Odd Thomas and Jack Reacher

I’ve been reading Dean Koontz and Lee Child over the last two years. Both of them were a discovery for me. I’d heard the names, but had never bothered to investigate. I find both of them enjoyable, though I have some reservations about Lee Child’s writings and would not recommend him wholeheartedly; I would recommend Koontz, however, without reservations, if you don’t mind a few shudders.

There are a great many similarities between Koontz and Child. Both are mega blockbuster sellers. They’re both novelists you’ll find for sale in airports, which, given the evolution of modern literature, is the pinnacle of place and power. Both write thrillers.

And, interestingly enough, both Koontz and Child write thrillers that feature an avenging angel. Of sorts. Koontz’s Odd Thomas character floats and dreams his way through horrifying plots of murderous psychopaths and focused evil. Odd Thomas responds accordingly and always wreaks justice upon the evil-doers. An avenging angel? Yes, even though he’s a gentle fry cook.

Child’s Jack Reacher character is also an avenging angel, but one of violent practicality who lives by the law of the jungle, stalking silently through the land and always ready to break skulls and put bullets where they need to go (inside skulls, namely).

There’s a drastic difference, though, between the two angels. Odd Thomas conducts himself according to the eternal code of good and evil, working out his salvation with care and dedication, even when that means he must kill. Jack Reacher, on the other hand, has little regard for the eternal consequences of good and evil. His vengeance is merely a response to the everyday sorrows of life.

The difference has been on my mind a great deal lately. Both authors are toweringly successful. Both write engrossing stories. But one, Lee Child, ultimately falls flat, once the book is closed: so Reacher defeated the bad guys yet again, so what? Koontz, however, leaves me musing on life and the things beyond life. Odd Thomas defeated the bad guys yet again, and that gives me hope, even though the struggle and defeat and victory happened in a work of fiction. Odd Thomas gives me hope because he travels down the same recognizable paths of shadow and light that I walk on.

And that…that makes all the difference. I’ll continue reading both authors, but Koontz will certainly mean more.

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