EXPIRATION DATE by Duane Swierczynski
Expiration Date is a weird blend of science fiction and noir that would have struggled to find a home with New York publishers. I’ve read it and enjoyed it, but I’m tempted to call it a literary novel as well because the story does so much with characters and fate and an overall view of the writer’s world.
Duane Swierczynski explains the books conceptual origins in the editorial matter in the book, and I found that to be pretty fascinating reading as well. In the beginning, the story was slated to be a magazine serial for the New York Times, which would have been awesome. Then they went and cut those pages and the author was left with an orphan that truly wasn’t animal, mineral, or vegetable.
What Expiration Date is, bottom line, is an engrossing read that had me flipping through the Kindle “pages” pretty darn quick. I got caught up in Mickey Wade’s story. I mean, the guy just got fired and basically had his family turn their backs on him. The only thing he’s got going for him is his grandfather’s old apartment, and the place is pretty much a dump.
Oh yeah, Mickey has one other thing going for him, too: his well-to-do girlfriend who sticks by him even when his prospects zero out. After they get him moved into his “new” apartment, they celebrate with a little drinking. The hangover the next morning leads Mickey to find some old aspirin in his grandfather’s medicine cabinet.
Only it turns out that the “aspirin” isn’t really aspirin. They’re cutting-edge biochemical, out-of-body time travel pills. Or something like that. They aren’t ever really given a name, and their origins are pretty much left unexplored. But the past gets explored pretty thoroughly.
See, Mickey has a dead dad, too. A musician that died shortly after Mickey was born, his father left a void that was never filled in Mickey’s life. While he’s back in the past trying to figure out what’s going on/what was going on, Mickey gets involved in the life of the man who turns out to be his father’s murderer. Only when he meets the guy, Mickey fills sorry for him. Then he finds out the kid grows up to kill his dad.
That’s only one of the twists that Swierczynski pulls out along the way in this novel. The pacing and characterization is on par with everything I’ve seen from the writer, and I’ve read a lot of his stuff, but the twists and turns he has in the plot this time are a lot different than what he’s shown before.
I really enjoyed this novel because it was different, and I’m waiting to see what other tricks Swierczynski has in his writer’s bag now that he’s getting the attention he deserves.