Thursday, March 30, 2006

Book Review - Koontz and Life Expectancy

In my younger days, I was never a Dean Kootnz fan. I saw the film version of Watchers and then read the book. I enjoyed both. Then I started picking up some of his others, but I never got the same jolt that King, Rice, or the old time Horror novelists gave me. So, I gave up.

Then, in the fall of last year, I picked up The Taking on audio book from the local library. I make a lot of long trips and the premise looked interesting. By this time I had falsely convinced myself that Koontz only had one premise: weird experiments go awol and hunt humans. I had left Intensity out of the equation as a nice break from the same old.

But, The Taking was a left field retelling of War of the Worlds that kept me enthralled through out. It just kept knocking me for a loop with every new chapter.

After The Taking I moved on to Odd Thomas. Listening to Odd tell his very personal story about how he speaks to the dead and can see the forces of evil when they are gathering. How he is compelled to intervene even at great personal cost. Where The Taking made me contemplate the fate of the world, Odd Thomas hit me close to home. I found myself deeply moved by Odd and his burden in a way that no other horror novel had ever done.

I then moved to Velocity, the story of Billy Wiles, a small town bar tender who finds a note on his car forcing him to choose which person a psychopath will kill next. Orson Scott Card wrote a great review of this pulse bouncing thriller over at his site so I will send you there for some interesting insight.

Now, these works are a renaissance for Koontz that I always hope, but I fear a little will end. This is the feeling that I had when picking up my latest Koontz read, Life Expectancy. There were a lot of things that turned me away from this book. The jacket cover was too cutesy, the premise seemed a little mundane, but the biggest thing was that it took place over a span of years.

All the other books I just mentioned were edge of your seat thrillers that started and stopped in the span of hours or days. Life Expectancy, where in Jimmy Tock, on the night of his birth receives a prophecy that he will have five horrible days in his lifetime, takes place over years. Where my belief that Koontz overused his premises stopped me from reading him long ago, now the belief that breaking his style would ruin his winning streak overwhelmed me.

I found Life Expectancy to be very different from his other works, but still riveting and at many times genuinely funny. Koontz portrays Jimmy Tock and his family with loving ease in the eyes of overwhelming adversity. These people know that their lives could be threatened or ended, they even know the days, but they still find the time to celebrate each other.

Koontz always injects his stories with wit, but here he is genuinely humorous. I laughed much more than I jumped during this read. At the one liners, at the well drawn characters, and most of all in the mad cap situations that one could only chalk up to dumb luck if not for the prophecies forecasting it all.

If you have never read Koontz, or have not checked in with him in a while, pick up any of these novels. Each will keep you on the edge of your seat, gasping or laughing, and always wanting more.


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