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An Odd Christian tale

I've been addicted to Dean Koontz's "Odd Thomas" series ever since the first one appeared in 2003. I just finished the most recent in the series, Deeply Odd.

For the uninitiated, Odd Thomas (his name may be a misprint on his birth certificate after an abortive attempt to name him "Todd," but that isn't clear) is a short-order cook in his twenties, the child of a wealthy but aloof father and a mother who used to threaten him with a gun. Somehow, he's turned out rather well. A kind, gentle, wise young man, his life is complicated by a gift: he sees dead people.

With one exception (I won't spoil the surprise), they can't talk. He can touch them, and they feel just like everybody else. But they have to carry on their side of his conversations with him by pantomime. His side-kicks have included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Alfred Hitchcock.

The world-view of the books is a strange combination of Koontz's own  Roman Catholicism and spiritualism. Apparently purgatory is actually being stuck here on the temporal plane as a ghost to work out whatever it is needs to be worked out before proceeding on to heaven. One of Odd's specialties is helping people expedite that process.  People destined for hell apparently don't have the option of hanging around; they get "collected" promptly upon their demise.

Odd also sees bodachs- shadowy, doglike creatures which seem to accumulate whenever a large number of people are going to die. He seems to be drawn to impending tragedies involving really not nice people, and does what he has to- including, when necessary, taking human life. The police chief back in his home town of Pico Mundo, California knew all about his gift, and treated him as a resource; law enforcement elsewhere is not in on the secret, and thus not apt to be all that understanding.

Dominating his life is the memory of his one true love, Bronwyn "Stormy" Llewellyn, whom he failed to save when terrorists attacked the Pico Mundo mall where she worked in the first book. Odd carries in his wallet a card given him and Stormy by a mechanical gypsy and reading, "You are destined to be together forever." His life is lived looking forward to his reunion with Stormy on the other side of death.

Meanwhile, he lives a simple life, a Christian seeking to serve God and his fellow man. Beyond his reunion with Stormy, he has no other desire. He's in a lot of ways a model of what a Christian life should look like in the early decades of the Twenty-First Century in our dying culture, and his adventures repeatedly confront him with the consequences of our culture's decline and deterioration. He faces evil in purer and far more distilled forms than any of us are likely to. But he does it with courage and faith, and in a way I find inspiring.

There are things about the series that bother me. Spiritualism does not historically mix very well with orthodox Christianity, and Odd's tale involves some of the more problematic aspects of Catholicism as well. The concept of a purgatory is one. And then there's his most recent companion: a pregnant and very enigmatic young woman named Annamarie, who has been pregnant "a long time" and will be pregnant a long time yet to come. She seems to have both knowledge and powers which verge on the godlike. In the most recent novel, she is touched by Odd's comment that he wishes that she were his sister, but adds that she knows that "you do not mean to diminish me." Annamarie is clearly a good guy, but she sets off so many theological alarm bells that I sometimes she causes me trouble in  staying invested in seeing Odd's tale the truly edifying Christian story it is.

In fact, the Odd Thomas books are the best-selling series of Christian novels in the world- and one of the very best, far superior in almost every way to what you find in the section of the bookstore or library set aside for such.  I look forward to each new one as it comes out. Part of me can't wait to see how the story turns out. Another part of me is relieved every time one of them ends in such a way that it is clear that the story will continue. Koontz has, after all, sent strong signals that the series is nearing its end, and when it comes it will be like losing a friend.

Hunter Baker of Union University has some good thoughts on the Odd Thomas series as Christian novels and on Odd as a Christian hero here. I strongly commend it to you. 


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