I Recently Finished Reading: Lightning

LightningI really enjoyed the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, so when I was looking for a stand-alone novel to read, I thought I’d give another Koontz novel a try. I did a bit of research and found that Lightning and Watchers are often considered some of his best works. I generally don’t read synopses or anything, so I just picked this one and started into it. I figured that if it didn’t grab me, I could try the other one.

What a roller-coaster! The mood of the book is all over the place. One scene is dealing with a drunken doctor, the next is a happy father. It goes from talking about child molestation, to stand-up comedy, to self-immolation, to awkward first dates, all within a few chapters. What impressed me was how well it worked. Even though the mood of the book shifts wildly, the tone is very consistent. There’s a theme in the book that life is a comedy with flashes of tragedy, and that theme comes through in the writing. I found Lightning to be a comedic book with some very dark and tragic moments.

I didn’t find the characters to be as sympathetic or engaging as those in the Odd Thomas books, but I liked them. It just felt like the characters weren’t developed enough. I’m not sure why I felt that way. Each of the main characters had plenty of background and history. They changed over the course of the book as well. The only way I can think of describing it is that they had a lot of breadth, but not much depth. Laura, for instance, is described as being stunningly beautiful, and her writing is even more beautiful. She has many traumatic experiences in her childhood, but they only serve to give her experience. That sounds nice and well rounded, but most of it is told, not shown.

The story is really where this book was fun. While it isn’t explicitly stated, the sense that time travel is involved starts in the prologue. Most time travel stories have to deal with paradox in some way or another, and Lightning does about as well as any other book I’ve read. It reminded me a lot of Connie Willis’s time travel novels.

I’m glad I read Lightning. I’ll likely read more Koontz in the future. I enjoy his style and ideas, but his books have all seemed like light reading, even though they deal with rather dark subjects. I’m guessing that I’ll enjoy many of his other books, but I’ll need to be in the right mood.

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