In his latest novel, Life Expectancy, Dean Koontz once again defies the notion that he is a horror writer and strikes out into truly fantastical territory which reads more like violent surrealist humor than what anyone would traditionally think of as horror.
Koontz has always been hard to define, and hasn't received the critical regard he deserves. From early in his career he was pigeonholed as a horror writer and that and the popularity of his novels made him beneath the regard of most serious critics. The quality of his writing is far higher than one would expect in genre fiction and his works are peppered with memorable, well-written characters and unique and original ideas, including his willingness to bend, merge and defy the conventions of genre. Most of his horror novels are actually Science Fiction, and many of his recent novels have been loaded with dark humor and very little of the traditionally horrific or supernatural.
Life Expectancy is startlingly unconventional, full of dark humor, witty dialog, unexpected characters, surprisingly sympathetic psychopaths and demented circus performers by the fistful. It follows the life of Jimmy Tock, a talented baker whose grandfather died at the moment of his birth leaving behind a prophetic legacy of the dates of five terrible events which will unfold in the newborn Jimmy's future. The novel then follows those dates in Jimmy's life, skipping the time in-between them, but filling in the gaps with personal narrative. I'm not going to give away the plot in what is essentially a thriller, but the prophecy that drives the plot is the only supernatural element in the novel, and it is really more of a character study and darkly humorous crime thriller, a bit like Raymond Chandler but with a baker instead of a private eye as the main character and with clowns as the bad guys. You really can't beat a killer clown for dark humor.