(This review first appeared on StaticMultimedia.com on June 9, 2008)
“Words are plastic these days…” observes Odd Thomas, the novel’s protagonist, but words are magic in the works of his creator Dean Koontz. In the fourth book of the series, Koontz once again delivers a kaleidoscope of action and the occult, each page imbued with his popular protagonist’s resilient quirkiness.
Odd Thomas, once a contented fry cook in a small southern California town, has traveled far because of—or in spite of—his preternatural powers: he sees and communicates with the dead and suffers the occasional precognitive dream. In Brother Odd, to recover after a series of traumatic events in his home town of Pico Mundo, Odd retreated to a monastery in the High Sierras. There he found little rest as he battled monsters both supernatural and human. Now his journey continues in the small California coastal town of Magic Beach where an apocalyptic vision guides his actions from dusk to dawn one harrowing night. An encounter with the mysterious Annamaria, the lady of his visions, does nothing to clarify his reoccurring dreams of red tides and hellish lights rising out of the sea. Events go from strange to stranger as Odd faces new adversaries whose evil deeds seem amplified by an otherworldly force.
While the ghost of Elvis no longer keeps him company, Odd’s new acquaintances are equally memorable. Boo, the ghost dog from Brother Odd, returns along with a new sidekick from among the celebrity dead. Odd’s job as personal chef to Laurence “Hutch” Hutchinson, a reclusive actor from the golden age of cinema, provides a much needed safe haven in his hectic life, much as his friendship with Ozzie Boone did in the first two books, Odd Thomas and Forever Odd. Two of the kinder inhabitants of Magic Beach, Blossom Rosedale and Birdie Hopkins, continue the stream of quirky characters with spiritual undertones that Koontz writes so well.
Midway in the novel, a tantalizing tie-in with the Christopher Snow books Fear Nothing and Seize the Night will have devoted Koontz fans speculating if the author plans a cross-over novel. The connection between the two series has never been as strong. Both series are written in first person, the protagonist’s secret memoirs detailing his extremely unusual existence on the fringe of society. Odd chooses to stay on the periphery because of his unique abilities; Christopher’s genetic disorder xeroderma pigmentosum, or XP for short, requires him to avoid any exposure to UV light and emerge from his house only in the relative safely of the night. Odd Hours unfolds during Snow’s usual hours of activity and Magic Beach parallels Snow’s Moonlight Bay, a place where more goes on below the surface than its mundane daylight facade hints. In the landscape of Koontz’s imagination, Odd’s new stomping ground must surely be just a short drive away from Snow’s home town.
Odd Hours’ main flaw is that it doesn’t last long enough. From first page to last, the twists and turns in the hero’s journey sweep the reader through a tale filled with entertaining contemporary references and timeless conflicts. In rare instances, Koontz’s love for words shows through a bit too much (“softly as a breath of summer sets dandelion seeds adrift”) but at best—and there is a lot of the author at his best in this book—his lyrical imagery adds to the mystical overtones of Odd’s journey. Many questions remain about Odd Thomas’s ultimate destination, but none more pressing than: When will the next book come out, Mr. Koontz? Please, sir, we want some more.