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Expiration Date (1995)

by Tim Powers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Fisher King trilogy (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0311916,810 (3.7)39
Nebula Award Finalist: In the second book of the Fault Lines Trilogy, Tim Powers dazzles with a dark and extraordinary urban fantasy set in an otherworldly LA, as a young boy finds himself targeted by malevolent ghost hunters There is a Los Angeles that few people can see, a shadowed metropolis of ghosts, ghost hunters, and ghost junkies who crave the addictive rush of inhaled spirits. When eleven-year-old Koot Hoomie Parganas decides to flee the constrictive grasp of his New Age parents, he inadvertently steps into this world. Escaping with his parents' most prized possession, Koot is soon the object of the most intense supernatural manhunt in history. On an ordinary day, Los Angeles can be treacherous; this "other" LA could prove downright fatal for an unsuspecting youngster who's suddenly the target of every hungry ghost hunter prowling the City of Angels. But Koot will not be taken easily. And though not everyone racing to Koot's side means him harm, they are greatly outnumbered by malevolent forces driven by a terrible, undeniable need. Expiration Date is the second book in the Fault Lines Trilogy, which begins with Last Call and concludes with Earthquake Weather. At once exhilarating and terrifying, this book is a bravura display of the brilliant, bold invention that has moved bestselling author Peter Straub to declare World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick award-winner Tim Powers "one of my absolute favorite writers."… (more)
  1. 00
    Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst (viking2917)
    viking2917: The definitive treatment of ghosts in a contemporary fantasy novel. Alive in Necropolis is very good but Expiration Date sets the standard.
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» See also 39 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I'd read this before, but it got misshelved among some new acquisitions, so I picked it up again, and was 50 or so pages in before I remembered it. I decided to finish it again anyway, because at that point I was hooked.

This is a great urban fantasy, set mostly in a Los Angeles only slightly different from our own - that might be our own if only we noticed a few secret truths. Ghosts roam the streets, some powerful and aware, others mindless and just barely held together, while people hunt, capture, and use them. A young boy's path crosses with those of a murderous old soul, a man tormented by his past, and a grasping woman straining for immortality.

I don't know what I was thinking when I gave this 3 stars the last time. I think the first time it might have been only the second Powers I'd read, after [b:Declare|190554|Declare|Tim Powers|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1298463396s/190554.jpg|937379], which I loved, and this is really nothing like that. But it's a great read! ( )
  JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
Tim Powers is one of my favorite writers. He is consistently creative and you know that when you pick up one of his books, it not going to be like every other fantasy/sf/mystery novel you've ever read. This is not his best (The Anubis Gates, Last Call or Declare would get my vote there), but it's among the top picks. ( )
  MarcHutchison | Jul 11, 2021 |
Tim Powers is one of my favorite writers, but EXPIRATION DATE isn't among my favorite of his books.

I've started and stopped it several times in the past, but this time I have the next in the loose series, EARTHQUAKE WEATHER to read and I was determined to push through and get to the end. But to be honest, I found it a bit of a slog.

It's as well written as any of Powers' books, but I don't think the central idea of ghosts being able to be caught and sniffed as a kind of psychic cocaine is strong enough to hold this rather rambling plot together. That, and the fact that the main protagonist is an eleven year old kid who gets a ton of shit thrown at him in the story rather turned me against the whole thing from an early stage.

There are some of the great visual touches and dexterity with a sentence that we expect from Powers but too much of the story consists of people going somewhere to get something, then going somewhere else to get something else, then meeting someone who will tell them where to go to get the next thing. It's like a modern L.A. version of a rather dull Dungeons and Dragons adventure and as such I found myself flicking pages to get to the good bits.

I think the main problem is one of too many point of view characters. We could have lost the lawyer completely from the story and it wouldn't change it a bit, and likewise the female psychiatrist was often just hanging around to be someone for one of the protagonists to talk to.

Still, even second rate Powers is better than most other things, and there was enough to entertain me to make sure I made it to the end this time.

Onward to EARTHQUAKE WEATHER...

( )
  williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
Expiration Date is a "companion novel" to Last Call. It isn't a sequel, but it shares the same world. A few characters with minor roles in Last Call end up being central in Expiration Date. Expiration Date also has a theme in much the same way Last Call did. While Last Call is about the Fisher King, the book also explores the world of professional poker players, and the weirdness that is Las Vegas. In a similar way, Expiration Date is about ghosts, but it also indulges a nostalgia for the Hollywood of silent films and the glamorous world of show business. This gives each book a distinct character, despite a common fictional universe. Eventually, it all gets wrapped up in the third book, Earthquake Weather. But that is a review for another day.

I always really enjoyed the premise of this book. That premise is that ghosts are real, and ghosts flit about mindlessly repeating the things they did when they were alive. Sometimes, the result is comic, as when old ghosts accrete enough substance to panhandle for spare change to buy liquor. Other times, it is tragic, when a lonely and bewildered ghost tries to make a human connection, and accidentally causes its new friend to drop dead.

And, if you are sorcerously hip, then you know that ghosts are the greatest high ever known when inhaled, with the side effect of providing the user with unnaturally long life. A whole underground is devoted to hunting, preserving, and then ingesting hapless ghosts. Which turns out to be pretty easy, since they are also witless. In a Thomistic turn, the electromagnetic remnants that are ghosts don't possess the capacity to be rational because they have no souls, but they do have memories and desires, which are enough to cause them to try to imitate their former lives.

Ghosts are also attracted to certain people. Specific ghosts can become linked to you through strong emotions, particularly guilt. But some people, like Edison, attract ghosts like moths to a flame. The key tool for protecting yourself from ghosts is a mask. Ghosts kill you by overlapping your timeline [in a relativistic space-time sense, an idea that Powers has used in a number of novels and short stories] and abruptly ending it by mixing their lack of life with your vitality. To avoid that, you need to make sure the ghost can't find your timeline, your identity. The methods are varied, but the ability to obfuscate your birthdate, your marriage, and your children is key.

By taking this idea and running with it, Powers is able to invent a secret history that explains a number of unusual incidents in the life of Thomas Edison. Lots of weird things happen all the time, and sober histories usually don't make much of them, although comprehensive ones do document them. But, Edison had a greater share than most. For starters, Henry Ford really did convince Thomas' son Charles to catch his father's dying breath in a vial. But the rest of it happened too. In 1878 Edison traveled to the American West, stopping to view a solar eclipse, and then completing the rest of his journey by riding the cow-catcher of the locomotive. Edison also forced his children to jump in the air while he threw firecrackers at their feet. Those are pretty strange things to do, but if you were attempting to shake the unwanted psychic attention of ghosts and other ne-er-do-wells, it might be just the thing.
Crafting this secret history involving Edison [and Harry Houdini] is classic Powers. However, I've found that what I really enjoy about this book, and much of Powers' writing, is the compelling way in which he writes about human brokenness. The ensemble of characters that fall into orbit around Edison's ghost are all haunted [literally] by their past mistakes. Their journey to deliver Edison's ghost from LA's occult underground is also a pilgrimage of repentance and healing.

Ghosts themselves are not capable of forgiveness or redemption, but in the right circumstances they can help provide those things to the living. Thomas Edison's ghost's ability to light up every dormant wisp provides an opportunity to face the past squarely, and stop running away from it.

For a long time, I greatly preferred Last Call to the other books in this loose trilogy. I still like Last Call best, but I no longer find it to be head-and-shoulders above the others. The characters in Expiration Date make mistakes, suffer from poor judgment, and experience temptation. Ultimately, some of them do find redemption. Others come to judgment for their sins. This moral realism grounded in Powers' Catholic faith takes a fun premise with a sprawling cast of characters and turns it from a book I used to consider second-rate into something quite remarkable. ( )
  bespen | Jun 2, 2017 |
I loved this one almost as much as the first book, Last Call. The new characters are really good, very different, but the reader can see this is the same world as that of Last Call. Fantastic. ( )
  NatalieSW | Nov 23, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tim Powersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Koelsch, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Conner, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, J. K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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When he was little, say four or five, the living room had been as dim as a church all the time, with curtains pulled across the broad windows, and everywhere there had been the kind of big dark wooden furniture that's got stylized leaves and grapes and claws carved into it.
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A man walking down the road saw another man in a field, holding a live pig upside-down over his head under the branches of an apple tree. 'What are you doing?' asked the first man. 'Feeding apples to my pig,' said the second man. 'Doesn't it take a long time, doing it that way?' asked the first man. And the man in the field said, 'What's time to a pig?'
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Nebula Award Finalist: In the second book of the Fault Lines Trilogy, Tim Powers dazzles with a dark and extraordinary urban fantasy set in an otherworldly LA, as a young boy finds himself targeted by malevolent ghost hunters There is a Los Angeles that few people can see, a shadowed metropolis of ghosts, ghost hunters, and ghost junkies who crave the addictive rush of inhaled spirits. When eleven-year-old Koot Hoomie Parganas decides to flee the constrictive grasp of his New Age parents, he inadvertently steps into this world. Escaping with his parents' most prized possession, Koot is soon the object of the most intense supernatural manhunt in history. On an ordinary day, Los Angeles can be treacherous; this "other" LA could prove downright fatal for an unsuspecting youngster who's suddenly the target of every hungry ghost hunter prowling the City of Angels. But Koot will not be taken easily. And though not everyone racing to Koot's side means him harm, they are greatly outnumbered by malevolent forces driven by a terrible, undeniable need. Expiration Date is the second book in the Fault Lines Trilogy, which begins with Last Call and concludes with Earthquake Weather. At once exhilarating and terrifying, this book is a bravura display of the brilliant, bold invention that has moved bestselling author Peter Straub to declare World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick award-winner Tim Powers "one of my absolute favorite writers."

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