Dean Koontz has been a writer for a long time, his work even becoming mini television movies (Frankenstein) and movies (Sole Survivor). I have seen both these example films, and really enjoyed his take on the Frankenstein story. It’s his ability to mix modernity, mood and character together so well that keeps me coming back to this writer.‘Life Expectancy’ (2005) is one of those books that incorporate these three things well into the text. While it’s not one of his most recent works, it is still worth the read.
‘Life Expectancy’ is about a child, Jimmy (no one calls him James) Tock who was born on the same day his grandfather died. While this isn’t ominous at all, the fact that the grandfather who had suffered from a stroke is healed right before he dies to prophecy five dark days for his grandson, is. The book then follows just why these five dark days are so terrifying and if Jimmy will survive such horrors.
Firstly, I enjoyed the characterisation. Koontz’s characters are always flawed in some way that can make them so alive, but also make them able to deal with what life throws at them in fascinating ways. In this book, humour runs deep (as it does in others of his I have read), and it allows characters like Jimmy to see his world and those dark days through a different lens. Using humour enables Jimmy throughout this story to stand out as a loveable character and narrator. Good to mention too, however, that the immediate characters in Jimmy’s life are built with good humour and good flaws just as well; making them real even through the oddities.
The ominous mood remains solid throughout this text. This is well balanced by the humour of Koontz’s characters that encourages you to read on; but never tramples over the gravity of situations or hardships. There is also the sense of the absurd within this book that stretches the reality of such a text; but given it leans on fate and prediction, it makes for an interesting read where the absurd is quite possible. The idea of the absurd is not just found in the actions upon characters either, but in regards to how the characters act and communicate which also helps ground reality within the text.
However; the book was fairly short to me, and so there is less focus in some ways on some of the particular days that you may want drawn out. These terrible days may also not escalate in their horror as readers might expect; though Jimmy himself still regards each of these single days as ones that were painful, even if he can think of worse moments at times. The binary between what is evil and what is good is very black and white; which may bore readers of today used to books that blur lines so well. While there However, the writing still feels fresh, clear and concludes satisfactorily (whether or not Jimmy survives at the end … like I’m going to tell you).
Overall, the book is a solid piece of work that I enjoyed reading. I recommend it for fans of Dean Koontz's books (though if you are looking for something darker and maybe more gruesome try one of his other books) or someone interested in quirky characterisation (I am a fan myself).