Wednesday, October 20, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 70

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Dean Koontz

LightningI've read a lot of Dean Koontz over the years, but I gave up on him about 15 years ago because ... well, because I was bored with him. It got to the point that I knew what type of characters he was going to have. I knew what kind of plots to expect. What kind of villains. In other words, I felt I'd learned all of Koontz's tricks as a writer and I felt he had nothing more to offer me. In all fairness, since that time Koontz has grown even more in popularity, but I tried him once recently and wasn't overly impressed; perhaps I should give him another shot.

But all that is personal background to the novel I'm writing about in this post. And that novel is Lightning. This particular novel, for me, is the most unique story Koontz has ever told. It concerns a young woman named Laura Shane and a mysterious man who keeps popping into her life from time to time to save her.


Okay, I've warned you, just in case you don't want to read a spoiler. What's the spoiler? This novel is a time travel story. The mysterious man is coming from another time and has his reasons for saving Laura Shane. I will not divulge from where or when this man comes, as that would be giving away even more information, but I will say this: The where and the when are what I find so unique about this Koontz novel.

The background of this mysterious savior, his where and when, are something I've not come across in all the other speculative fiction I've read. But perhaps I've just not read enough, even though I've read hundreds upon hundreds of science fiction, horror, thriller and fantasy novels and short stories. This character's background might not be a shock to modern readers, but to me, reading Lightning back in the late 1980s, this information was like a eureka moment, a "holy sh!t, I can't believe he did that" moment.

But again, maybe I'm just not widely read enough.

What did this book teach me? Well, Koontz in general can create likable characters, and he know how to keep a plot flowing pretty well. But this particular novel introduced me to a different way of thinking about plotting and backgrounds, it opened my mind to subtle trickery that can be used to surprise readers.

At least I'd like to think I learned that from Koontz and Lightning. Only readers can say if I ever pull it off.

Up next: Splatterpunks


Charles Gramlich said...

I still read most every Koontz that comes out, but these earlier ones like Lightning, Midnight, Phantoms, and Watchers were truly outstanding.

Will Errickson said...

I liked Koontz a lot back in the late '80s, but by MIDNIGHT I was just over him, his overly sappy endings and trite moralizing. Can't recall anything about LIGHTNING, but I know I read it! Lately I've heard he's turned into a real crank. Actually I kinda resent his permanence in used bookstore horror sections. Oh well.