Dean Koontz is generally categorized as a writer of horror, and I’m not a fan of horror, so I’m not sure what possessed me to read one of his novels. Maybe someone gave it to me. Maybe I picked it up in a bargain bin somewhere.
What I do remember is that the book’s title was Watchers and, while reading it, I fell in love with a dog named Einstein and an author named Dean Koontz.
Then along came the Odd Thomas series. Again, I don’t know how I discovered it, but I do know that Koontz’s “odd” protagonist nabbed and bagged my heart before I even got to paragraph two. The series is written in first person, from the point of view of a short-order cook named Odd Thomas, who pulls you in with his wit and humility and then captivates you like a first crush with his concern for the underdogs of – and out of – this world.
“My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.”
Peculiar things happen to Odd Thomas that don’t happen to anyone else. He communicates with the dead, for instance. Not by choice, mind you. Odd Thomas is a reluctant confidant and can’t resist helping the quiet souls who seek him out for justice.
Almost every page of Koontz’s novels contains a line or phrase that teases and pleases the brain. I’m down right envious of Koontz’s ability to penetrate beneath the surface of things (the beautiful and ugly, humorous and sad, inspiring and depressing) and share observations that vibrate with truth.
- “We are not, however, a species that can choose the baggage with which it must travel. In spite of our best intentions, we always find that we have brought along a suitcase or two of darkness, and misery.”
- “A car can’t return the love you give it. but if you’re lonely enough, maybe the sparkle of the chrome, the luster of the paint, and the purr of the engine can be mistaken for affection.”
- “Unlike the beasts of the wild, the many cruel varieties of human monsters, when at last cornered, seldom fight with greater ferocity. Instead, they reveal the cowardice at the core of their brutality.”
And so it goes page after page, bits of wisdom threaded within stories of suspense, horror, sci-fi and love in contemporary settings. It’s no surprise that he’s hard, if not impossible, to categorize. Koontz crosses boundaries. He does his own thing. He is an entertainer and a philosopher. Yet he doesn’t preach and he doesn’t bore. He’s the Emerson of genre fiction.
In a previous post, I described visionary fiction as a genre that not only tells a good story, but also enlightens and encourages readers to expand their awareness of greater possibilities. Visionary fiction helps readers see the world in a new light and recognize dimensions of reality they commonly ignore.
Dean Koontz does that and more. What can I say? The man’s a master. I’m not surprised that many visionary fiction authors claim Koontz influenced their writing. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Koontz is a visionary fiction writer. How’s that for crossing boundaries?
If you haven’t discovered Dean Koontz for yourself, I suggest you do so. Or see the movie, which comes out soon. You won’t regret it. And while you’re at it, check out some of the other visionary authors mentioned on this site. In a world riddled with fear, misunderstanding, and lost hope, you might just welcome fiction that heals, empowers, and bridges differences.