Friday, July 11, 2014

I See Dead People is one of those days that I realize the hazard of reading books loved by other people.  I have just finished Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, the first in his Odd Thomas series.  I have had it on my list for a while and several people who know what I like to read have recommended it to me with glowing reviews.  I was eager to start it...but to be honest I had a bit of a hard time finishing it...please don't hate me!  First a quick synopsis, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Odd Thomas is...well...odd :-)  He has a gift/curse of being able to see dead people who have unfinished business in this world, and on occasion helps them out. While he can see the dead, he cannot hear them. He lives in the little desert town of Pico Mundo where he is a short order cook.  His little town is populated by an array of characters including his love Stormy, his landlord who is terrified of turning invisible, his widowed boss, an obese author, a strangely understanding Chief of police and other various inhabitants.  We see Odd help the ghost of a murdered girl track down and capture her killer and then Odd is off to work.  His life if focused on his town and the people who live in it, especially Stormy who is destined to be with him forever according to a gypsy fortune telling machine.  Odd has been seeing beings he refers to as bodachs, which are fluid, invisible creatures who come around when there is a tragedy about to occur.  He notices that there is more then he has ever seen before and that they are centering around a stranger that he refers to as Fungus Man.  Odd follows him and does some investigating, finally figuring out that there is a conspiracy including several new hires on the local police force to instigate a mass murder event at the local mall.  The perpetrators are all Satan worshipers, considering the killings to be a form of worship.  Odd does what he can to stop the crime from happening, but only succeeds in lessening the killings.  In the end, instead of hundreds of people dying, only 19 died, including Stormy. Odd is himself injured and lives in a bit of a dream world while he recovers, only finally admitting that the Stormy he has been conversing with is just her ghost and he has been filling her side of the conversation in.  He finally lets her go and continues his adventures with the dead in the next book.
So there we have it.  The premise and the story were both good, what I had the most issues with was the writing.  This may be a personal thing, so if you disagree with any of this, that is understandable.  I feel like the book was WAY to long for the story.  Ever single sentence was dripping with over description, metaphor, and comparisons.  These are nice on occasion to add atmosphere, or let you know about a new area, but when it is every single sentence it just gets tedious.  Ok I'm exaggerating, it's not every single sentence, but there is a lot of it.  The writing also felt a bit repetitive, instead of moving on, we kept going back to the same people and the same places rehashing the same thing.  For me this took a lot of the tension out of the story.  The other thing I had an issue with was the sheer over the top personalities EVERY SINGLE PERSON had.  Everybody had a screwed up tragic history, every person had some sort of spiritual mumbo jumbo connection to something, everybody was crazy, or weird, or odd, or quirky, there was no normalcy to contrast these characters against so it felt really angsty to me.  It was also written in the dreaded first person narrative, and had a ton of the "if I only knew then" foreshadowing that gets really old, really quickly for me.  Like I said earlier, the story itself was pretty good, but I wanted more story and less abstract introspection, more moving forward, less dwelling on tragic pasts.  I did enjoy the structure the author put around Odd's gift, the "rules" of it made sense and added a realism to it that I enjoyed.  I can see why other people really enjoy these books, it is just that this kind of writing style is not my particular cup of tea.  I will probably pick up the next book at some point, just to see if the writing style continues to be so angsty, or if it picks up a bit.  I give this book 5 out of 10 local Elvis ghosts. 
What do you do when you don't enjoy a book as much as people want you too?  What would you do if you could see dead people?  What library should I haunt after I pass on?

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