This has nothing to do with the Left Behind books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
Nor am I referring to writers behind recent surprise hits like Facing the Giants or Fireproof.
In fact, the individual I mean to talk about isn’t considered part of the Christian subculture at all.
He has sold over 400,000, 000 books. According to his website, the number is growing by about 17 million a year globally. He has made a reputation writing about evil, but his most popular character is one of the finest fictional human beings you can imagine.
Who am I talking about? Who has those kinds of sales figures and yet sets forth a philosophy which embraces the Christian faith, tradition, and a generally conservative philosophical viewpoint?
The answer is Dean Koontz and he’s been dominating the supermarkets, airports, and bookstores for a few decades now. His career has successfully spanned a book business that was once about names like Crown and B. Dalton and then moved to Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. He has little need to worry about the transition to ereaders. He’ll sell just as well there.
Year after year of market success gains freedom for an author to do what he wants. In the last decade, Koontz has added something to his plotting and characterization. He has become a more intentional moral teacher. Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels featuring a character by that name lay open Koontz’s philosophy wide for all to see, not in the Ayn Rand style where suddenly the main character is giving a big speech, but rather by taking advantage of the opportunities that arise in the natural rhythm of the story.
Odd Thomas (his parents claim they meant to name him “Todd” but never addressed the error on the birth certificate) is a young man who is bright, handsome, and athletic. He comes from a family with money. Despite all this, he has lived on his own since he was 16 and works as a fry cook at a local diner. His wardrobe is limited to a few pairs of t-shirts and blue jeans with a sweater or two for cold weather. Odd intentionally keeps his life as simple as he can. His choices are partially the result of a horrific upbringing and also a response to other significant complications in his life. (I won’t get into those as this is a ZERO spoiler post.)
The character demonstrates Koontz’s worldview. Odd looks like something out of an Annette Funicello movie (a point he self-deprecatingly makes from time to time). He is a Catholic (one book centers around events that occur at a monastery where he has gone to get away from the world). He affirms the value of hard work and achieves excellence at everything he does. Though his trade is short-order cooking (the fluffiest pancakes, the crispiest hashbrowns), he sometimes dreams about selling shoes or working at a tire store.
Part of the reason he favors these jobs with discrete tasks and highly measurable outcomes is because he has certain gifts which frequently put him in danger. Despite his weariness of adventure, danger, and human tragedy, he unfailingly answers the call of duty. Odd offers his life to save others and though he is fully aware of his own mortality, always considers the lives of innocents more valuable than his own. Beneath all of this is Odd’s deep understanding of right and wrong. He understands these concepts as immutable and not merely the products of a particular age. Odd also believes God has given him his gift for a reason and he must answer for its use.
In the telling of the stories, Koontz makes headway against the relativistic and nihilistic spirit of the age. He also demonstrates substantial dissent from the liberal consensus on a variety of issues. If you like strong plots, memorable characters, turning pages irresistibly late into the night, and a philosophy that sustains life instead of undercutting its foundations, Dean Koontz is your man.
The books in the series so far are:
Truly, I can scarcely recommend these highly enough in terms of their value as edifying reading for entertainment. I very rarely re-read books, but I am now on my second reading of the series and am enjoying them all over again.
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