ExtraLife, Inc. is a first person account of average-joe patent lawyer Richard Lunz, with a family, his own firm and a seemingly ordinary life until he is approached by a highly unusual client.
The novel as an intriguing stylistic approach in that it starts at the present, then speaks directly to the reader to push into the past, to where the story really begins. The tantalising idea of a cure cancer is largely at the heart of the novel and is something which many readers will have a correction with or at the very least an opinion on. But without giving you too many spoilers, it’s by no means the big picture.
Luzzatto writes consistently with close attention paid to the intricate details, in particular the characterisation of both the protagonists and antagonists is very strong, especially in the first two chapters, which Luzzatto uses to give his readers time to build an opinion. As the novel delves deeper it follows the process of how an inventor would go about obtaining a patent for his invention- whilst fighting legal, emotional and academic pressure. Now that concept may sound intimidating but I assure you that even someone such as myself with zero legal knowledge, would be able to follow this with ease.
The stunning part is how the author ensures that by focusing on the story of a possible cure for cancer, and the character’s reactions, a potentially very dull subject is brought to life; made interesting and even passionate.
One of the most interesting aspects for me as a reader, was reading those precise moments in which Luzzatto includes our main character’s (Richard Lunz) personal life. We know he has kids, a wife and a successful career. But readers are also treated to more insightful instances, where the husband and wife have tender moments as well as disagreements and insecurities are revealed- totally believable and even more importantly completely relatable. It’s all very realistic which is totally refreshing from the several heavily fantastical novels; I have been reading one after the other recently.
As I said I have no legal knowledge or experience with courts, so I found it difficult to predict what may happen in future chapters; but that made for a very encompassing read. I felt more drawn in as all my knowledge s lent to me by the characters. Readers shouldn’t feel put off if they have no legal knowledge or even interest, as ‘ExtraLife, Inc.’ is not truly about the law, but about people and how they manipulate the law for their own means. Many clues in this compelling tale are very intentionally subtle, so much so that the reader may forget them until they are brought back into focus.
ExtraLife, Inc. does have a particularly notable fast pace. Perhaps the author has crafted this as in all other media court cases and law suits are portrayed as very l0ng, drawn out ordeals, and mostly they are very boring. But I found no sense of that here. By the time I was half way through the novel I was hooked completely. Richard Lunz’s ordinary business and family is such an unprecedented setting for the randomised twists and turns that ensue. The gripping plot twist of questioning Tamara Wolfson’s identity, firmly cemented my need to know how it all turns out.
However, despite its good aspects one flaw of this novel was that it took me until I was half way through, to feel that I had a firm place setting of where this novel takes place. This didn’t really happen until Richard Lunz has jetted back and forth from his home, to court, to the Wolfson’s house and Paris- and then back again! All during which the only sense of placement I got was the mentioning of the Tel Aviv University, and then I had to google the institution to get a geographical bearing for the events which were rapidly unfolding.
Luzzatto is brilliant at blending a believable and relatable character with believable (to a degree) and deadly circumstances and events. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Richard Lunz’s experiences as he delved into the world of investigative journalism- albeit being a man of law (sort of) his methods are somewhat questionable. The meticulous planning, anticipating problems and carrying them out; it had me gripping the edges of my Kindle!
It all culminates into one big, slightly fuzzy, sci-fi explanation concerning the possible eventual decimation of the human race as we know it. Now the epilogue again was believable, relatable and quite stark.
Overall ExtraLife, Inc. is a compelling read- one for the crime/ thriller fans more than sci-fi, as I felt the sci-fi element is much more an afterthought rather than a prevalent genre. It’s action-packed, filled with intriguing side stories and plot twists. But I did feel somewhat let down by the ending- what could have been a much stronger, climatic reveal; was (in my opinion) watery and a bit weak for my liking.
© Gemma Feltham 3rd March 2014