Dean Koontz – Lightning Review

I recently went into a charity shop because I saw something that caught my eye. A massive Dean Koontz omnibus containing three books into one for less than 1 pound. I could not resist it and even though the book broke my back for the rest of my shopping trip, it was well worth it.

About the book

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Headline; New Ed edition (6 Mar 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747231648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747231646


Laura Shane has not had a lucky life; she was orphaned at a young age, lost one of her best friends in a fire, had her husband taken away from her and found her life in danger on numerous occasions (obviously a woman who had picked fate’s short straw in the lottery of life!). However, at key moments in her life when she might have died or suffered from an incident from which she would find it impossible to recover, a mysterious man has come to her rescue.
He first appears in our story on the night of Laura’s birth when he prevents a drunken doctor from attending the hospital and attempting the difficult and complicated delivery. Lightning is rife in the air that night and it would seem that this stranger’s appearance is always accompanied by this meteorological phenomenon.
Laura encounters the man she begins to think of as her guardian angel again at the age of 8 and again as an adult with a husband and young child. The man does not seem to have aged and Laura begins to suspect that the only explanation is that he is less angel and more time-traveller!
Unfortunately it would seem that he is not alone and, accompanied by more lightning, more men follow him intent on both his destruction and that of Laura and her son.
One of the most important elements of a book is the characters. If the main characters are likeable then it is easy to empathise with them, to be interested in their actions and to fear fo
r their safety. When an author fails to engage a reader’s sympathies then the reader becomes apathetic as to both the character’s fate and the outcome of the novel. In this book Koontz provides us with a very likeable heroine aided and abetted by two endearing heroes.
Laura has never had an easy life and her hardships started young. It is hard not to sympathise with a young child who has lost both mother and father and finds themselves raised in an orphanage. Laura faces risks from an orphanage worker with paedophilic tendencies and yet keeps calm, thinks logically and acts maturely and level-headedly to avoid an unpleasant situation. Already as a child we like her and fear for her welfare.
As she grows older hardships in her life seem only to strengthen her resolve and form her into a more capable adult. When her husband dies she does not retreat into self-pity but concentrates on protecting her son. She knows they are both in danger and so takes self-defence classes, learns how to fire a gun and arms their home to the teeth (if a home can be said to have teeth) with both legal and illegal firearms. This is an intelligent and caring woman who chitchats with the criminal underworld and does target practice for hours on end in her garden. She is an extremely capable woman and I found it easy to admire her.
Her son, Chris, is equally admirable. The loss of his father hits him hard, as would be expected, but he soon finds inner strength and wisdom beyond his years. He is obedient and can keep calm in an emergency. He uses his initiative and seems to have no flaws that are normally associated with childhood (no selfishness, no whingeing, no tantrums!)
This woman and son combination is a winner and we are firmly on the side of our heroes as they fight against time-travelling villains!
One of the most confusing elements of any book that deals with the subject of time travel is that of pa
radox. I won’t even begin to describe a situation in which a time traveller might mess with his own past resulting in an outcome in which the time traveller wouldn’t have existed in the first place – so how could he have gone back and altered events. Aaaagggh – I said I wouldn’t do that! As you can tell, paradox makes my head ache every time it is discussed.
In this book Koontz deals with the problem well and not once did I find my head throbbing from thinking too much; the time travellers can only go forwards in time and they can never travel to a point in time where they might encounter themselves on an earlier visit. There, that was remarkably simple wasn’t it! Koontz doesn’t confuse things by going into the whys or hows of time travel. After all, that really isn’t essential to the average reader of a horror novel.
To convince us further that we shouldn’t strain our brains at the time travel concept, Laura’s young son, Chris, easily comes to grips with the mechanics of it and explains it himself in the language of a child. By this time there is no way that the reader can not understand; if an 8 year old kid can get to grips with it…. (don’t mention Pokemon, computer games or programming the video recorder please).
The book is very exciting and fast paced. Although we follow events in Laura’s life from her birth, her life is extremely eventful and so we are never bored.
The fact that she is being hunted by time travellers adds further suspense. They will not track her as would someone from her own time but will travel further forward in time to check public records to see when and where she was located and then travel back to that point in time to ambush her. She and her son must go into hiding and leave no paper trail of their whereabouts. They must think and anticipate the time travellers’ actions i
n order to defeat them. We can never be certain when and where she will step into danger and this heightens the tension in the book.
Our heroes are gutsy and capable and determined to fight what seems to be an insurmountable terror. We admire them for this and are on their side every step of the way. At no point are we apathetic as to what might happen as we turn the page and as a result this book is hard to put down.
This book contains no supernatural monsters, no ghosts or any other horrific beings, which although scary on the surface challenge our ability to suspend disbelief for the duration of the read. Although time travel is not possible (as far as we are aware, but you never know what the US government has under wraps), it is a concept that is familiar within the realms of fiction and so it is not difficult for the reader to accept and, therefore, find believable.
All in all, Koontz has come up trumps again. I just hope I don’t have to read through another batch of his mediocre novels to discover another gem!

My Rating

A 5/5. In one word, this Nazi Time-Traveling Action Packed Masterpiece is a must read!
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