Odd Interlude is a charming shorter story in Koontz's Odd Thomas series and chronologically comes between the action of Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse.
OOdd Interlude is a charming shorter story in Koontz's Odd Thomas series and chronologically comes between the action of Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse.
Odd Thomas is driving, just roaming without destination, with his companions, enigmatic Annamaria, ghost dog Boo and Labrador Raphael when he feels himself drawn towards Harmony Corner. The the diner, garage and motel are run by the extended Harmony family and it is Donny that Odd meets first. Donny is hideously disfigured but has a sweet nature and Odd is enjoying talking to him, but then something within Donny changes and the affable man becomes hostile.
Odd has stumbled into a wasp's nest, a thrilling story that brings together Koontz's Odd Thomas and Moonlight Bay series. Secret bases, science gone wrong, AI and aliens, innocence, fortitude, hubris and bravery, strong characterisation, these are themes common to many of Koontz's books but in Odd Interlude they are particularly satisfyingly brought together....more
This is a thought provoking set of essays by some of the leading atheists of our time. The essays address the dilemmas faced by atheists at Christmas,This is a thought provoking set of essays by some of the leading atheists of our time. The essays address the dilemmas faced by atheists at Christmas, fundamentally whether or not it is hypocritical to celebrate the season if you do not believe in a god or gods. The Atheist's Guide to Christmas naturally touches on the well worn grooves of the fact that most things to do with Christmas are very far from the Christian message of love, peace and tolerance. That setting aside the madness of Black Friday and rampant consumerism the festival we now know as Christmas has roots deep in the pagan light festivals of deep winter.
The book is divided into six sections: Stories; Science; How To; Philosophy; Arts and Events with seven essays in each section discussing the subject in relation to Christmas and being a non believer.
The message that comes over is that it's okay to celebrate Christmas, much as you can meditate and not be a Buddhist. Being an atheist does not mean you do not value and take joy from the coming together of family, carols, or even the Christmas story itself with its beautiful message of sacrifice, love and humility. It is simply that us atheists believe in what can be observed as opposed to what cannot, be that gods, fairies, ghosts or the afterlife.
I am an atheist and I adore the wonder of this time, the frosty streets and cold nights lit up with hopeful strings of light, the anticipation of seeing my family open the presents I've chosen so carefully, mulled wine and roast potatoes, love and a couple of days without work. Believing that this is all there is gives poignancy to the here and now, that we do not do things for anything in the next life but that we live as morally ethically as possible because this is all there is. And that is what Christmas is all about at heart....more
Matt Smith's 11th Doctor Who, Amy and Rory arrive in the strange settlement of Appletown, somewhere in the American desert. It is a community of suburMatt Smith's 11th Doctor Who, Amy and Rory arrive in the strange settlement of Appletown, somewhere in the American desert. It is a community of suburban houses with neat gardens and genteel people, incongruous with the harsh setting.
The Doctor and his companions quickly realise there is something wrong with the whole set up and the truth about the residents and the town emerges from a set of well juxtaposed chapters that move between the present and the past, where a brilliant scientist is challenging the boundaries of computing capability
The storyline quickly turns nasty and as the Doctor battles to use the TARDIS to avert Armageddon 'timely wimey' stuff happens and the Doctor finds himself moving backwards through time. His understanding of time, cause and effect and consequences really show him at his Time Lord best.
Amy and Rory as ever provide near escapes from peril and the gentle humour of their relationship, Amy striding forwards heedlessly into action, Rory desperately trying to save her.
I loved this story with its mind bending themes of time and relativity combined with fast paced action, skilful depiction of human characters and their motivations, and of course saving the world (again!) with comic timing....more
Luke Warren is the Wolf Man who left his wife and two young children to live in the northern Canadian forest with an pack of truly wild wolves. In theLuke Warren is the Wolf Man who left his wife and two young children to live in the northern Canadian forest with an pack of truly wild wolves. In the two years he was gone Luke lived and slept and ate as a wolf and found reintegration into human society in New Hampshire painfully difficult. Since then he has worked with captive wolves, teaching them to be wild in the hope that one day New Hampshire would change its laws and allow wolves to be reintroduced in the state. But now this vigorously alive man lies in a deep coma, a car crash and traumatic brain injury have taken way everything he was.
Luke's children, Edward, estranged from his father for many years, and Cara who lived with and idolised him, face the most difficult of choices, whether or not to turn off the respirator that is keeping him alive and let him go. Bitterly divided, the case comes to court before a judge faced with the decision as to which child should make a decision on Luke's behalf.
Picoult presents the story in chapters that are variously narrated by Luke, Cara, Edward, Luke's ex wife and the children's mother Georgie, her husband Joe and other characters. From these we come to understand both the wonder of what Luke did and the impact it had on his human family. The story brings together two strands, one about the true nature of wolves, and the other about the moral and painful dilemmas raised when trying to make life or death decisions for a loved one.
I found the characters fascinating, in Luke wonder and bravery are combined with irresponsibility and callousness towards his family, Cara is a headstrong passionate late teenager struggling to find her place in her mother's new family and new twin siblings. Edward is a conflicted young man torn between loving and despising the father he is rapidly coming to so closely resemble.
I personally loved the craft and subject matter of Lone Wolf....more
Paige is 18 when she runs away from the home she shares with her father, overwhelmed by the guilt she suffers when she has an abortion. A lifelong CatPaige is 18 when she runs away from the home she shares with her father, overwhelmed by the guilt she suffers when she has an abortion. A lifelong Catholic, her terror of the consequences of having sinned in having had premarital sex in the first place is tipped into headlong fleeing by her choice to do what her church perceives as murder.
Paige finds sanctuary and work at Mercy, a Chicago diner whose owner takes pity on her. And there she meets Nicholas, a high achieving medical student born of privelige and money. It doesn't take long for the chemistry to grow between them and for Nicholas to impulsively ask Paige to marry him.
Nicholas' parents are not impressed with their son's less than blue-blooded choice of wife and cut him off, so Paige gives up her dreams of art school to fund Nicholas through the remainder of medical school.
Nicholas becomes an elite cardiac surgeon and all seems well, until Paige falls pregnant. With the birth of their son Max things begin to unravel. Paige is tormented by the memories of the mother who abandoned her as a child and of her previous unborn child driving her to a damaging course of action
This was a book I was divided over. On the one hand Picoult's depiction of the dehumanising world shattering experience of new motherhood on both mother and relationships is skilful, moving and pretty close to the truth. However, I felt that her characterisation of Nicholas was a little villainous at times. Still very enjoyable...more
A stunning bewildering whirlwind taking as its subject the history of Los Angeles and the lives of the people of this vast city.
We do meet the eliteA stunning bewildering whirlwind taking as its subject the history of Los Angeles and the lives of the people of this vast city.
We do meet the elite of the city, the super rich and powerful, successful actors and real estate dealers, but these are heavily outweighed by the majority of Angelenos who hover on the boundaries of society.
Frey creates a series of unforgettable haunting characters. Most are jewel-like cameos, brief drifters in and out of the narrative, but a few are beautifully developed: a child of Mexican immigrants born as they crossed the border; a pair of teenage childhood sweethearts on the run from their violent parents, a homeless alcoholic scraping through the days and nights on Venice Beach, a movie star couple whose glittering public image hides their true homosexuality.
The stories of the people are interspersed with short paragraphs narrating the history of Los Angeles from its beginning as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porcinula by freed and escaped slaves, Native Americans, three Mexicans and one European in 1781, and it's a colourful one.
Frey also inserts shocking litanies of statistics, lists of facts and figures about one of the greatest metropolises on the planet. A list of customers details their frightening purchases at a gun store, another list speaks of the differing characters of freeways that choke the city with smog. There are lists of the gangs of the city by ethnic origin; of the series of terrible natural disasters that have devastated the city every few years; of veterans destroyed by war.
These are the sad histories of the millions that come to LA pursuing their dreams of freedom, fame and fortune. Of the vast majority who watch their dreams die in poverty, insanity, addiction, loss and violence.
I have rarely read anything as powerful, a spellbinding patchwork of parts I could not wait to get back to....more
Odd Thomas has been drawn to the California seaside town of Magic Beach by psychic magnetism, a unreliable force that draws him to where he is needed,Odd Thomas has been drawn to the California seaside town of Magic Beach by psychic magnetism, a unreliable force that draws him to where he is needed, but also into trouble. Working as a cook for reclusive Hollywood star Hutch he is free to wander the waterfront during time off, and at the pier he meets the enigmatic Annamaria. She is a young woman who appears to be about 18 and heavily pregnant, but she is enigma. Although she and Odd are strangers Annamaria inexplicably seems to know much about Odd. She knows his history and secrets but is evasive when Odd's asks her who she is and how she knows about him.
In the 3 previous Odd Thomas books Odd has been called to action by the appearance to him of the lingering dead, those who cannot pass over due to unfinished business, eg concern for loved ones or a need for their killers to be brought to justice.
Odd is accompanied in Odd Hours by two ghosts: Boo, a white German Shepherd cross, and the spirit of Frank Sinatra, but in Odd Hours the threat is not ghostly but supernatural and spooky.
As fog closes in on Magic Beach Odd shakes hands with a rather large unfriendly looking man and both are pitched into a terrible shared apocalyptic vision of the beach and sky writhing with fire. One of the man's equally suspect comanionsmpulls a gun on Odd, now he is swiftly fleeing for his life. Odd has stumbled across a vicious conspiracy that threatens millions. The story of Odd Hours is his attempts to find out what these people have planned, evade capture, torture and death at their hands, and to keep Annamaria safe.
I quite like this Odd Thomas story because, although it was the usual Odd races against time to save the world there was more to it. Koontz creates an air of menace with the fog that disables sight and acts as a metaphor for an obscure dimly seen world full of threat . Odd is aware of forces moving that are beyond the actions of a group of maniacs, that there is more at stake than the violence they will enact. Coyotes acting completely outside of their shy nature stalk Odd, he is helped by a living golden retriever that guides him to safety. So although the characterisation is polarised, that is, the bad guys are very bad indeed and the good shine, the mysterious baffling elements of the book raise it up....more
In this his third outing for Odd Thomas Koontz finally returns to form with a book of nuanced terrors.
Odd has retreated to St Bartholomew's monasteryIn this his third outing for Odd Thomas Koontz finally returns to form with a book of nuanced terrors.
Odd has retreated to St Bartholomew's monastery high in the Sierra Nevada mountains to recover from the trauma of grief and being compelled to help the lingering dead only he can see. As Odd says: 'Living in a monastery, even as a guest rather than as a monk, you have more opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it'. His spirit and his love for the beauty of this world are beginning to recover.
Odd has enjoyed months of peace, and he hasn't been lonely. St Bartholomew's monks are contemplative and mostly silent men who appear benign, although Odd has his suspicions that some are not what they seem. The men live in the new part of the monastery, just across the meadow from the original buildings which house the nuns and a school for physically and mentally disabled children. And as ever Odd has the company of Elvis, and a new sometimes companion, Boo the white Alsatian mix. Oh and there's also the poltergeist ghost of Brother Constantine who hung himself from the bell tower.
Bodachs are terrible wraith like creatures who appear in the Odd Thomas books before death, not just the death of one person but natural or manmade slaughter, suffering and terror. Only Odd can see them, and now they have appeared in the halls and rooms of the school. Odd has only hours to identify the oncoming disaster and to prevent it. A white snowstorm has come down on the mountain and the blizzards are not empty.
What distinguishes this from the previous two books is that this is Koontz writing at his best. The writing is full of lyrical profound metaphor and the narrative pace never sluggish or rushed. Koontz's characters are brilliantly drawn: there are no clearly evil people as in the previous books. Brother Odd is not a simple battle of good (Odd and the people he loves) versus evil (the ones trying to commit violence and murder). Koontz skilfully hides the truth as to who in the nunnery, school or monastery is the real threat, and when he does show us the line between the two is less than clear.
Koontz succeeds in seamlessly bringing together thriller action, meditations on faith and spirituality, the great and terrible that humanity is capable of, and a rewriting of classic Gothic thrillers with contemporary relevance....more
This is Koontz's second Odd Thomas book. Odd is trying to come to terms with the death of his soulmate Stormy, living in her apartment in their desertThis is Koontz's second Odd Thomas book. Odd is trying to come to terms with the death of his soulmate Stormy, living in her apartment in their desert home town of Pico Mundo. He is wakened one night by a presence in his room, it is Dr Wilbur Jessup, radiologist at County General Hospital and step father to Odd's best friend Danny. Danny suffers from brittle bone disease and the doctor who manifests to Odd is no longer alive but is desperately afraid for his son.
As Odd says of himself: "I am a companion to the lingering dead. I see them and wish I did not. I cherish life too much to turn the dead away, however, for they deserve my compassion by virtue of having suffered in this world." So Odd follows the doctor to their home, a scene of carnage with Danny nowhere to be found
Using his sixth sense Odd tracks Danny through the flood drain system of Pico Mundo out to an abandoned burnt out casino and a battle with a beautiful dangerous foe who believes Odd can show her the dead who come to him.
This story is a claustrophobic haunted house mystery, twists and turns through underground pipes, through soot and unclean air, crawl spaces and elevator shafts, with plenty of menace and the paranormal. It was a good story, partly because having read the first Odd Thomas book the desire to see 'what Odd does next' was a powerful one. However Koontz's book feels cramped and a little repetitive....more
'I see dead people. But then, by god, I DO something about it'. So speaks Odd Thomas, Koontz's most developed character to date.
Koontz skilfully const'I see dead people. But then, by god, I DO something about it'. So speaks Odd Thomas, Koontz's most developed character to date.
Koontz skilfully constructs his narrative so we are 4 chapters into the book before this quote reveals that Odd Thomas can see the spirits of the lingering dead. They come to him for help with whatever has prevented them from moving on, and he does his best, often accompanied by the restless ghost of Elvis.
Odd works as a short order grill chef in the desert town of Pico Mundo, spending his free time with the good and kind eccentrics that are his friends and his extraordinary girlfriend Stormy.
His life sometimes takes strange turns because of his sixth sense, but now trouble is coming. One of the waitresses at the diner has a dream of herself lying dead. Sinister creatures Odd calls bodachs are roaming the streets in ever greater numbers. These bodachs are shadowy creatures that Odd sees visiting the scene of violent deaths before and during the event.
Odd cannot do as Stormy urges him to: leave Pico Mundo and run from his terrible premonitions. He feels responsible and bound to the people of the town. Now he knows that death and violence are coming can he figure out in time what the calamity will be and prevent it?
Thus with Koontz's first book of this series we meet Odd Thomas, a wonderful creation firmly planted in the mundane world but with a connection to the things that lie beyond the realm of everyday experience. Like the best of Koontz's characters he is gifted but humble, traumatised by childhood terror but in touch with the ineffable beauty of the world. Odd is psychic but flawed, he cannot control when or how his visions come to him and considers himself to be in service to and indeed often tormented by knowledge he does not want to have....more
Christopher Ecclestone's 9th Doctor Who, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on a colony planet in the future. In the planet's city something is wrong, socieChristopher Ecclestone's 9th Doctor Who, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on a colony planet in the future. In the planet's city something is wrong, society isn't as advanced as it should be. Fiction, dreaming, imagination and reaching beyond what we are has been banned for many years, enforced by sectioning to the Big White House where doctors 'rehabilitate' the rule-breakers.
But things are changing Between the official television channels' endless diet of news and factual documentaries a pirate TV channel is emerging from the static, challenging assumptions and the status quo. Obviously the Doctor and his companions are on the side of anarchy and freeing the people from their shackles, but the situation is more complex than simple oppression.
The best of Doctor Who, fiction that has us questioning our personal assumptions about what makes us human and the vital role to the future of our species of the dreamers, those like Einstein and Hawking who think beyond the confines of our world....more
Before the present era of kids at school being taught mutual respect and resiliance school life was a bear pit. Before geekhood became cool in its ownBefore the present era of kids at school being taught mutual respect and resiliance school life was a bear pit. Before geekhood became cool in its own right school society was viciously stratified and any weakness used to main with words and blows. Jason Taylor is 13, the year is 1982 and although a contemporary of Adrian Mole his account of adolescence to the the backdrop of the Falklands War and rise of Thatcherism is not humourous but elegaic. Black Swan Green is a paen to life as an adolescent and it clamours with truth. Jason loves words and writes poetry, sees the beauty in his world and in his mind articulates with sentences that sing. But he can never reveal his love for words, he fears being found out. His life is one of fear punctuated by mortifications: becoming interested in girls but afraid by any homoerotic fantasies; watching his parents fight; envying his 18 year old sister with her boyfriend and new life at university; enduring the violence of bullying. He stutters but loves words, he is terrified of the 'Hangman' in his brain and throat who strangles his words at birth. His stuttering is exquisitely balanced against his secret love of words, again his internal monologues that beautifully marry imagery and metaphor....more