Thursday, February 14, 2008

Expiration Date

Expiration Date by Tim Powers won the Locus Award for Horror/Dark Fantasy in 1996. It's a ghost story of sorts, but definitely a non-traditional one. It's the middle book in a loose trilogy taking place in the same universe, but this is the only one I've read. I've been looking for Last Call, the first in the group, for some time but haven't seen it used yet. I read Expiration Date without realizing it was part of a trilogy.

It's not my usual cup of tea, and as I began it I was afraid I'd have trouble enjoying it -child protagonist, ghosts.... But I did enjoy it. I've never read anything quite like it, and that was refreshing. The part towards the end that takes place on the ship put me in mind of Connie Willis' Passage, what with the ghosts and the felt need to get to the upper deck and get off the ship. There wasn't any similarity past that, but it was an odd feeling while I was reading that section.

from the dust jacket:

Powers has created a strange and wonderful Los Angeles in which to set this novel: a city full of ghosts—and full, too, of unpleasant characters who extend their lives and enhance their power by catching and absorbing the ghosts of the recently dead.

Young Koot Parganas is growing up in Los Angeles in the 1990’s, but his parents won’t let him do anything normal. His weirdo parents venerate the spirits of dead Mahatmas. At the age of eleven, Koot has disobeyed his parents, broken into a plaster bust of Dante, stolen the small glass vial concealed inside it, and set in motion events that will change his own life, and everyone else’s.

For trapped in the vial was the preserved ghost of Thomas Alva Edison, and there is no telling what power the possession of that ghost could confer. The exposure of Edison’s ghost lights up a beacon for those who can see such things.

Koot is pursued through the dark underside of the city, aided by allies as strange as his enemies: a bum and his dog; a man concealed by the ghostly mask of Houdini; a psychiatrist-sorceress; and a former television child-star who has been dead for several years, but who is not yet ready to leave his body or abandon his revenge on the woman who murdered his godfather.

Each chapter begins with a Lewis Carroll quotation from Alice or Looking Glass.

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