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Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz (unabridged audiobook read by John Bedford Lloyd): On a stormy night in 1974, Josef Tock sits up in his hospital bed and makes a series of predictions about his grandson, Jimmy, who is about to be born just down the hall. The bulk of these predictions consist of a list of “five terrible days” in Jimmy’s life, the first occuring in his twentieth year. Moments after speaking, Josef dies. The night of mixed grief and joy quickly turns to terror as a crazed clown, whose wife died in childbirth that very night, guns down two hospital employees.

Jimmy himself narrates the story, going through each “terrible day” one by one. As one might expect from a story beginning with prognostication and a deranged circus performer, the plot takes a series of unlikely and frankly ridiculous turns. But it’s also very funny. Jimmy’s commentary, though it occasionally gets a bit long on the introspection, is vivid and full of amusing asides. The other characters are just as memorable, and this is due in no small part to the excellent reader. His intuitive grasp of the characters’ personalities made for spot-on inflection of some very bizarre lines.

As the roller coaster plot careened along, I was able to predict almost all of the strange twists ahead of time, but this actually added to the charm, like I was playing a trivia game. Usually I don’t like knowing what happens next (hence the reason I don’t do much rereading) but in a few cases (like this one) the journey is just as much fun whether you know the destination or not. Koontz is usually a reliable spooky read, but this was a rare view of his humorous side. Highly recommended.

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