Dare to Know: A Novel (Hardcover)

Staff Pick Badge
Dare to Know: A Novel By James Kennedy Cover Image
Email or call for price

Staff Reviews

James Kennedy bent my brain into odd shapes with his stellar novel, Dare to Know. The protagonist works for a company that can tell you when you are going to die. Down to the minute. It takes a lot of math and an understanding of physics, particularly of thanatons, a particle that is present when each person dies. The big no-no in the company is looking up your own time of death – but when the protagonist is stuck in a situation where he thinks he has the potential to die, he runs the assessment to find his death date, only to find out that he already passed it and died minutes ago. Which can’t happen; the math is never wrong. Except that it is. This knowledge leads the reader down the rabbit hole of how this death-telling business came to be. We follow the protagonist through his life in flashbacks, from his summer with Renard in science camp to his girlfriend, Julia, in college, and on to his early days at the company. They have puzzling, bizarre effects on him as he makes his way through a new non-death world. I couldn’t put this book down, and I had to reread the end twice to figure out the mind melting conclusion that the author spun.

— Jason Kennedy

Once flying high at Dare to Know, a company that calculates a person’s precise time of death, the narrator is still pedaling the product after an upstart started selling a person's time AND method of death. Depressed after he botches a sale he badly needs, the narrator calculates his own death, an act strictly forbidden by company policy. He learns he’s been dead for almost half an hour. In a panic, he flies to San Francisco, home of corporate headquarters and the woman he once loved and stupidly lost. The story becomes mind bending, mythic, and full of rabbit holes. After about 30 minutes of rereading, I think I get it! Kennedy pulls off a wonderful trick. Then again, I could be totally wrong...

— Kay Wosewick

Once the top salesperson for a phenomenally successful tech company called Dare to Know, the unnamed narrator’s career has crashed and burned, leaving him short on funds and desperate to close a deal. Dare to Know sells death dates. That’s right, their formula will predict with 100% accuracy exactly when their client’s time is up. Stealing their potential clients is a company that will predict not only when, but also how. Yikes! Are people really interested? You bet they are! After a nightmare sales call and a spinout into a snowbank during a blizzard, our embittered narrator violates the very first rule of Dare to Know: he calculates his own time of death. What follows becomes an unnerving slide into chaos, because the formula is never wrong, and it predicts that he died twenty-three minutes ago. And while there is someone from his past smart enough that she might be able to make sense of all this, well, unfortunately, he broke her heart decades earlier, lending a whole lot of self-realization and regret to our narrator’s current mess. Twisty, thought provoking, and delightfully quirky doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of this wild thrill ride of a novel. Set aside a day and the better part of a night, because putting your copy of Dare to Know aside won’t be an option.

— Jenny Chou

September 2021 Indie Next List

“A company can tell you with 100% accuracy when you are going to die. But what happens when you live beyond your expiration date? As you read Dare to Know, your sense of reality will melt away.”
— Bob Lingle, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore (NY), Lakewood, NY


A voraciously readable page-turner of a novel.—Cory Doctorow

“A razor-smart sci-fi corporate noir nightmare. Dare to Know is what happens when Willy Loman sees through the Matrix.”—Daniel Kraus, co-author of The Shape of Water

This mind-bending and emotional speculative thriller is set in a world where the exact moment of your death can be predicted—for a price.

Our narrator is the most talented salesperson at Dare to Know, an enigmatic company that has developed the technology to predict anyone’s death down to the second. Divorced, estranged from his sons, and broke, he's driven to violate the cardinal rule of the business by forecasting his own death day. The problem: his prediction says he died twenty-three minutes ago. 
The only person who can confirm its accuracy is Julia, the woman he loved and lost during his rise up the ranks of Dare to Know. As he travels across the country to see her, he’s forced to confront his past, the choices he's made, and the terrifying truth about the company he works for. 
Wildly ambitious and highly immersive, this thought-provoking thriller explores the destructive power of knowledge and collapses the boundaries between reality, myth, and conspiracy as it races toward its shocking conclusion.

About the Author

James Kennedy is the author of the horror thriller Bride of the Tornado, which the Guardian named one of the “Best Recent Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Novels” in September 2023. James‘s previous books include the sci-fi novel Dare to Know, which was named by the Times Saturday Review as a Best Sci-Fi Book of 2021, and the young adult fantasy The Order of Odd-Fish. In addition, James is the founder of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, an annual video contest in which kid filmmakers create short movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds. He also hosts the Secrets of Story podcast with Matt Bird. James lives in Chicago.

Praise For…

Named One of The Times' Best Books of 2021
September 2021 Indie Next Pick

“A voraciously readable page-turner of a novel, part creepypasta, part thought-experiment.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Radicalized

“A surreal premise and an unconventional revelation fuel a cosmic journey....a wholly original novel that’s bound to frustrate just as many as it entrances.”—Esquire

“A fascinating, compulsively readable thriller.”—The Guardian

“Imagine Donna Tartt’s The Secret History getting a good edit at last, and you glimpse something of this book’s occult power. Essential reading for the gathering dark.”—The Times Saturday Review

“An entertainingly mind-bending read.”—Financial Times

“Audaciously clever and well-written...a quite superb piece of storytelling: vivid, thought-provoking and unsettling.”—SFX Magazine (5 stars)

“A creepy thriller that reads a little like Stephen King writing Glengarry Glen Ross.—GeekDad

“Imagine what would happen if Chuck Palahniuk, Enrico Fermi, and the Brothers Grimm got together to raise a child...Sci-fi, snark-horror and futuristic thriller fans will love it.”Terri Schlichenmeyer for The Guam Daily Post

“[An] enjoyable slipstream thriller....Readers with a taste for the synchronicity of the cosmic with the commonplace are sure to be entertained.”—Publishers Weekly

“Dare To Know will prompt the reader to consider the philosophical implications of life and death itself.”—Booklist

“[A] genre-bending thriller...good pacing and clever plotting keep the pages turning.”—New York Journal of Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9781683692607
ISBN-10: 1683692608
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Pages: 304
Language: English