Tag Archives: Time

Book Review: Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading the suspense-thriller/horror novel, ‘Life Expectancy’, by Dean Koontz.

The following review is written from a writing perspective. Rather than describe the plot-line in detail, I will be highlighting key areas of the book that particularly drew my attention as a writer. Please note that there will be spoilers.

A brief blurb of the book goes something like this; Jimmy Tock is born on the same night (in the same hospital) that his Grandfather dies. In his dying words (over a thunder and lightning storm) the Grandfather leaves his own son (Jimmy’s Father) five bad predictions that will occur on particular dates in Jimmy’s life.

When we read the blurb on the back of the book, we are told that there will be five predictions, but not what they are. This is a perfect example of ‘the power of a hook in a blurb’. When we discover that there are five predictions but not what they are, our curiosity is sparked and we are held in a grip wanting to know more. The main reason for a hook is to raise questions inside a readers mind (the what, where, why) and to push them on to read further. The blurb’s hook leaves us asking several questions that we want answers to, for instance; What are the five predictions? Where do these predictions occur? Why does it happen, and why does it happen to Jimmy Tock? And ultimately, will Jimmy survive these five terrible predictions?

The book is written in first person, from the viewpoint of Jimmy Tock. The first person tense has an immediate connection with the reader; enabling us to step into the protagonist’s shoes and experience their world through the five senses. I personally loved the ‘voice’ of Jimmy – a guy who has a slight complex about his physical appearance (and talks about it to us) yet is strong-minded – in general. I have often read that a main character (hero or villain) should be capable of dealing with all of the obstacles that you place in his path – that they should be able to fight all conflicts to the bitter end – even if in the end they win or lose. I have also read that a main character should not be completely perfect and that they should have at least one flaw – one that he has to face and fight on a more personal level. If we analyse the profile of Jimmy Tock, we get a real-life, everyday guy with an unusual, personal flaw -but one that is used for a very different reason in this book (I won’t give the flaw away!).

Jimmy is capable of battling out his conflicts both internally and externally, and he changes and gets strongers as the book progresses. Of course, although he ultimately gets stronger, we do have to see his efforts waver along the plot line in order to keep the reader tense – and guessing. It is essential that we see him fall and rise at his own efforts – and that he used all he had to reach the end. We should adopt this process with every character we design.

I also think that Jimmy ‘shined’ as a character because of his impeccable sense of humour. When I look more closely at the entire chemistry of the book, I see a strong fusion of horror and humour. This dark/light is a fantastic combination because it ensures that we are not trodden down in darkness and depression for pages on end. The humour brings us to laugh (even in the darkness moments) with the characters.

It is often said that it is a crime for the author to ‘step into a narrative with his own opinions’, and I agree. But should an author want to air an opinion in their novel (politics, religion, law etc) then they can learn a lot from Dean Koontz and his method. I am not saying that all of the views in his books are ones that he believes and airs, but as a reader I have analysed that it often seems to be the case in places. I think that this can be a good thing when done correctly because it adds a personal touch without spelling it out. So how does Dean do this? Well his views get injected through his characters and their dialogue. The dialogue of one character may contain an author’s personal view of something happening in the world – or it may contain a humorous line that the author has always told in his own life. This is where we get into the territory of ‘how real or fictional are your characters?’ I believe that most authors, when sketching out characters, will use a mixture of both real and imagined personalities in order to create new and unique characters. I have often wondered how much of the author is in a character – in the many of the characters I have come to meet in books. In the case of Jimmy Tock, I believe that he contains a lot of Dean Koontz’s sense of humour – which I must say is impeccable!

I am not sure if any of you have heard of the quote ‘all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl’ by Jean Luc-Godard (a French Film Director) but I believe this quote rings true for almost any film and any horror/thriller book. It certainly rings true for this book, where there are numerous guns and gunshots – which also occur around an attractive female character, that later becomes the wife of Jimmy Tock. I suppose what the gun and girl quote is really saying to us is that a story isn’t a story without a gun (symbol for conflict) and a girl (symbol of romance) as such. That without conflict we have no story, that without love we are missing a key part of our souls – that together they fuse a Universal idea. Both these elements combine love, excitement, danger and romance – and what is more exciting than that? Nothing. Knowing that this book contains what I consider to be two essential themes in fiction, tells me that Dean is a master of his craft – that he has studied and mastered the mechanics of writing and his specific genres. This allows him to go that extra mile with his trade-mark sense of humour.

Lastly, even though this book was made up of many pages, the tightness and suspense of plot, the interesting characters, and those five predictions made me read on to the end! I am usually a medium-paced reader, but with this book I was flying through! That’s a good sign.

I recommend this book to readers who love a fast-paced suspense thriller/horror – and those who like a dry and wicked sense of humour mixed in. When I read the last page I was sad that I would never live with these characters again – that their journey’s had ended. If a writer can inject a character or two into a reader for life then they have done their job well. That’s why we remember and love the classics – it’s all about the characters. I still find myself repeating some of Dean’s creative character names from this book, just because they sound so good on the tongue! Punchinello, Konrad Beezo… Amazing!

Until next time,

Thanks for reading!

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Reflections of Lady Abigail

I yearn for the pucker of youth that I once relished,

I ache for the shimmering face that could arrest the eyes of others,

A pursing of my lips only discloses the sunken contours of my face,

A wild flaring of my eyes only exudes bleakness,

My soul is dim,

I’m a shattered rose,

I’m crumbling,

I’m withering,

I crave the fragrance of light musk, summer dresses, flower picking, the lightness of step.

Time, you wait for nobody!

Time, you are not my friend!

I close my eyes in fear of my knowledge,

Inside I cry,

I fly,

I die.

©2013.alittlebirdtweets

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The Oasis

With time, she longs to wither away; like a flower that has succumbed to frost, in the onset of autumn. She seeks solace in quiet corners, in solitude, where four walls assist to extract the misery from her mind, the tears from her heart. She shifts her head to a dry, soothing part of the pillow and stares at the ceiling; her watery eyes flick to a spider that meanders purposefully, and she wonders where it is headed, she longs to follow it.

‘Please find me a new magical world, far from this coldness, this darkness.’ She whispers.

Her pleading words reverberate repeatedly off the walls, and lull her eyes to close, her thoughts to float aimlessly; and then her monochrome world begins to disintegrate.

‘Welcome to the enchanted land of Bali.’ A voice speaks.

She smiles at the hospitable words of the guru. The creases in his forehead express much wisdom; his aged hands would no doubt dramatize many a virtuous story from his past, she thought.

‘You are invited to absorb this beautiful paradise, where people come to heal. Take warmth from the dazzling sun; let it infiltrate your body and renew you. Let the wondrous tropical fish overwhelm you with their beauty, colour and movement. Fix your senses on the nearby orange gerberas and let their fragrance calm your spirit, awaken you. May all of the nature here hypnotize; fill you with joy and wonder. Remember, you can visit this Oasis at anytime. It’s your retreat.’

She absorbs every word the guru offers, and explores the lands in delight. She smiles at his hospitable words once more; before the Oasis slowly disappears from her.

She awakes. She is content. She is transformed. She looks up to the ceiling; the spider has gone. She thanks it for its inspiration. She thanks the guru for her journey. She thanks the world for offering its warmth, its gift. She thanks the world for her life.

©2013.alittlebirdtweets

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Anna

It’s four in the morning, and I’m sat in this room of gloom, eyeing pictures of you, of us. The rain clouts against my window, violent yet so soothing. I stroll to the door with my head tilted like a broken doll because I sense you standing in the hallway. The door creaks open, and there you are my love, with those dark eyes of yours; the ones I fell into. I run to you but you run from me, and I can only scream, urge you to return, but you are gone. Then I remember that time has slipped by; almost a year has passed. The panic subsides, yet the pain lingers on. Your voice calls from outside and I wander towards the lake, where I sense you. The front door of the house bashes in the wind, and I leave it behind, allowing silence to envelope me as I walk. And again I remember that time has slipped by; almost a year has passed. I’m at the edge of the lake but you are not here. Where are you? Don’t you want to exchange conversation with me? Don’t you remember us laughing that night, when the sun melted into the sky? Don’t you miss me? I sink to the ground, and my heart can take no more. He played games with the one that loved him. I slide into the water. The coolness soothes my soul, my mind; and slowly I sink into darkness, and I am gone.

©2012.alittlebirdtweets

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