The horror genre is usually characterized by creepy ghouls,
gruesome gore, sinister fiends and over-the-top heroes. You are
less likely to find sorrowful ghosts, humble narrators and humor.
Dean Koontz's latest novel, FOREVER ODD, is a horror story with
ghosts torn between this life and the next, a reluctant 21-year-old
hero, and yes, humor.
FOREVER ODD picks up where the recent ODD THOMAS leaves off. Our
protagonist, Odd Thomas (his real name), is recovering from a
bloody showdown with a deranged killer and the loss of his true
love. While on hiatus from his job as a fry cook, the ghost of Dr.
Wilbur Jessup, the stepfather of Odd's childhood friend Danny,
wakes him late one night. Odd can see ghosts, the "lingering dead"
as he calls them. He tries to help guide them to the next life so
they can be released from the misery and attachment of this one.
Odd is summoned to the Jessup home, where the doctor's body is
found. But when he realizes that Danny is missing from the scene of
the crime, Odd sets out to save his friend.
In the space of two long and dangerous days Odd tracks down Danny
and his kidnappers. Readers learn much about Odd: his unique and
often burdensome supernatural gifts, his love for Stormy, the
wonderful and supportive (if a tad eccentric) friends he surrounds
himself with, and his desire for a simple life, perhaps selling and
installing tires. Still, there is much to the back story that
readers are left in the dark about. What happened to his mother?
How exactly did Stormy die? What happened to him last August?
Koontz alludes to these things, but the answers are found in ODD
THOMAS and he doesn't rehash much.
The present tale finds Odd tunneling deep under the town following
Danny and who he thinks has abducted him. The trail leads to the
ruined Panamint casino and resort, the scene of a large earthquake
and devastating fire. In this creepy building, full of ghosts and
wreckage, Odd learns that Danny's captors are the insane beauty
Datura and her two henchmen. Datura, a phone-sex operator and
practitioner of a twisted version of Voodoo, has taken Danny to
lure Odd to her. She has learned of his gifts and demands that he
show her some ghosts.
Datura and Odd play cat-and-mouse all over the Panamint with
several frightening confrontations. Odd's goal remains saving
Danny, but can he save himself from Datura's clutches as
What is so humorous about all of this? The humor is not at all in
the situation (except maybe the fact that the ghost of Elvis is a
companion of Odd's), but in Odd's response to the situation. His
humor, his light and offhand way of narrating the story, is funny
and witty. Sometimes, though, it is a bit too much: not every
statement needs to be followed by a one-liner or funny quip. The
other thing that may turn some readers off is the tendency, toward
the end of the novel, for Odd to moralize a bit. Yet it is an
understandable response to what he has witnessed and suffered both
in this tale and in his life.
In many ways FOREVER ODD is more an adventure story than a horror
tale. But many aspects of a horror novel are present as well. The
most compelling aspect of the book is Odd himself. He is an honest,
brave, smart and likable protagonist, if a bit damaged and sad. It
is not necessary to have read ODD THOMAS before this one because it
stands on its own as a complete story, but reading FOREVER ODD
first will surely encourage a trip to the bookstore to pick up the
novel that introduced Odd.
FOREVER ODD is a quick and enjoyable read --- just scary enough for
winter fireside reading but not scary enough to keep you awake at
night. More character-driven than many horror novels, it is a fun
and unique approach to ghost stories and creepy tales.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011