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Review: Brother Odd (2006)

In Career, Fun on February 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

The forces of pride and humility clash in Dean Koontz’s third Odd Thomas novel.

brother odd review, dean koontz odd thomas, odd thomas books, odd thomas monastery, brother odd thomas,On retreat at St. Bartholomew’s Abbey high in the Sierra Mountains, Odd Thomas’s gift won’t allow him to escape his problems for long. On the eve of a snowstorm, Odd spots a bodach slinking through the night. With a sense of impending doom, he rushes to investigate the bodach’s destination and prevent the disaster its presence implies.

Within minutes of the bodach sighting, Odd trips over a body in the snow and is attacked from behind. Later, he sees an unnatural bone-creature and learns the destructive monsters are somehow attracted to Jacob, a boy with Down’s Syndrome living at the Abbey’s orphanage. With bodachs gathering by the minute, Odd races to protect the children at the orphanage and find a connection between the boy and the bone-creatures who want him dead.

Koontz uses Odd Thomas to point out the unassuming nature of humility while he explores pride’s insidious influence over otherwise good people. From the bone-creatures, which are literally the poisonous product of pride, to the Abbey itself, Koontz crafted plot and setting to highlight the humility’s struggle to overcome the destructive nature of pride.

“The world is beautiful and glorious. Humanity can be mean, and turn away from what’s good.”

 Brother Odd shows a view of religious life that emphasizes how the power of true humility conquers pride. Despite varying backgrounds, the monks and nuns at St. Bartholomew’s Abbey received the same calling to sacrifice themselves in order to help others. One of the most prominent characters of the book, Brother “Knuckles”, was an enforcer for a crime family before a children’s book humbled him.

People from all walks of life are called to God. While “Knuckles” is proof that anyone can change if their heart is sincere, every character in Brother Odd has a conversion story. Including this aspect, which is a real part of consecrated and non-consecrated religious life, grounds the characters. Showing a realistic portrayal of the faith life, the monks and nuns of Brother Odd are not placed on pedestals; they are flawed humans who strive to be saints.

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Brother Odd is almost a rest stop in Odd’s psychic journey that was established in Odd Thomas and expanded upon in Forever Odd. The third novel removes the protagonist from his comfort zone and introduces him to an entirely new experience. With new scenery, new friends and new ghostly companions introduced throughout, Brother Odd builds toward the next book in the series, Odd Hours, with promises of greater adventures and a higher purpose.

Rating: 5 Stars

Favorite Character: Brother Knuckles

Favorite Quote: “When we hope, we usually hope for the wrong thing.”

Most Chilling Quote:  “Loop me in, odd one.”

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Review: An Abundance of Katherines (2006)

In Career, Fun on January 30, 2014 at 8:05 pm

You know how the adage goes.  If life hands you Katherines, you get dumped.

 

An Abundance of Katherines, AAOK, John Green novel, young adult novels,After Colin Singleton’s girlfriend breaks up with him, he embarks on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan Harbish.  Everything they see reminds Colin of Katherine XIX, the latest in a long line of ex-girlfriends named Katherine.

When the two stop in Gutshot, Tennessee to visit the supposed grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, a tour guide whose mom runs the town mill.  Lindsey’s mother soon hires the boys to catalog the history of the town’s mill.

While Hassan takes on the job with gusto, Colin could care less.  He’s trying to have a Eureka moment by developing a Theorem of Underlying Katherines to predict the future of any relationship.  He is sure the theorem will move him from a mere child prodigy to full-fledged genius.

Throughout the story, Green takes sidesteps to explain Colin’s dating experiences – all with girls named Katherine (hence the name of the book).  He develops Colin’s back story out of order, which sort of fits because the kid can’t tell a story to save his life.  I guess it’s all part of the learning process.

There’s a little Colin in all of us.  Colin is self-absorbed and often oblivious to others’ feelings, but he is determined to make a difference in the world.  He wants “to matter,” and the thought of not mattering depresses him.  His self-absorption inhibits his connection to other people, and that makes him a relatable character.  It isn’t until he takes time to know Lindsey that he learns human connections cannot be predicted by advanced mathematics.

“What matters to you defines your mattering.” – John Green, AAOK

I was introduced to John Green through the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel where he and his brother Hank discuss everything from economics to why they hate nickels.  This is my first foray into John Green’s novels, and so far his style reads much like he talks.  I can almost hear him narrating the book, emphasizing certain words.  You can hear humor bleeding through the pages, pulling a laugh at the book’s frequent situational humor.

Colin Singleton, AAOK, An abundance of katherines formula,Green also uses footnotes to explain details and trivia from the book that he didn’t have time to explain within the story.  Green’s footnotes are used to explain concepts, mathematical formulas and foreign words in a cadence that is humorous while emphasizing the flow of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of “An Abundance of Katherines” is how Green writes Colin’s best friend Hassan, specifically how his religion interacts with his life.  Faith is often portrayed from an either-or position, which creates a media frame where a failure to live up to your faith is seen as a sign of insincerity.  Green breaks from the notion that someone of faith must either be a saint or a hypocrite.

Hassan’s character resonated with me because he cares about his faith but does so imperfectly.  He is lazy. He curses. But at no point does it negate the reality of his faith, and that’s what made the story memorable to me.

Rating:  4 Stars

Best Use of Footnotes:  learning obscure foreign words

Favorite Character:  Lindsey Lee Wells, the girl who doesn’t know who she is yet but wants to find out.

Book Review: Player Piano

In Career on June 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Why is “Slaughterhouse 5” so amazing? Because it’s about time travel? Yes, a novel concept (pun not intended), but I think that “Player Piano,” Vonnegut’s first novel, deserves more attention because it’s true… or, at least, is on its way to becoming true. I started reading “Player Piano” over Summer 2011 but found myself interrupted by college. A year later, I picked it up again the day after finals and finished the book within a week.

Set is set in a future where technology has automated production and industry in the name of progress and reduced citizens to mere consumers, “Player Piano” follows Dr. Paul Proteus, an engineer at Ilium Works on his path to self discovery. With a bit more humor, the novel also tracks Dr. Alyard, a diplomatic liaison attempting to “sell” the fruits of industry (civilization! progress!) to the Shah of Bratpuhr.

Proteus, who begins the novel as a career man on the fast track to a coveted promotion, begins to have reservations about the system. By all accounts, the systems leaves all citizens well fed and wanting for nothing, but Proteus, with the reader, begins to notice that the system does not allow them a basic human need: purpose.

It took me a week of contemplation before I realized why I loved this book so much: because it is about Enlightenment, human purpose and human nature. A running theme in the novel is Proteus’ desire to live free of machinery battling his desire for comfort, which (I think) follows Immanuel Kant’s theory of mental maturity and human nature. Kant says that humans are perpetually in conflict between a desire to be rational, independent beings and a base urge to find the easiest solution and pleasure. While Proteus eventually accomplishes his freedom by buying an antiquated farm, he is shocked by the effort that comes with the lifestyle he’d so long romanticized and gives it up as a passing hobby. Similarly, when we attempt to make choices without relying on the guidance of others, previously easy decisions become harder to make and we are faced with a temptation to return to our old patterns of behavior.

I think “Player Piano” addresses some of humanity’s big questions by drawing parallels between living independently and fighting fate. Here are some questions I pondered after this novel:

  • Can the mechanism of fate be overcome by men? Is there free will?
  • Is culture all-powerful in human life? Can men change society or are they just cogs in the machine?
  • What is the worth of humanity? What does it mean “to live”?
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