By Dean R. Koontz and Phil Parks (Warner; 1988)
A Dean Koontz book aimed at children? Seems appropriate, as (the sex and violence aside) most of Koontz’s novels are essentially kid books–they tend to follow proscribed formulas, contain extremely rigid demarcations between good and evil (moral ambiguity has no place in the Koontz lexicon), are quite preachy, and always end happily.
ODDKINS, a large format hardcover “for all ages” with large text and colorful illustrations by Phil Parks, is in many ways a standard Koontz product. It contains many of his strengths, including an unerringly suspenseful chase narrative and easily digestible, unselfconscious prose. It also bears more than a few of Koontz’s weaknesses, notably an overall tendency toward overwrought melodrama and a conclusion that’s even sappier than his endings usually are (not to give anything away, but the final line is “Isn’t it a wonderful life?”). One good thing, however, about this being a kids’ book is that it’s free of the pukey romances that take up Koontz’s grown-up novels.
The Oddkins are a bunch of stuffed animals brought to life by a magician toymaker. As the book opens the toymaker croaks, leaving the Oddkins to track down their creator’s choice for a replacement toymaker, a woman who lives across town, on their own.
Arrayed against them are a gaggle of bad toys living in the basement of the toymakers’ shop. Given life by none other than the Prince of Darkness himself, the bad toys break free of their confinement to pursue the Oddkins, with a questionable ex-con to help their cause.
There are some intense sequences, including a climactic battle situated, appropriately enough, in the toy section of a department store, but nothing overly scary or disturbing. What we’re left with is a fast moving page-turner that goes down easily and leaves little impression. In short, it’s very much like…well, a Dean Koontz novel.