Friday, September 7, 2012

An Image That's Going to Stick in My Brain

I finished Odd Thomas this morning, which is the main reason I was very nearly late for my first class.  Yesterday I had to take the car in for some service, and I took the book along with me to read while I waited. (Ah, the luxury of being able to just sit and read! I love the third week of class, when there are no papers to grade yet, and students are doing their first, ungraded speech, which means there are no lessons to prepare.) Anyway, I got far enough into the story during that wait that it caught hold of me and I just HAD to finish it. For a while last night, I considered staying up and reading until I was done. I haven't done that since I read Of Human Bondage back when I was single and it didn't matter how long the light was on. But I'm older now and don't operate as well on little sleep. So I finished this morning.

I'm not sure what I think about it. On the one hand, the plot was obviously exciting enough to suck me in and hold me. Odd himself was an interesting, compelling, and sympathetic character. On the other hand, the book, like Little Ozzie, was about 100 pages overweight. Honestly, when Odd started talking about his aunt Cymry, I thought, "what does this have to do with anything?" Sure enough, the answer is "nothing." (I assume maybe since Koontz wrote a series about Odd that Cymry may show up in a later book.) That's one thing that I've noticed about regular, "adult" books since I've been reading so many young adult novels - adult books tend to meander around with a bunch of irrelevant stuff in them; young adult books tend to stick to the point.

While Odd was a fully-developed character, many of the other characters, especially secondary characters, were stereotypes, in my opinion. The blind, black DJ...the Asian college professor...the "heart of gold" prostitute...the sassy card shark of a grandmother...I think I've seen them somewhere before. Other things didn't pass the "reality" test for me, either. [SPOILER!] Could two guys with the type of past the villains had actually pass the vetting process to get on a police force? Even if they were very discreet about their satanic beliefs, I would think something would show up on the radar.

For all that, though, there is something I'm going to take away from this book. Throughout the book, there are these shady creatures called bodachs that cluster around scenes of violence and real or potential death.  Odd and his fiancee Stormy disagree on what bodachs are. Stormy believes they are demons from hell. Odd says,
Perhaps the violence that sweeps our world daily into greater darkness has led to a future so brutal, so corrupt, that our twisted descendants return to watch us suffer, charmed by festivals of blood...the bodachs may be the shape of their deformed and diseased souls.
I'm going to take what Odd said and put a little Greta twist on it. These "deformed and diseased souls" wouldn't have to come from the future. Maybe there is something of that in us now. Here's one of Odd's descriptions of the bodachs during the climax of the story:
"...I saw hundreds upon hundreds of bodachs gathered along the balustrade above, peering down into the open atrium. Pressed one against the other, excited, eager, twitching and swaying, squirming like agitated spiders."
For some reason, that description brought to my mind the fascination with news reports of events like the shooting in Colorado this past summer, or even reality TV shows where one of the mainstays is conflict between contestants. Maybe we don't congregate at the actual site, squirming and swaying, but the fact that so many of us watch the coverage seems eerily similar to the behavior of the bodach. Sometimes we seem to be fascinated and feeding on the misery and quarreling the same way the bodachs fed on violence and anticipation of death.

In my last post about Odd Thomas, I called it science fiction, and that was wrong. I guess it's more of a paranormal thriller. Actually, I think the whole part about the black room could have been left out, especially since Koontz didn't really do anything else with it after that one section. I don't think it was necessary to try to show the bodachs coming from hell or a time travel. I think it would have been perfectly acceptable in the paranormal genre to have the bodachs be spirits that come from us - our worse natures, so to speak.

But...the story belongs to Koontz, not me. If he wants the bodachs to be twisted souls traveling from the future, I guess I can buy into it. Unfortunately, now that squirming mass of bodachs has joined the cocktail party in my head--and I'm sure it's there to stay.

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