Audiobook Review: Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz

31 08 2012

Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas Series, Bk. 5)

Read by David Aaron Baker

Brilliance Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Supernatural Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

Grade: D

Many years ago, when the first Odd Thomas novel came out, I had high hopes. Dean Koontz had been a favorite author of mine for a long time, and despite his more recent work not resonating with me as much as his earlier novels, I always looked at a Dean Koontz novel release as a big event. Koontz’s work has been almost entirely stand alones, yet Odd Thomas was set to be the start of a series. Yet, even better, Odd Thomas broke away from his norm. Koontz’s novels tended to be from an older, male perspective, typically someone who lives on the edges of society, bustling up against some evil force or governmental conspiracy. Koontz often allowed his libertarian vies to influence his writing, pitting the individual against the bureaucratic machine. Sometimes Koontz pulled this off with great affect, yet sometimes, not so much. With Odd Thomas, Koontz was giving us a younger, almost hipper character. Sure, Odd was a bit of a loner, working as a fry cook, and living on the edges of his Pico Mundo town, yet, this was explainable by his gift. Odd Thomas could see dead people, Sure, OK, this has been done to death, but there was something fresh and exciting about Odd Thomas. Gone was the tired voice of the typical Koontzian protagonist. Odd actually, despite all that stood against him, had hope. The plot of Odd Thomas held up, was actually quite timely and relevant. I had high hopes for this series. Yet, somewhere it went off the rails. Somehow Odd lost his voice, Koontz’s plots became too involved and strange, and the original story, of Odd using his supernatural powers to fight real evil, became ploys increasingly reliant of supernatural weirdness, with Koontz bleeding more and more into his character. Yet, each time an Odd Thomas novel comes out, I need to grab it, hoping to rediscover the character I used to know.

In Odd Apocalypse, Odd Thomas, and the strange pregnant women Annamaria, which he meat in Odd Hours, have been invited to stay at Roseland, the former estate of a Hollywood mogul. Odd isn’t exactly sure why they were invited. The residents of the estate are openly hostile, and constantly warn him from straying from his room. Yet, Odd knows that someone there needs his help, and as he tries to discover just why he is there, he encounters strange creatures, people who should not be there, and ghosts who don’t act like the ghost he usually deals with. Odd must discover the dark secrets of Roseland, and figure out just who needs his help. Like much of Koontz’s work, Odd Apocalypse is a blend of genres. Koontz manages to fit elements of horror, science fiction, and even a bit of Steampunk into this tale. Yet, instead of pulling this off seamlessly, the plot becomes weighed down by its constant change in tone and feel. Koontz never really builds the mysterious mood that needs to settle over Roseland, but hits you in the head repeatedly with it. In reality, the plot is a hot mess, with Odd constantly being pushed by so many gods in the machine they could have made their own pantheon. Worst of all, Odd has totally gone from a fresh young voice, to an old man in a young man pants. Koontz’s humor falls flat coming from Odd. His jokes are about those horrible cell phones, pop music and reality TV, basically the trifecta of curmudgeonly horrors. I enjoyed the relationship that Odd developed with Elvis in the first book, but each celebrity ghost he meets tends to be not just from before Odd’s time, but before mine and my father’s time. He’s a twenty something fry cook, who hangs out with Elvis and Sinatra. Why not River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, or Curt Cobain? Probably because old man Koontz’s “kids these days” attitude has so infected Odd, that next book we should be seeing him sitting on his porch yelling at the ghosts of younger pop culture icons to get off his lawn. Now, to balance this review, I have to say that the majority of Odd Thomas fans seem to like this latest edition. It’s gotten wonderful customer reviews, so perhaps I will be in the minority for me. Yet, Odd Apocalypse is just further proof to me that Koontz can no longer write a novel with a strong character whose voice  doesn’t end up turning into Koontz‘s own. Odd Thomas now feels too old, and the plotting of the novel is overly complex, pulling the character along the way instead of allowing his to challenge the fates. I still hold out hope that Koontz will wow me again the way he did with novels like Watchers and The Bad Place, but novel by novel that hope is fading fast.

I remember the first time I listened to an Odd Thomas novel, I thought that David Aaron Baker’s voice had enough youth and vitality to pull off the character. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the author or the narrator’s fault, but I just didn’t feel it this time. I think that I was just so frustrated with the character and plot of the novel that I couldn’t gel with the narration as well. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. He performed the characters well, giving them appropriate voices, and his pacing was strong. I just didn’t feel Odd. I think, if Baker had infused the same levels of vitality he did in the earlier novels, that maybe Odd’s crotchety voice wouldn’t have felt so wrong. Maybe the narrator is becoming just as frustrated with the character as I am, or maybe I was just allowing my frustration to color my perception of Barker’s performance. Not sure. All I know was that I left Odd Apocalypse feeling entirely blah.  There is so many fresh exciting voices working in the Supernatural genre today, and sadly, Koontz no longer is one of them.

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