(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Imagine this: Nazis in 1944 discover time travel and jaunt into the future, attempting to get enough information on the atomic bomb to win World War II. Imagine this also: One such agent, Stefan Krieger, a disenchanted SS officer, falls in love with a crippled woman, Laura Shane, whom he encounters on just such a trip. Determined to change her fate, Stefan returns to the night of Laura’s birth, intervenes, and prevents her crippling. A second agent, Kokoschka, learning of Stefan’s actions, follows him, and eventually all three, Stefan, Kokoschka, and Laura--plus Laura’s husband, Danny, and her son, Chris-- meet on a deserted mountain road. Kokoschka kills the husband, Stefan kills Kokoschka, and the Nazis, learning of all this in 1944, vow revenge. Meanwhile, Stefan, wounded from the encounter and losing blood, plots with Laura and Chris ways to outwit his pursuers. The novel climaxes with a bloody shoot-out in a dry canyon in northern California.

If all this sounds intriguing, it is. Koontz leads the reader along, a step at a time, as Stefan continually appears in Laura’s life. The reader wonders who he is, why he is there, and why the other man--Kokoschka--is pursuing him. Once one discovers the reasons, however, the novel goes downhill. True, the vagaries of time travel prove fascinating, but Koontz subordinates his characters’ emotional development to the novel’s action and violence. Nevertheless, LIGHTNING is an enjoyable read.