I didn’t find Odd Apocalypse quite as unsatisfying as Julie D did, but I did feel that it… lacked… something that the first three Odd Thomas books had.
I will read the next one simply to see if this ongoing murk ever clears up, but at this point feel it will be more from a sense of duty than anything else. And to give Koontz a chance to pull it all together in a way that makes me like all three of the second trilogy in a “really one book” sort of way.
Well Koontz’s latest sequel, Deeply Odd , doesn’t close out the trilogy, it is clear at the end that there is at least one more Odd Thomas book in the wings, but at the risk of too many spoilers, this one left me feeling like Julie’s prediction, that this is “a really one book” sort of thing may well pan out to be right. I think Koontz is going somewhere with Odd Thomas that may well turn out to be very satisfactory indeed.
The element in the last two books I found most unsatisfying was the presence of the enigmatic Annamaria, a character who felt bafflingly flat in a way that just bothered me. She is so passive, so enigmatic, but in a way that her character never advances, never grows never reveals itself, never unfolds. She felt like she wasn’t really there. In this book, though, I had one of those sudden flashes of insight and I think I understand her a bit better, even if I still don’t quite like her yet. Here are some of the things about her that Koontz reminds us of in the first chapter (those of us who have read the previous books are being reminded, new readers, I guess are being filled in):
“She appeared to have been 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.”
“She was mysterious but not deceptive.”
“… her large dark eyes, which reflected the sparkling sea, seemed as deep as galaxies.”
“… there are people who want to kill her.”
“She possessed an air of timelessness, as if she might have lived in any century of recorded history, or in all of them.”
“Annamaria’s smile is so comforting that, in its radiance, you can almost believe that this world offers nothing more threatening than what you’d find in Pooh Corner—in spite of her references to the slaughter of the Spartans.”
All these hints suddenly added up to one image: the woman of Revelation 12, who is about to give birth, with a dragon waiting to devour her child.
Oh, this is indeed an Apocalypse. Annamaria is a Marian figure. And while Mary isn’t really passive, her inactivit is often mistaken for passivity, her actions are usually understated. She provides the definition of what Ephesians 5 means by “submit.” She submits to the will of God, and thus her whole life becomes a figure of the Gospel. So while, I don’t yet see what exactly Annamaria is and what her role will be, I’m more patient toward watching it unfold. And though I can’t see exactly how this is going to work out, I think the next book may well pull us a little deeper into her mystery. Finally. If she is flat, if she is mysterious, I think that’s perhaps by design instead of a clumsiness on Koontz’s part. At least I’m willing to give him more time to show me what he’s doing. In this book he’s given me enough of a hook to make me want to read the next one.
And one of the things that if pulling me forward is my desire to unravel the mystery of Edie, Mrs Fischer. She’s also enigmatic and impenetrable. (What does she mean by “smoothed out and fully blue?”) But in a way that is much more satisfying than Annamaria. Koontz lets us learn about her, reveals bits and pieces of who she is. It’s maddeningly slow like unpeeling an onion, but also narratively satisfying. I always feel like there will be more answers. The pacing is just constant enough that I don’t get bored of her.
The other thing this book is is deeply Catholic. (And like the other Odd Thomas books, deeply infused with a spirit of T. S. Eliot.) A few of my favorite passages that indicate why although the Odd Thomas books are populated with psychopathic Satan worshipers and contain incidents of ritual killing and demonic possession, it still is for the most part a headspace that I enjoy being in.
Theologians tell us that this is a fallen world, that Adam and Eve broke it when they fell from grace. Maybe you’re not a believer, but if you’re honest, you’ll have to agree that something is wrong with this place. Senseless violence, corrupting envy, greed, blind hatred, and willful ignorance seem proof that Earth has gone haywire, but so is the absurdity that we see everywhere. The people of a broken world, off the rails and wobbling trackless on their journeys to oblivion or meaning, are frequently going to be foolish, sometimes in entertaining ways. When amusing, their foolishness—and mine—can be a lamp that brightens my spirit in spite of all threats and suffering.
“Child, do you know where truly great courage comes from, the kind of courage that will never back down?”
I said, “Faith?”
“And love,” she said, “Faith is a kind of love, you know. Love of what is unseen but certain. Love makes us strong and brave.”
Although I know the world is an intricately more complex place than it appears to most people, although I understand in my blood and bones that humanity is a turbulent family aboard an endless train, on an infinite journey to shores that can only dimly be imagined by the living, I don’t see signs and portents everywhere I look. Most often, a haloed moon means nothing more than that reflective volcanic ash has made its way into the stratosphere, and a two headed goat is only a genetic curiosity. The mommy-porn genre currently sweeping the book industry and the Babylonian excess of most television shows probably fall within the historical norm in our culture’s sleaze index and are not omens of the imminent collapse of civilization, though if I were not so busy, I might start building an ark.
Intuition is the highest form of knowledge. What we learn from others can be mistaught by those not a fraction as knowledgeable as they pretend or by propagandists with agendas. We are born with intuition, however, which includes the natural law, a sense of right and wrong. A lot of people rebel so continually against natural law that not only does that part of their intuition atrophy but also every other aspect of it. They strike the match, open the door, give their money to an investment adviser named Slick, and trust that if they are really nice to the thug with the switchblade, he’ll be nice to them.
Although I am an optimist, my imagination can conjure countless deadly hands from any shuffled deck before the cards are dealt. I am, therefore, perplexed by so many people who, whether they’re optimists or pessimists, trust any dealer as long as he claims to share their vision of how all things ought to be, who trust their own vision to the extent that they never question is, and who believe that four of a kind and royal flushes always fall by chance in a world without meaning. To such folks, Hitler was a distant and half-comic figure—until he wasn’t; and mad mullahs promising to use nuclear weapons as soon as they obtain them are likewise harmless—until they aren’t. I, on the other hand, believe life has profound meaning and that the meaning of Creation itself is benign, but I also know that there are such things as card mechanics who can manipulate the deck to their great advantage. in life, little happens by chance, and most bad hands we’re dealt are the consequence of our actions, which are shaped by our wisdom and our ignorance. In my experience, survival depends on hoping for the best while recognizing that disaster is more likely and that it can’t be averted if it can’t be imagined.
These were combed from the first half of the book. I wasn’t marking them as I read, but flipping through the book I found them again quite easily because they were moments that stuck.
Again, Dean Koontz is not for the faint of heart. If you are sensitive and easily bothered, do not read Koontz. While none of the violence in his books is gratuitous, there is violence. While he never makes evil look good, he does stare it in the face and show what true evil looks like. It’s ugly, horrific, grotesque and yes, banal.
One thing I love about Odd Thomas, and really all of Koontz’s books is that he makes good look so appealing. It’s good food enjoyed with friends, it’s good companionship and good books.
Also, I think I mentioned it before, but this is a great interview: Dean Koontz with Raymond Arroyo talking about writing and faith.
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