Saturday, June 23, 2012

Duane Swierczynski: Expiration Date

As the long-time readers of this blog well know, I've been a fan of Duane Swierczynski's writing almost from the start, ending up translating two of his novels (The Wheelman and The Blonde) in Finnish. Severance Package was a bit of a disappointment for me, as the set-up felt forced and I couldn't get into the characters, even though that has been, I think, Swierczynski's strongest asset: creating believable and likable characters who get into ridiculously tense and violent situations.

But Expiration Date, Duane's next novel after Severance Package... Man, it's good! No wonder he won the Anthony Award for the Best Paperback Original with this. The book deserves its praise. It starts with a bang, a bit like the film noir classic Sunset Boulevard, then proceeds more slowly as we get to know the protagonist (there are no heroes in Swierczynski's world), a bit homey weekly paper staff writer who's just been fired from his job. The events take a wild, wild step from there, one you simply wouldn't guess. And that's not the only wild step in the book, it's a cornucopia of them. And they don't even stop until the end, which leaves you guessing what really happened. But it all makes sense.

Swierczynski blends lots of different genres in Expiration Date: science fiction with a time-travel theme, hardboiled action and serial killer true crime with a decidedly melancholy noir bent. There's also lots of fascinating stuff about Philadelphia's forgotten past. This is probably not something an average science fiction reader would grab, however, as Swierczynski doesn't really dwell on the scientific or even theoretical issues of time-travelling, which is more than fine by me. The action and suspense, noirish atmosphere, good dialogue, great characterization, touching tragedies (for there are them) - these are enough.

If you haven't already read Expiration Date, read it now. I'm so sorry I lost a publisher for my project of translating new American and British noir writing, otherwise this would be high on the to-be-translated pile.

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