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Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Review: Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz (2003)

In Books/Authors, Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on July 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

Sometimes saving the day can be a real pain.

Odd Thomas, a 20-year-old fry cook, enjoys the simple life.  He makes flipping burgers look like an Olympic sport and he dreams of marrying Stormy Llewellyn, the girl he is destined to be with forever.  He also shares his small apartment above the garage with Elvis – yes, that Elvis.

Odd is a clairvoyant. The dead visit him, sometimes for friendship or help moving on – other times seeking revenge.  Odd regards this sixth sense as both burden and mission.  When a strange newcomer to Odd’s diner is accompanied by a host of bodachs, supernatural shadow creatures that gather to disaster like vultures to roadkill, Odd gets the heebie-jeebies. That’s never good.

Compelled to investigate, Odd beings searching the man’s life for a clue of how to stop the impending blood bath and save the day. But the path to understanding is never as easy as it seems.  Odd must overcome each obstacle in a race against time before he can prevent the deaths of so many friends and loved ones.

“I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.” – Odd Thomas

Koontz wrote the book from the first person perspective of its subject, the humble narrator who lives an unquestionably odd life.  The book is actually a journal chronicling his experience, and Koontz mixes in Odd’s dysfunctional personal history throughout the high-tension narrative with such deftness that it melts into the plot rather than slowing it down.  He set up the story as a journal, which allows Odd to disclose his foibles and insecurities in a stream of conscious style while hiding the most important secrets until last.  It’s very clever.

Anton-Yelchin-Odd-Thomas67I read numerous Dean Koontz novels before finally picking up “Odd Thomas.”  As always, Koontz’s writing manages to balance a character-driven narrative with the thrill of action.  Impressively, even the city acts as an important character in each scene.  But what sets this book apart from the rest of Koontz’s bibliography is Odd Thomas himself.

Odd is young enough to be naïve about people but experienced enough to be wary.  He shares a close relationship with Pico Mundo’s police chief but doesn’t mind picking locked doors if he thinks it is for a good cause.  He’s a quick thinker but not a fighter, which sets him apart from many other action heroes of the day and heightens the dramatic tension throughout the novel.

From start to finish, I fell in love with the characters: Stormy, Little Ozzie and Pico Mundo itself. But while Koontz’s story is gripping, it would not be half so captivating were it not for Odd Thomas.  He engaged me through his first adventure and left me hungry to read through the next.

Rating:  5 Stars

Most Ominous Award goes to: the tarantula

Favorite Minor Character: Stormy Llewellyn

Added Bonus:  If you loved the book, it’s recently been adapted into a movie starring Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov of Star Trek fame).  Check it out!

Have you read “Odd Thomas”?  If so, what did you think was most striking about the book?  Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, @HannahScribbles!

Sci-Fi Review: “Partials” by Dan Wells

In Books/Authors, Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on July 19, 2013 at 9:00 am

Dan Wells wrote a novel just for me when he penned “Partials,” the first book in his Partials series.  This science fiction novel has three things I swoon for: a post-apocalyptic setting, bioethics and virology. Seriously, I can’t get enough of medical fiction!

The world is over.  After the Partials, biological machines created in the perfect likeness of humans, rebelled against their makers, a potent virus called RM destroyed more than 99 percent of the population and continues to kill all babies within days of birth.  Now, 11 years later, a “plague baby” named Kira Walker is determined to cure the virus and stop humanity’s extinction before her fragile society tears itself apart.  Aided by her adopted siblings and reluctant boyfriend, Kira faces down the elements, the enemy and the government on her quest to find the cure where no one else will look.

Partials, science fiction, YA science fiction, sci-fi, hard science fiction, medical fictionOne of the most alluring aspects of “Partials” is its complex female lead, a 16-year-old girl who never had a childhood.  Growing up in the apocalypse is hard; weapons training is more important than history lessons.  Kira is a brilliant and promising medical intern sick with frustration at science’s inability to cure the RM virus that is slowly driving humanity extinct.  She has to balance her desire to fix the world with the realities of human politics, a tension Wells etches into the city immediately after showing Kira’s intense reaction to watching a newborn die.

Humanity’s ruling Senate passed the Hope Act, a bioethics nightmare that forces women 18 years and older to get pregnant as often as possible to maximize the chances of producing a child resistant to the RM virus.  Kira sees the law isn’t medically working, but the political system is against her and society is divided about the measure.  Kira herself wrestles with these bioethical questions.  How far can you sacrifice freedom for safety?  Is personal freedom affordable when species extinction is a threat? Who can control your body?  What makes a human “human”?

“Partials” explores the popular (and often tiresome) sci-fi theme of forcible impregnation, examining its social effects.  I appreciate that Wells shows the internal debates realistically, writing a compelling cast of supporting characters with a range of beliefs on each subject.  He shows loyalists who obey without questioning, objectors who question the government’s right to reach into people’s private lives and a range of people still struggling for an answer.  Wells developed each character with their own set of beliefs, doubts and motives – and evolves each throughout the book.

By the end, no one is the same.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reasons to Read:  If you thought this YA sci-fi would drag you through another tiresome love triangle, you’d almost be wrong.  With fascinating medical scenes, vivid bursts of action and a rich history of the apocalypse, “Partials” grabs your interest and never let go.

Favorite Moment: Anytime virology and scientific inquiry are mentioned!

Least Favorite Character: Senator Hobbs

The FISA Court

In Liberty on July 16, 2013 at 7:44 am

“The U.S. government is an occasionally maddening system of checks and balances, yet the surveillance court stands out as uniquely shielded from both.” – Bloomberg Businessweek Editorial

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