Cruel and Unusual Punishment – Dean Koontz’s Deeply Odd

Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I’m pretty sure about six months ago, I vowed that I was done with Dean Koontz and the Odd Thomas series.  Yes, yes I did.  And yet, here I am dragging myself through another one.

Why?

I’m just not ready to let the character go.  The first three Odd Thomas books, Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, and Brother Odd are fun novels.  Odd himself is an optimistic, fun, yet tortured character who carries the world on his shoulders and (for three novels at least) remained interesting, and intriguing.  But some time between Brother Odd and Odd Hours the character took a dark turn.

Is this story more of the same?  Or did it take me back to the good old days of reading Dean Koontz novels?

Deeply Odd
Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
May 28, 2013
332 Pages

Well, I’m of two minds about this book.  It is significantly better than Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse.  Leaps and bounds better, in fact.  I started off enjoying myself with this book… more than any Koontz book I’ve read for quite a few years (probably since Velocity in 2005).  In fact, it seemed that this was going to pass by at break-neck speed, much like Intensity, or Watchers.

But the air gets sucked out of the room pretty quickly. The same pessimism and out-of-place rants against some government policy are present here, as they were in Odd Apocalypse… but I was happy to not have any terribly placed pop-culture references in the first hundred pages, or so.

Still, the negativity really stands out to me.

I’m fully willing to believe that may the character always had a similar streak of pessimism to him, but… I honestly don’t remember the first three books having the same negativity that I’ve seen in the last three.

For instance, on page 44 of Deeply Odd, Odd thinks to himself, “Maybe you’re not a believer, but if you’re honest, you’ll have to agree that something is wrong with this place.  Senseless violence, corrupting envy,greed, blind hatred, and willful ignorance seem to be proof that Earth has gone haywire.”

Now… I’m not a terribly optimistic person.  I know this about myself and if you meet people who know me and as them, I’m fairly certain they’ll disagree.  I’ve always considered myself a realist which may also make me a pessimist at times, but… damn! For a character who goes around spouting out positive platitudes with regularity, Odd Thomas hides a bit of a Gloomy Gus in his monologues!

And I think that’s what bothers me.  The character appear to be meant to be an Everyman who shows how we can all stand up to evil in our lives (or have I read too much into the series already?), yet he seems to believe that there’s just too much to fight against!

If I may quote again from Deeply Odd, this time from page 13, “…I would sound like just another drug-addled paranoid, another piece of sad human wreckage of the kind that littered the landscape of an America that seemed to be rapidly fading out of history in a  world growing darker by the day.”

Wow!  I mean… WOW!

So this rather wide stripe of pessimism aside, though… how is the book overall?

The introduction of Edie Fischer, an octogenarian millionaire in need of a chauffeur, is a step in the right direction.  At first, she seems to be a call back to the surprisingly tough older folks that pop up in Koontz novels from time to time.  There’s a character from Watchers (whose name I cannot remember and I feel absolutely terrible about that) who is charming, brave, heroic, and all around great…

But Edie Fischer is not this type of character.  She’s the same hollow mouthpiece for Koontz’s anti-government rhetoric that Odd Thomas has become over the last three books.  In fact, I’ve officially given up on this book, the first Koontz book I’ve started and haven’t finished.

What did it?  One line from Edie that was neither necessary, nor appropriate.  During a conversation about her souped up car, she comments that most of her upgrades are considered illegal.  When Odd asks her what kind of laws they break she says, “Oh, all kinds of laws, sweetie.  Idiot safety laws, boneheaded environmental laws that actually contribute to pollution, the laws of physics, you name it.”

That was the straw.  Dean Koontz is entitled to his opinions.  Hell, he’s entitled to expressing his opinion.  Double-hell, if he wants to add it into his writing, perhaps he could read a Kurt Vonnegut novel and learn a little something about satire the next time he feels like a character has to voice the raging insanity that lives deep inside his soul.  But this is too much.

There are too many good books in the world for me to waste my time any more on this one.  Last time, I swore I was done with Dean Koontz.  I, apparently, lied.  But after this disasterpiece of a novel, I don’t see myself sitting back down with any more new Koontz books.

For now, I’ve got Jenni Fagan’s wonderful debut The Panopticon, A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik (author of the darkly fantastic and critically uneven You Deserve Nothing), and the Dunk & Egg novellas from George RR Martin… not to mention at least five other advance readers and long-ago purchased books from Goodwill and various other sources…  I just don’t have the time, or patience, for Dean Koontz any more.

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