Newest Review: ... a strange lightning rips the sky apart, Laura Shane is born. Her father, Bob - a lovely, good-humoured man completely committed to his wif... more
Koontz At His Inventive & Emotive Best
Lightning - Dean Koontz
Member Name: missrarr
Lightning - Dean Koontz
Advantages: Great characters, contrasting elements to the story, a fantastic read
Disadvantages: The plot contrast may not be for everyone, but in this case I loved it
Yet Koontz has written some books I have wholeheartedly enjoyed, created some characters I'll never forget, and has been a regular staple of my reading diet for years now. So, when I've read a few of his efforts which have jarred with me, be they for repetition of techniques, overly similar characters or just plain weird endings, it's such a sheer delight to pick up a book and read something which reminds me of the brilliant writer's true capabilities. So, whilst wandering around my local library wondering why there were absolutely no Koontz books under 'K' in Sci-Fi, Fantasy or even Fiction (God knows how they run that library!), I am delighted that I stumbled across Lightning, left on a shelf seemingly at random, and took it home with me; in Lightning, I have a reminder of why I continue to return to Koontz's work.
So, if you don't mind, I'd like to share with you why I enjoyed it so much.
Originally published in America in 1988 and first in the UK a decade later, Lightning is a 512-page novel that gripped me from the start.
Currently available new from Amazon at just over £6, but from various sources used and new, although as yet I can't see that Amazon offer it for Kindle.
We open with a scene involving a doctor who has turned to drink, a man who is visited by a mysterious stranger who stops him attending a call from his hospital.
That same night, as a strange lightning rips the sky apart, Laura Shane is born. Her father, Bob - a lovely, good-humoured man completely committed to his wife - is also introduced to us, and after his daughter is born there are two very different strangers present in the hotel seemingly curious about this newborn girl.
Now, this is a very hard book to review in that I can hardly say anything without putting in slight spoilers, which obviously I will keep to a minimum. If you don't want to know any further details without reading the book yourself, please feel free to skip to my opinion below. But, without some further detail, I would basically have to stop here - and that's certainly not going to tell you much about the remaining 500 pages!
Laura Shane's mother died in childbirth, leaving Bob devastated and alone in bringing up his daughter, who he raises beautifully, with humour, tenderness and hard work in his grocery store. The relationship between the child and her father is shown to us when we meet them again, one day as Bob works in his store and Laura diligently helps him out as she enjoys to do. Then a strange burst of lightning strikes the small town, shortly before a presumably drug-addled robber burst into the store and points a gun at Bob and Laura. This incident proves to us that the two strangers who were in the hospital on the night the now eight-year-old Laura was born are still following the girl, although we still can't be sure why.
What Koontz crafts after this is a science fiction story as well as a tale about fate, strength of character and humanity. We see young Laura grow up against a life seemingly cursed with ill fortune as a young woman. We see her maturity, sensitivity and ambitions, her self-preservation, her talents and her emotions crafted by her experiences and we are not the only ones watching her, for someone is evidently following her path to maturity closely, and someone in turn is trying to ascertain why.
***SO, WHY IS IT SO ENJOYABLE?***
Well, I find it a testament to Koontz's ability to craft the human element to his work here that you have one aspect of the story - and again I'm trying hard not to include anything that will detract from the experience of reading this book for yourself - that he has one aspect of the story that is firmly in his ambitious science-fiction style that so many of us are used to, sharply contrasting to the tale of a young woman growing up to become a mature adult in the '80s, without losing the reader to a dislike of the sheer contrast of it all.
Koontz writes Laura beautifully, showing the adversity and heartbreak she has to live through as a young woman. At times she seems cursed, but later on there is also a love in her life that is so heartwarming, so tender and charming and so convincing that it really stayed with me long after I read the book. In turn again he has to convey the changes to her personality in reflection of the occurrences in her life, and he does this strongly.
For Sci-Fi fans, this genre strongly has its presence here. For those who love well-crafted, strong characters and the human side to a story, you have that too. What Koontz has achieved is a remarkable contrast between the two which he has controlled to produce one of his best works.
I loved this book, and if I see a copy for sale I will buy it - I will definitely read this again. Laura Shane is one of the writer's best characters, and parts of her journey through the plot had a truly emotional effect on me - the love, the loss, the trauma and the determination to survive.
The characterisation in this book is for me as strong as I have ever known Koontz to achieve. Again, the limitation of not spoiling the finer details hold me back from elaborating too much, but for me the reason Koontz managed to partner a completely science-fiction inspired element that some might have found too ambitious, too far-fetched and too sharp in contrast to the human story it is coupled with is that his characterisation is brilliant here. Bob Shane is only a small part of this plot but is beautifully written, as is Laura's life-long friend Thelma. Other characters I would love to reference here but I can't bring myself to ruin the story for anyone who has yet to enjoy it, but one in particular stayed with me long after this book ended.
In short I loved this book, I read it whenever I could and finished it in a few days as I travelled to work, and I know it is one that I will revisit in the future. I will want to read about these characters again, and as with The Taking, this is amongst my favourite works by the author and it is always a delight to return to the best work of someone who has contributed to your reading for much of your life. This shows all the best aspects of the writer - his imagination, creativity and ability to craft ambitious and grand plots, as well as his ability to create charming, inspiring and beautiful characters that haunt the reader for some time after the last chapter is finished. It shows charm and heart, it had me in tears at one point and it deals not only with the fictional aspects of the science-fiction genre but also the ideas of destiny and fate. A great book and one of my two favourites by one of the most successful writers of the modern era.
Summary: One of my favourites by an author I have read for years