Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Saturday Review: Deeply Odd

I think this is the second book of Koontz's I've reviewed here this year. (Well, maybe this year. I know it's been ... a while... since I've been regular here. ... Do they make an equivalent of writerly prune juice to keep the ideas flowing? Only that leads to an easy and uncomfortable metaphor, doesn't it? Never mind on that one.) This one is going to go much the way of that last one, and if you'd rather not sort through the rest of this, here's the final verdict up front: meh.

That's an official "meh" as in: I didn't quit half-way through but seriously, seriously thought about it and only really finished it because I was sufficiently mildly interested in how the train wreck would resolve itself. I gave it three stars on Goodreads only because they don't have a half-star system, and two seemed a little too harsh.

This is a "read if you've got nothing else better on your TBR list or there's nothing better in the library. Or on TV." I mean that. There's better storytelling on television. Even on the networks.

As for the details...

When I started thinking about how to best summarize my feelings on this, I was going to devise a "Deeply Odd Drinking Game." Only I realized it would more likely be the "Deeply Odd Sure-fire Path to Alcohol Poisoning" which doesn't really sound like anybody's idea of a game. Least no one I want to go drinking with, at any rate. So, instead, I've devised a game we'll call "Spot the Plot." Here's how you play. Open the book, anywhere, at random. Read a paragraph. Does it have anything to do with the plot?

Odds are, no. (Pun not intentional.)

Try again.

Odds are, the next one won't, either.

As you could be at this a while, let me tell you what you will find, in no particular order:

Odd reminisces about his dead girlfriend

Odd tells someone to call him "Odd" - and the they don't. Or vice versa as in someone tells Odd to call them "X" and he insists on saying "Mr X" or "Mrs X" or some such.

Odd ruminates on the nature of evil and evil people, which, frankly, he does so often I figure he's got more stomachs than a cow.

Someone tells Odd how special he is, how much he's going to do. Bonus points for it being random characters who more or less exist in the book solely to tell Odd how special he is.

Odd then goes "gee aw shucks." (This is a separate point because he does this a bit.)

While I normally write spoiler-free (as much as possible) reviews of the things I read, please be aware I have now spoiled half the book for you.

Yes, half. I wish I was making that up.

Koontz is one of those authors who is largely hit or miss for me. Either I really like the book, or I don't, and the reasons why I don't have become somewhat predictable over his long and very prolific career. I have thought, in the past, that some of his prolificness may be what hurts certain books, and why, in more recent years, he's become a bit more miss for me than hit. I've learned to read the book jackets, anticipate the plot, and know beforehand whether I want to give it a go. Occasionally I'm wrong - his "Shadow Street" book fell flat for me despite my hopes - and so far the Odd series had avoided Koontz's more problematic pitfalls.

This one, by contrast, was a study in them. (The only thing it was missing was a dog. I mean, there was a dog, of course there was, but it was a much less precious and precocious pooch than the usual canines that show up in Koontz's books. Oh, and the precocious "special" child was missing from this one. Sort of.) I figure there was only about enough plot in this, as written, to sustain half the total pages. This could have been a novella, and a much more satisfying one than it was as a novel. Moreover, although the series is clearly building on things, you could easily skip this one, as now doubt all the things you really need to know will be gone over in great depth and far too much detail in the next installment. Or, better yet, they won't be, and this little escapade in Odd's tales will be written off as a bad dream.

I'm really hoping this doesn't mark a turning point for the series, though I have reasons to fear it does. I started off liking Koontz's Frankenstein series, though that series went off the rails much, much faster. The first book held so much great promise, and the second one mostly spent its time breaking that promise by partially or wholly abandoning most of the premises that made the first one so good. (And by slipping into the standard Koontz cliches. Though I think it avoided the dog, there was the child.) By the end of the Frankenstein books I was so thoroughly unimpressed that I read them mostly for completion's sake.

If the Odd series keeps going the way of this book, I may not be able to even muster that much effort.

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