Dean Koontz is a Terrible Writer, Part One

Some new medication I'm on has been making it difficult to focus so I haven't been able to do the normal sort of stuff. Happily, that's let me catch up on some of my fiction reading. One thing I like about reading fiction over non-fiction is I generally don't have to try to think about or process details and comprehend things for future use - I just have to read the story and enjoy it.

Of course, even when feeling somewhat stoned, I can't really turn off my brain. That's why I want to tell you a bit about how bad this Dean Koontz book I'm reading is. This isn't like the last couple books I told you a bit about. The difference is those books, however entertaining they may or may not have been, were non-fiction. They were supposed to convey information. This book, titled Deeply Odd isn't. Dean Koontz is a fiction writer, and as such, his only obligation is to entertain his readers. He just needs to be fun. And he isn't. Not even sort of.

I want to stress one of the potential side effects of a medication I'm on is short term memory loss. I was warned the first couple weeks can be the roughest, so I shouldn't worry too much if I have problems at first, but if things don't get better after a couple weeks, I'll probably be taken off the medication.

The reason I point this out is I've sometimes found myself forgetting things these last few days. A few times, it's been right after I saw or heard them. It's made reading this book trippy. You might think memory loss would make reading a book difficult, but it doesn't with this book. Just look at the introduction to the book. If you forgot the introductory paragraph:

Before dawn, I woke in darkness to the ringing of a tiny bell, the thimble-size bell that I wore on a chain around my neck: three bursts of silvery sound, a brief silence after each. I was lying on my back in bed, utterly motionless, yet the bell rang three times again. The vibrations that shivered through my bare chest seemed much too strong to have been produced by such a tiny clapper. A third set of three rings followed, and then only silence. I waited and wondered until dawn crept down the sky and across the bedroom windows.

There would be no problem as the next paragraph:

Later that morning in early March, when I walked downtown to buy blue jeans and a few pairs of socks, I met a guy who had a .45 pistol and a desire to commit a few murders. From that encounter, the day grew uglier as surely as the sun moved from east to west.

Works just as well as an introduction to a book. In fact, I think it works better. You could just forget both though. The next paragraph works well as an introduction too:

My name is Odd Thomas. I have accepted my oddness. And I am no longer surprised that I am drawn to trouble as reliably as iron to a magnet.

Or you could just go with the first sentence of the next paragraph:

Nineteen months ago, when I was twenty, I should have been riddled with bullets in that big-news shopping-mall shoot-out in Pico Mundo, a desert town in California.

I know you might think the hyphenation would worry the editor, but if he's okay with four introductions being placed one after another, I don't think he's going to worry about much. Besides, after reading this book, you'll probably feel as stoned as I do. I mean, the entire book is written like:

Currently I rented a quaint, furnished three-bedroom cottage in a quiet coastal town a couple of hundred miles from Pico Mundo.

No, I'm not complaining about the phrase "couple of hundred miles." That's fine. What I want to know is how can you currently rented something? What tense is that? The book constantly portrays everything as happening in the present, but it does so in the past tense. It's baffling.

Anyway, you know that cottage he just described? It's not important. That's why, without any sort of segue, Koontz then immediately has Odd think:

Annamaria, whom I had known only since late January, occupied one of the bedrooms. She appeared to be ready to give birth in about a month, but she claimed that she had been pregnant for a long time and insisted that she would be pregnant longer still.
Although she said many things that I failed to understand, I believed that she always spoke the truth. She was mysterious but not deceptive.

This is the sixth book in a series. Annamaria was introduced in the fourth. And honestly, you would be fine with just that description of her. I've read every previous book in this series, and I can't think of anything in any of those books which adds to her character. Her entire character can be summed up as "mysterious" with a finger-wiggle thingy. Seriously. A couple paragraphs later is:

The morning when I set out on a shopping expedition, Annamaria followed me as far as the porch. She said, "Daylight savings time doesn't start for another five days."

That's her role. Say (and do) stuff that doesn't make sense and never gets explained. I added the "and do" because later on she inexplicably appears in two places a few hundred miles apart from one another at the same time to make sure supplies are waiting for Odd at a random location when he will need them, even though she should have no way of knowing he'll wind up there. I'm not exaggerating that. The book doesn't try to explain it. Odd doesn't even ask how it happens. He just shrugs it off.

But I shouldn't spoil the insanity of this book. I want to just talk about the beginning for now. After introducing us to Annamaria, Koontz goes on to introduce us to Tim:

From behind Annamaria and beyond a window, Tim watched solemnly. Crowding close to him on the left and right, paws on the windowsill, gazing out at me, were our two dogs, a golden retriever named Raphael and a white German shepherd named Boo. Only nine years old, Tim had been with us for over one month, after we rescued him from an estate called Roseland, in the sleepy town of Montecito. I've written about that ordeal in a previous volume of these memoirs. We were his only family now. Because of his unique history, we would soon need to fabricate an identity into which he could grow in the years to come.
My life is as odd as my name.
Tim waved at me. I waved at Tim.

You should wave at Tim too. You're not going to see him again for ~330 pages. In a book which is 335 pages long. Even then, his only other mention is going to be:

Half an hour after dawn, I woke and found that we were cruising the street on which I lived, for the time being, with Annamaria and Tim, the boy we had rescued from the creepy estate named Roseland, in Montecito.

Yeah. Tim was added to Odd's little "family" in the last book in this series, and apparently the author wants to keep the little guy around. He just can't figure out how to make the character actually be relevant. That means Koontz has to remind us Tim is still there at the beginning and end of this book, but he doesn't know what to have Tim do other than just watch solemnly. And wave.

So if you ever read this book, just remember, Tim is from a creepy estate named Roseland, in Montecito. He's watching you. And waving.

And who knows, maybe he'll be important in the next book.* In the meantime, I want to say I hate this book for continuing the stupid myth:

Just before stepping out of the house, I had asked the boy if he wanted to accompany me. But with a benign smile, Annamaria had said that neither Xerxes nor Leonidas had invited small children to accompany them to Thermopylae.
In 480 B.C., three hundred Spartans under the command of Leonidas had for a while held at bay two hundred thousand Persian under Xerxes in the battle of Thermopylae, before being slaughtered. I failed to see the similarity between my modest shopping expedition and one of the fiercest military engagements in history.

The number of Persian troops at this battle is uncertain. Some ancient texts claimed the Persians brought over five million men with them, while some modern scholars argue there were fewer than a hundred thousand Persians.

Similarly, the number of troops on the Spartan side are uncertain. All historians agree there were far more than 300 men on the Spartan side, but there were many allied soldiers who stood alongside those 300. Historians generally estimate there were about 7,000 people under Leonidas's command, 1,500 of whom stood and died in the final battle.

That is 6,700 men who weren't Spartans, 1,200 of whom died, that this book just sweeps under the rug. I know the book is just continuing a long pattern of romanticization of the Battle of Thermopylae that is present in literature, movies and popular knowledge, but I still hate it, and I will still criticize Dean Koontz for it.

(And no, I'm not forgiving mistakes by saying these are books written by Odd Thomas, a human, and humans make mistakes. That's a lazy excuse given solely to excuse laziness. Especially since Koontz uses Odd to shove his personal views on pop culture down his readers throat on a regular basis.)

Anyway, we should be able to get back on track. The introductions are over, and we should be able to get back on track. Before I do though, I have to point out we've actually been introduced to one more important character than you realize. I haven't left out any important text. You've read all the text about that character there's been. Go back and read the paragraph introducing Tim. You'll see a phrase mentioning "a white German shepherd named Boo." Nearly 280 pages later in the book, Boo becomes hugely important when Odd thinks, and this will obviously spoil some things:

As I turned to lead them from the room, a snow-white German-shepherd mix passed through the closed door. My ghost dog, Boo, had once been the companion of the monks at St. Bartholomew's Abbey, and he had been with me since I left that place less than three month's earlier.

I can't figure out why "German-shepherd" is hyphenated this time but not the first time, but... yeah. Dean Koontz mentions Boo in passing as just a "white" dog a couple pages into the book then doesn't mention him again for ~280 pages. Then suddenly, Boo shows up and we find out he's a ghost. And then he's hugely vital for the resolution of the book, with Odd only being able to save the day because of him.

Poor Tim. They both get introduced in the same sentence, but Boo gets to run through a den of evil to heroically save the lives of 17 children. And be petted as a reward!

Tim gets wave. And watch. Solemnly. For an entire book.

Because he's from a creepy estate named Roseland, in Montecito.

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