The Barnes & Noble Review
Fans of the prolific and addictively readable Dean Koontz will be scared senseless -- and quite possibly more than a little surprised -- by his most unusual novel to date, a departure of sorts from spine-tingling psychological thrillers like Strangers, Midnight, and Velocity.
Life Expectancy is a masterfully twisted suspense, granted; but it is also a profoundly moving existential tale that explores fate, love, loss -- and the healing power of humor. On the night James "Jimmy" Tock is born, his grandfather dies. But before the old man passes, he utters ten prophecies regarding his yet-unborn grandson. Not only does the grandfather foresee Jimmy's name, exact time of birth, height, and weight; he also knows that the boy will be born with syndactyly, an unexplained defect that causes an infant's digits to be fused. But most chilling of all is the grandfather's recitation of five exact dates -- some as far as 30 years in the future -- where something unspeakably horrible will befall Jimmy. As the boy grows up, he and his family prepare themselves for these "terrible days." But no amount of wild speculation will ever prepare Jimmy for the absolutely bizarre life-changing events that await him and his family.
Koontz describes the novel's dark ambiance perfectly by noting that "fear of the unknown is the most purely distilled and potent terror." Koontz is one of the most popular suspense novelists in the world, and Life Expectancy might possibly be his deepest and most philosophical work yet: a storytelling tour de force that is as terrifying as it is edifying. Paul Goat Allen
Life Expectancy is an inventive, often hilarious fable about decency adrift in a world of madness &38230; Koontz is an adroit storyteller, and the adventures of the Tocks, although they could use some trimming, are funny, scary and entertaining.
The Washington Post
Of all bestselling authors, Koontz may be the most underestimated by the literary establishment. Book after book, year after year, this author climbs to the top of the charts. Why? His readers know: because he is a master storyteller and a daring writer, and because, in his novels, he gives readers bright hope in a dark world. His new book is an examplar of his extraordinary work. Suspense is difficult to sustain; suspense that's buoyed steadily by humor, even as it deals with the most desperate of circumstances, is nearly impossible-yet Koontz manages it here. As in last year's brilliant Odd Thomas, Koontz writes again in the first person, employing a cleaner, more instantly accessible line than in some of his other work (e.g., this year's The Taking). His narrator is Jimmy Tock, a pastry chef in a Colorado resort town. On the day he was born, Jimmy's dying grandfather predicted five future dates that would be terrible for Jimmy; he might have mentioned, but didn't, the birth day itself, which sees a mass slaying by a bitter, deranged circus clown in the hospital where Jimmy is born. The bulk of the narrative concerns the first terrible day, about 20 years later, when the vengeful son of that clown takes Jimmy and a lovely young woman, Lorrie Hicks, hostage in the local library, with an eye toward destroying the town; Jimmy and the woman live to marry, but will they and their family survive the four subsequent terrible days? Like most of Koontz's novels, this one pits good versus evil and carries a persuasive spiritual message, about the power of love and family and the miracle of existence. As such it deals with serious, perennial themes, yet with its steady drizzle of jokes and witty repartee, it does so with a lightness of touch that few other authors can match. Koontz is a true original and this novel, one of his most unusual yet, will leave readers aglow and be a major bestseller. If the literary establishment would only catch on to him, it might be an award-winner too. (Dec. 7) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
While a man is dying in the ICU, his daughter-in-law is giving birth in the same hospital's maternity ward. As his final moment approaches, this man bursts forth with a string of predictions about his unborn grandson. Rudy Tock, the father-in-waiting and the man's soon-to-be grieving son, faithfully records the ten predictions on the back of a circus pass only moments before confronting an enraged and murderous clown in the obstetrical unit's waiting room. And thus our tale begins. Koontz's (Doubting Thomas) latest is a sardonic narrative that follows Jimmy Tock through the trials and ordeals alluded to in his grandfather's predictions. Although the elements of magic realism employed here lend literary authority to Koontz's exploration of how attitude and perspective can shape one's reality, the black humor that underlies the tale threatens to topple his precarious construct. Those among Koontz's readership who support his sojourns from suspenseful horror will, no doubt, welcome this offering. Others may choose to pass. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/04.]-Nancy McNicol, Ora Mason Lib., West Haven, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Koontz shoots for a seriocomic horror novel and takes a dive. Following the failure of The Taking (2004), which began so brilliantly, then faded into Dullsville with an alien invasion, Koontz strives for high entertainment with a ton of witty dialogue, which fans may find passable but others will deem tiresome. The problem is that the story opens with murders in a maternity ward and a crazed clown raving about the excremental existence of the world-famed Vivacemente aerialists. From this emerges a forecast that Jimmy Tock, a lummox born at the same moment his grandfather dies in the same blood-strewn hospital, will have to face five ghastly days in his future. When the first ghastly day arrives, the adult Jimmy is in his small-town library. Punchinello Beezo, the same hospital maniac who appeared at his birth, shoots a librarian and holds Jimmy and Lorrie Lynn Hicks hostage while Beezo and two grisly buddies plant explosives in secret tunnels linking the library to the courthouse and two other buildings. At this point Koontz starts whipping out the witty exchanges between Jimmy and Lorrie as they seemingly face death. It's a dire authorial misstep: the second act of a Grand Guignol bloodfest is no place for Nick-and-Nora-style repartee from The Thin Man. True, a genius could get away with it, and Koontz has genius-but not for humor. Doubtless he amused himself, but his lines are forced blooms. Since logic dictates that Jimmy must survive at least the first four ghastly days (three of which turn out to be humdrum melodrama), the suspense is minimal despite all the guns and dread. The climax turns on incest, but we'll say no more. Readers will need all the suspense possible to keep themwading through the comedy lines. Koontz is a topflight suspense writer, but this error only the fans will love. First printing of 600,000. Agent: Robert Gottlieb/Trident Media Group. Film rights handled jointly through Trident Media and Endeavor
“Delightful . . . funny, scary and entertaining.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Koontz is a master storyteller and a daring writer, and in his novels he gives readers bright hope in a dark world. [Life Expectancy], an exemplar of his extraordinary work [and] one of his most unusual yet, will leave readers aglow.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Brilliant . . . [Koontz] writes of hope and love in the midst of evil in profoundly inspiring and moving ways.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“A roller-coaster ride . . . remarkable . . . Prepare to be enchanted.”—The Sunday Oregonian