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Life Expectancy: A Novel Hardcover – December 7, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics found Life Expectancy somewhat, well, unexpected. From the master of horror, suspense, and SF comes a novel about love, family, and good versus evil, all wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy package. Sure, Koontz’s newest novel contains variations of the horror elements that define his previous works (The Taking, The Face), but his characters are so endearing that it’s hard to see how anything bad could happen to them. In fact, despite his grandfather’s prediction, Tommy’s five bad days turn out to be both a curse and a blessing. Reviewers found Koontz a great storyteller, despite a few overwritten parts, false cliffhangers, and hackneyed humor. Kudos to Koontz for taking risks in this bizarre, clever story.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (December 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553804146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553804140
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (497 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #763,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 201 people found the following review helpful By Janice Sims VINE VOICE on December 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the past fourteen years, I've read everything of Koontz's that I could get my hands on and, yet, he still managed to thrill me with Life Expectancy. It wasn't the plot, nor the diabolical twists and turns. You know, right away, when you sit down to read a Koontz book that he's going to take you on a fast, suspenseful ride. You know that the characters will be well-drawn and that you will be frightened out of your wits and that sometimes you will laugh until you cry. All of those expectations were met in this book. What I got online to tell you, fellow readers, is that instead of a suspense novel that you will read in a few hours and put away, you're getting a novel that will touch you in ways you'll never forget. And, what's more, Koontz accomplishes this by not being preachy at all. I adored the Tock family: Rudy and Maddy and Grandma Rowena, Weena; Jimmy (who's the hero), and his wife, Lorrie (who is one heck of a heroine). I disagree with the critic who said Koontz's humor was misplaced in this book. I loved their humor. As macabre as Grandma Weena's stories were, they were hilarious! These characters had a zest for living that was wonderful. No matter how horrible life sometimes got for them, they did not give up. Personally, that's the only way I know how to live. You don't give up in life, you just keep going and you WILL prevail! That's what I love the most about Koontz's books. His characters have human failings, but they possess indomitable spirits. You will laugh, and cry, and shout Hallelujah! when the bad guys get theirs. An all-around rousing tale that Grandma Weena, that teller of macabre tales, would be proud of. Some highpoints for me were: The prose--smooth as silk, concise, not a word wasted. The fact that the story was populated by a multicultural cast.Read more ›
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Eileen on January 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
On the stormy night that Jimmy Tock is born, not only does his dying grandfather correctly predict the facts of his birth, including the fact that he will be born with fused toes, but he also predicts that there will be five horrible days ahead in Jimmy's life.

Armed with the five dates, the adult Jimmy, now a baker by profession, must face those five days. As each date approaches, Jimmy feels the sword of Damocles dangling by an invisible thread over his head. What will each horrible day bring, and when during the day will the sword drop? Each chapter covers the time leading up to and through one of the prophesied days. Those days are horrible indeed. They are also interrelated and tied to a mysterious fact about Jimmy's birth that he has yet to discover.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I closed the cover of this book, but not because of the ending. I'm referring to the fact that Koontz has redeemed himself for his disappointing last book, "The Taking," with the suspenseful and surprise-filled "Life Expectancy." Koontz is the only horror writer I know who can seamlessly blend horror, humor, love, and hope. The only reason I did not give this book five stars is because I felt his trademark juxtaposition of horror and humor actually went a bit overboard at times. The story is full of twists and turns and tension-filled moments. It is populated with quirky characters including pastry chefs, a tornado chaser, a morbidly pessimistic Grandma, demented circus performers, and a pet portrait painter. Recommended as a riveting and satisfying read that both chills and radiates the warmth of a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Eileen Rieback
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Chandler McGrew on December 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read just about everything Dean Koontz has written over the past twenty years I find one thread that ties them all together. I know that having been confounded by plot twists and turns all through the novel I will see the pages thinning and the end rushing toward me still not knowing how the story is going to end. And with each passing page I will think 'no way he can end this in the space he's got left'. Then I'll think, 'yes, he can. He always does.' And he will. Life Expectancy was slightly different. I thought that he had tied everything together and then noticed that there were still several pages left. Must be an epilogue, I thought. Right. An epilogue from hell that only Koontz could have come up with. And I should have known that syndactily meant more to Dean than just fused fingers...

If you are a longstanding Koontz fan like myself you will see echoes here of Odd Thomas and, more likely, Tick Tock (which, if there IS a God he will rerelease in hardcover). If this is your first Dean Koontz novel, then Prepare to be Enchanted.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Snow Hospital in Snow County, Colorado, dying Josef Tock makes ten predictions about his unborn grandson who is also in the hospital about to leave the womb. Of the forecasts, the most ominous is that Jimmy will face five terrible days in his future. The sandwich generation Tock is Rudy who paces between the maternity and death wards until Jimmy is born at the same moment his father dies. Rudy soon learns how accurate the predictions are as Josef stated the height and weight of his grandson and that the child will need surgery to correct Syndactyl or call him Flipper. On that same day at the same location, a circus clown goes on a killing rampage.

Two decades later, Jimmy is in the library when seemingly the same clown from twenty years ago and two accomplices shoot the librarian and capture Jimmy and Lorrie Lynn Hicks. Explosives are placed in tunnels that link the library underground to the courthouse. Jimmy knows he will survive this ordeal because he believes terrible day two awaits him in the future. However, he ponders what could happen to those he cares about like Lorrie Lynn when a terrible day occurs and what will happen to him when terrible day five happens?

LIFE EXPECTANCY is a terrific suspense driven tale when it concentrates on knowing a segment of your future, but unable to do anything to thwart it except perhaps avoiding those you cherish. When the story line switches into grave humor such as the dialogues between Lorrie Lynn and Jimmy, it loses some of the tingling chills. Jimmy is terrific as the first person narrator, but though fans of Dean Koontz will enjoy this tale, the jocularity takes away from a powerful premise.

Harriet Klausner
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