Review of Forever Odd: An Engaging Oddysey Into the Supernatural
Voodoo, Underground Conduits and Ghostly Casinos
Summary of the Novel
Forever Odd is the second installment in Koontz engaging Odd Thomas series. A few months after the shooting massacre at the shopping mall where he lost his girlfriend, Stormy, Odd Thomas, the unassuming fry cook who sees the restless dead and occasionally helps them obtain justice against their killers, was awakened by Dr. Jessup, the radiologist at the hospital in Odd’s Mohave desert hometown of Pico Mundo. Intuiting from long experience that Dr. Jessup had in fact been killed and worried that stepson, Danny Jessup, might also be in peril, Odd called Police Chief Porter and went to the Jessups. Odd found Dr. Jessup horriblly murdered, Danny kidnapped and was tasered by the last member of the gang to linger in the house, a man with crazy eyes. Odd was worried because Danny had a severe case of osteogenesis imperfecta – brittle bone disease - making the violence of a kidnapping particularly dangerous for him.
After recovering – Odd's assailant did nothing further to him - and touching base with Chief Porter who soon arrived, Odd set out in search of Danny using his psychic magnetism – a talent for finding whomever he was looking for just by letting himself be drawn to them. Chief Porter and Odd both mistakenly suspected the murderer/kidnaper was the violent, recently deincarcerated former husband of Danny’s late mother. This time Odd was drawn to the outlet of the underground flood control conduit system. With aid from Terry, his boss at the Grill, and breakfast from corpulent detective fiction author, Ozzie Boone, his intellectual mentor, Odd outfitted for a journey through the underground tunnels. Whilst there he found the body of the man who had tasered him dead in a small stream of runoff.
Odd had heard rumors of a huge tunnel system connected to the nearby military base used both for underground drainage and missile transport. He found vast eerie empty tunnels that he followed for miles until at last his sense told him to surface in the Indian Reservation near the abandoned Panamint Resort and Gambling Hotel. The Panamint had been popular with gamblers but an earthquake some years before had wrecked it and the resulting fire had killed several of the gamblers and hotel staff, and the hotel, its owners enmeshed in legal disputes, had been left to ruin. Odd quickly entered, and, sensing that the stairwells were guarded, climbed a ladder on the wall of the elevator. He found Danny alone in an abandoned hotel room strapped to a bomb. He cut his bonds but left the bomb on him for the moment.
Danny confessed that his kidnappers were led by a beautiful but utterly evil young woman named Datura. She had been a porn actress but had graduated to telephone sex worker, eventually captivating and marrying her employer and inheriting his wealth on his untimely death. Datura was obsessed with the occult and Danny (who in his loneliness had used her telephone sex services) had gotten to know her a little too well, telling her all about Odd. Datura was convinced Odd could enable her to summon and see deceased spirits, and contrived the murder/kidnapping as a way of testing and capturing Odd whom she was convinced would come for Danny. Danny was penitent but Odd was not upset with him; he was more concerned with how they would escape. Leaving Danny, he went down the hall to confront Datura. Datura was strangely obsessed with the idea that Odd was a powerful sorcerer and knew everything she knew or thought she knew about the occult. She was accompanied by two henchmen, Cheval Andre and Cheval Robert, who looked like the walking dead. She told Odd that she would have his ti bon ange -a kind of bondage of the spirit- and he would serve her as they did. First she insisted that he show her spirits. Realizing there was nothing else he could do, he took her and the two “Chevals” to the gaming room where he had seen spirits on the way in. There, he described the spirit of a young hotel staff woman. Datura knew of her and began to harangue and torment her until another spirit turned poltergeist. Odd escaped in the ensuing confusion. He disarmed the bomb, hid Danny in an abandoned elevator and killed Cheval Robert who seemed surprisingly unresisting. He sought to return to the ground level by a crawlway but was intercepted by Datura. Just as she was haranguing him about what she would have him do next (the Poltergeist impressed her) she was killed, deus ex machina, by a stray mountain lion. For those unfamiliar with the series, departed girlfriend Stormy is very much the machina or at the very least egging it on.
Odd was relentlessly pursued back into the underground drain system, during a rare desert flash flood storm, by Cheval Andre and a battle to the death ensued in the grate near the underground lake the conduits emptied into. Odd died, spiritually visiting Ozzie, Terri Stambaugh and Chief Porter by turns having dinner and then awoke at the exit to the storm drain with no idea how he had gotten there. He sent the chief to rescue Danny, worried but well, from the elevator. Following this experience, Odd decided to seek the peace of the Monastery of St Bartholomews high in the Sierra Nevadas. Odd had never been more than 25 miles from Pico Mundo before that.
Foreover Odd among Koontz' Writings
This book was an effective continuation, if a little less impressive than what will probably prove ultimately to be Koontz masterpiece - Odd Thomas. Koontz tends to write stories that pretend at the outset to be eerie and supernatural and then turn out to be stories of childhood abuse, out of control egomania and misused but obscure science. Among these The Key to Midnight and False Memory were rather good and The Husband had its moments. What was good about these books was not the resolution which generally was something of a let down but Koontz masterful, evocative and eerie descriptions. Koontz does better with stories where he does not employ a surprise scientific ending, but left the apparently supernatural problem unanswered and only enigmatically explained. Odd Thomas is his best work to date, and Foreover Odd and the fourth installment were among his best work. His short story "Strange Highways" was also rather good. In the Odd Thomas series he seems to engage not only in his evocative description but also seems to get the hang of deftly and subtly tying it to the deeper points of the plot. His "Out of the Corner of His Eye" was for me a styllistic failure. Koontz occasionally gets carried away in his characterization. Koontz books rarely start off badly and tell to stand or fall depending upon whether the ending lives up to the opening premises. As Stephen King has said (to paraphrase) Koontz' writing is either very hot or very cold. For the most part, in the Odd Thomas series, including this title, Koontz does not disappoint.
Of Particular Interest in Forever Odd
In this book, in addition to Odd's basic mystery of seeing the recently departed, Koontz toys with the topics of black magic (a form of voodoo or hoodoo, it is not quite clear which) and the return from and communication with the dead. He does not get too involved in trying to explain them and that is as it should be. He takes a brief detour from his battle with the evil forces that lay behind his enemies in the first book of the series. But you know they are there, lurking in the background, waiting to jump back out at us in Book 4 (Odd Hours).
A couple of interesting points about this book – the Ying family’s brugmansia tree – beautiful but utterly poisonous, is a metaphor for Datura. This is Koontz taking his craft up a notch. Koontz description of the underground conduits and the abandoned Panamint impressed on the second read as they did on the first. There is something extraordinary to Koontz powers of description. He needs to try while he can still put pen to paper to see how high he can fly with that. Leave the world of best sellers for a little while and go for broke. Or not. Ultimately that is up to him. Another notable thing about Dutura’s character was her wistful, mystic recollections of various séances and sacrifices that resembles nothing so much as Koontz’s New Mexico obsessed kidnapper in The Husband. The one thing about that book (the Husband) that was not to be missed is the psychotic's wistful ramblings about the Northern New Mexican back country.
The Trend of the Odd Thomas Series
The quintessential problem is whether Koontz can maintain the level of moody eeriness counterposed to Odd's oftentimes rather odd cheerfulness established in this book and its predecessor. Book 3 (Brother Odd) is a bit less in my opinion, but then the series picks up again in installments 4 (Odd Hours) and 5 (Odd Interlude) when he meets the enigmatic Anna Maria and has to face down the evil seemingly possessed coyotes again (Well Anna Maria does anyway). I was not so happy with installments 6 (Odd Apocalypse) and 7 (Deeply Odd) but Koontz is still going and though one might argue that Koontz has probably written as long on this topic as he is liable to be able to do and keep it interesting, there is yet a chance of redemption and a grand conclusion.