September 10, 2007

Brother Odd

Brother Odd by Dean Koontz
Finished on 9/2/07
Rating: 2/5 (Below Average)
R.I.P. II Challenge #1

I see dead people, spirits of the departed who, each for his own reason, will not move on from this world. Some are drawn to me for justice, if they were murdered, or for comfort, or for companionship; others seek me out for motives that I cannot always understand.

This complicates my life.

Meh. I guess I'm not terribly disappointed since I didn't have high hopes for the book. As most of you already know, I loved Odd Thomas (read it twice and still think about reading it again), but was awfully disappointed with the sequel, Forever Odd. I've been holding off on reading Brother Odd for quite some time, but Carl's R.I.P. II Challenge inspired me to finally give it a chance. Well, it wasn't bad. Just not great. It lacked the hold-your-breath suspense that I've grown to enjoy in say, Stephen King's books, and the overdone metaphors became a bit tiresome:

Behind the white gravecloth of churning snow, the dead-gray face of the day awaited imminent burial.

Koontz is a talented and skillful writer. But when you encounter an over-the-top metaphor like this, one gets the feeling that he's simply showing off--using metaphors not because they add to the story, but simply because he can.

Another negative aspect of the book is that I never really connected with any of the supporting characters (far too many monks and nuns to keep track of), and as quantum physics isn't my thing, I found the premise of the story a bit far-fetched. (Then again, quantum physics is probably more plausible than seeing ghosts.) I simply couldn't wrap my brain around the skeletonized boogeyman or uberskeleton, as described by Koontz in this passage:

Beneath the veneer of a face lay the fullness of what I had only glimpsed in the eye sockets, in the yawning mouth: a phantasmagoria of bony forms linked by hinge joints, by pivot joints, by ellipsoidal joints, by ball-and-socket joints, and by joints for which no name existed, and which were not natural to this world. The apparition appeared to be a solid mass of bones combined so intimately that they must be fused, compacted so completely that they could have no room to rotate or flex. Yet they did rotate and flex and pivot and more, seemed to move not merely in three dimensions but in four, in an unceasing exhibition of dexterity that astonished and amazed.

One saving grace in all three of these novels is Odd Thomas' sardonic wit. Not only is he a likeable hero, he's very funny.

Had the visitor been a man, he would have knocked. If it had been only the wind, it would have huffed and strained against the door until the planks creaked. This scrape was the sound of bone on wood, or something like bone. I could imagine an animated skeleton clawing with mindless persistence at the other side of the door. In all my bizarre experiences, I have never actually encountered an animated skeleton. But in a world where McDonald's now sells salad with low-fat dressing, anything is possible.

And, Koontz certainly does have a way with words. This is a particularly nice passage:

Living in a monastery, even as a guest rather than as a monk, you have more opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it.

But given a choice, I'll take a Stephen King or Joe Hill ghost any day; for some reason such ghosts seem more realistic than Koontz’s bizarre creature of flexing bones!


  1. Great review and in my opinion, right on target; however, I love ODD so I still really enjoyed it despite the gobbly gook.

    I haven't read a Stephen King, so no comment there, but I thought Joe Hill's book was ridiculous. (My husband really liked it though.)

    Thank goodness there are numerous authors and genres to make us all happy. :)

  2. Oddly, this was my favorite Odd Thomas book. Maybe because I've thought of going the convent retreat route before and my husband is a physicist.

    I like SK and Joe Hill's book was pretty decent although I didn't like the main character and Hill has the same tendency as his dad to go for the gross out if he can't genuinely scare you.

  3. I've yet to read Odd Thomas, but I've heard almost exactly the same opinion you held forth on this book, repeatedly. It's just not as good. That metaphor was really something.

    I must be falling behind. I just saw a link to Joe Hill's book. I'll have to go see what that's about, after I figure out why my cat is howling.

  4. I really liked this one, better than Forever Odd, but not quite as well as Odd Thomas. And I prefer Koontz any day over King and I haven't read Joe Hill, but put Heart-Shaped Box on my TBR list after you reviewed it.

    It would be fun if we could trace what experiences and character traits lead to certain preferences, wouldn't it? One thing about art, food and literature - we all have our own favorites. It's a good thing, too. Otherwise our world would be pretty boring.

  5. I still haven't read "Brother Odd" for the same reason it took you so long to read it. I was so disappointed in "Forever Odd". I did enjoy "Heart Shaped Box", but the best horror novel that I have read in the last couple of years is "The Ruins" by Scott Smith. I absolutely loved it! It felt like vintage Stephen King.

  6. Koontz definitely tends toward flowery writing. Luckily he's also good with the tension.

  7. Joy - Thanks! I love Odd, too, but I think I enjoy him most with his original cast of characters.

    I had to laugh out loud when I read your comment about Joe Hill's book. I suppose it could be ridiculous, but I'm a sucker for ghost stories and thought this was a winner. My husband, on the other hand, didn't think much of it. So there ya go. :)

    Katya - I think the first in the series was my favorite because of the supporting cast. I really liked the chemistry between Stormy and Odd.

    Nancy - Oh, I think you'd like Odd Thomas! Probably not the others in the series, but who knows. As the comments indicate, the votes are split between Koontz and King. I don't think you can go wrong with Odd Thomas, though. I'd love to hear what you think, if and when you get around to reading it.

    BTW, I should have a review up for Joe Hill's book later this weekend. We're back from Oregon, but are heading to Kansas City tomorrow for a few days to visit some friends. I'll catch up eventually!

    Booklogged - Yep, Odd Thomas was the best of the three. The big question is will we read #4 if Koontz continues with the character?? Oh, probably. ;)

    I think the first in the series was my favorite because I'm a sucker for romance. And, I think it was unexpected to read something so tender (and with the twist at the end) in a horror book. I also liked the novelty of the boddaches (sp?) and Elvis. Forever and Brother didn't seem to have as much originality. Just my two cents.

    Lee - Personally, I'd skip it. I really don't think you'd miss much, although maybe you should read the last page. It'll make ya laugh.

    Guess what's on the top of my library stack? The Ruins! A co-worker recommended it, as well as a fellow blogger. I think I recall you mentioning it as well. I hope to get to it soon since it'll be due back in a few more weeks.

    Heather - You got that right! I remember starting Koontz's Intensity and finally had to put it down because it was simply too intense! Never went back to it either. Wonder if I should now...

  8. I bought "Odd Thomas" months ago and never got around to it. Someday I'll read it but then maybe stop the series. Thanks for the review. At least, I'll be warned if I do decide to read them all.

  9. Framed - I honestly don't think you'd miss anything but skipping Forever Odd and Brother Odd. But do try to get to Odd Thomas. It's a gem!

  10. I loved the Odd Thomas series. I do have to agree that the first one was best. (The ending made me cry. Twice.) I did enjoy the other two though. I had a hard time with whatever the bad guy thing was too.

    I have a question though. Do you have this book? (I got it from the library to read) There was a quote in it that I wanted to save and I forgot! It's in the part where he's going through the vent system (whatever it was..) around where Odd found the body hanging on the wall and that thing was chasing him. He said something about fear. Would you happen to remember what it was?

  11. Tiffany - Thanks for stopping by. To answer your questions, I don't have the book with me, but I'll try to remember to look at a copy at work tomorrow.

    The ending of Odd Thomas made me cry, too. Both times.

  12. I think the latter three books of the Odd series were lessened (if only minimally) merely by stormy's absence.

    I liked the uberskeleton-thing (well i guess i didnt LIKE it) as it was a change from ghosts and the like.

  13. Finn - I think that's what I missed in the follow-up books. Stormy & Odd are a great duo. And the sheriff isn't as involved and I liked his character, too.

    Have you read Koontz's Frankenstein series? I haven't, but my husband and best friend love it. The third just came out this past month, so I'll get to them eventually. I also just snagged a copy of Koontz's upcoming release about Trixie, entitled A Memoir of a Joyful Dog. Hope it doesn't make me bawl!

    Thanks for stopping by with your comment. Are you a book-blogger?

  14. I haven't read Koontz's Frankensteins yet, but if i see them I will be sure to pick them up.

    Apparently It's a six-book series, so I think Book 5 may see Odd returning to Pico Mundo. I sure hope so.

    Have you read Odd Hours yet?

  15. Finn - I tried to read Odd Hours, but gave up. You can read what I wrote here.


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