three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
By: 
Dean Koontz
user_rating: 
0

A-LifeExpectancyWhen Jimmy Tock enters the world on August 9, 1974 (the day that Nixon resigns), his grandfather rises from his deathbed and predicts (along with his grandson’s correct height, weight, and a body deformity) that Jimmy will experience five terrible days in his first 30 years. As the quite ordinary Jimmy grows up, he begins to suffer through his grandfather’s premonitions. If a vengeful son of a clown doesn’t kill him on the first bad day when he’s 20 years old, what will four more terrible days bring?
Bantam. 416 pages. $27. ISBN: 0553804146

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The book is not simply great fun; it dares to address a serious question: In an age of color-coded terror alerts, how are we supposed to live normal lives?" Jonathan Shapiro

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"The days are both a curse and a gift, ultimately offering Jimmy the chance to save what is most precious to him. … Prepare to be enchanted." Katie Schneider

Detroit Free Press 3.5 of 5 Stars
"And the book is mostly breezy fun, even as Jimmy faces life-and-death struggles. … A late twist stretches credulity, but by the time a reader’s gotten that far, he’s bought the fable-like premise of the novel, so swallowing the whole pie isn’t as difficult as it might have been." Ron Bernas

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… the sugar shock in Life Expectancy is offset by its merits as a fable. Even if the book’s premise suggests Mitch Albom’s Five People You Meet in Heaven by way of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, it has a storybook vitality." Janet Maslin

St. Petersburg Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The story gets increasingly preposterous as one fateful day begets another, and the denouement is outrageous, but the book is no less compelling for that. … I have no idea how to categorize it further." Jean Heller

San Jose Mercury News 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s like a half-hour Twilight Zone script stretched to two-hour feature length. … Still, this book is full of the love of family, and little Jimmy has a wonderful, happy life growing up with his baker parents, learning the family trade, and enjoying their small-town life." John Orr

Critical Summary

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.