the inevitable third book that will probably suck if it’s been written in the last decade…) are Koontz writing a great balance of action, sci-fi, and humor.
And they’re certainly more entertaining than this slop.
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One thought on “Rock Bottom With Odd Thomas – Dean Koontz’s Odd Apocalypse

  1. Pingback: Cruel and Unusual Punishment – Dean Koontz’s Deeply Odd | Books And Bits

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