Dare to Know

By James Kennedy

Dare to Know, a novel by James Kennedy
Book details

If you could find out your exact time of death down to the last second, would you take up the option? For some it could be liberating, they will pack their lives until the last moment. For others, their death will become even more of a looming presence as it draws ever near. In James Kennedy’s Dare to Know an entire industry has built up around predicting death dates with unerring accuracy. Whilst once the option was only for the rich, now most people can pay for the service, so would you? 

Our narrator is a salesperson who works for the death prediction company Dare to Know. A once lucrative job has been on the slide for years as more companies join the marketplace and drive down prices. Our narrator now finds himself in a mix of an existential and midlife crisis. He is constantly on the road, earning pittance and has an ex-Wife and kids to support. When he decides to look up his own death date it sparks off a series of memories from throughout his life and may just open a paradox in time and space itself. 

You start off reading Dare thinking it is one thing, only for it to morph into something else. The central premise is high concept, but simple enough. Death can be calculated. At this junction Kennedy could have left it simply as that and written a book about a salesperson handing out death notices, but it is a much deeper and introspective book than that. The concept of how death is calculated is central to the book. The narrator is a physician and was at the beginnings of the application of science behind it. There is detail on the discovery and process behind how Dare to Know works. 

The book is told from the narrator’s point of view but bounces around his life as he remembers the past. This allows us to see him as a young man, meeting his first love, his wife and even what led to the divorce. You get a rounded picture of the narrator, someone who has made mistakes in their life. Are they a bad person? They are certainly not perfect and not always nice to like. By having a flawed figure at the centre, Kennedy weighs the book in a sense of reality, which is important when things start to go a gonzo later in the narrative. 

There is a lot of character development in Dare, and this does affect the pacing. Every time you get close to a reveal, we are transported to some other time in the narrator's life for a few pages. Fans of deep characters will enjoy this, but pacy thriller fans will find it slow going. 

The science behind how death is calculated and eventually the narrator predicts his own death date. Doing this leads to unforeseen consequences and threads hidden throughout the book start to make sense. Elements of the narrator’s past have an uncomfortable feel as if something is not quite right. It is a tone that makes sense as the book concludes. Fans of deep dive science fiction constructs will enjoy this element of the book as the reader can try and unravel what is happening. 

The way that the book warps as it progresses means that it is a challenging read. A character piece becomes avant-garde. Concentration is required to follow the final act as things for the narrator and therefore the reader begin to distort. The book is perfect for science fiction readers who like their concepts intelligent and complex, but also like to have characters with developed personalities. 

Written on 16th September 2021 by .

You may also like