Dean R. Koontz, Time Thieves (Ace, 1972)
[originally posted 20Dec2001]
Everyone who’s delved into Dean Koontz’ early work is fully aware the man wrote some absolute howlers, things that will probably never again see the light of day. But interspersed with them were some flashes of greatness, a few choice novellae and short stories that hinted at the greatness to come. Of the pre-horror work, the finest book by far is A Darkness in My Soul; Time Thieves gives it a pretty good run for second.
The cover has nothing at all to do with the plot; ignore it completely. We open with a guy who pulls into his garage, gets out of the car, goes into the kitchen to get something to eat, and finds out (courtesy his shocked wife) he’s been gone for twelve days. Problem is he can’t remember any of that time. Sound like a familiar plot? Should, if you watch the X-Files (and, since it’s mentioned on the cover, saying it’s an alien-abduction lost-time story isn’t exactly giving away spoilers), but remember this book is coming up on thirty years old, back when only about twenty people in the country had ever heard the term “Project Bluebook.” So looking back from a 2001 perspective, it’s a pretty old tale, but keep in mind the temporal context.
Koontz also keeps the sci-fi claptrap to a minimum, which is always nice. No annoying seventies-space-opera-sounding names for common household appliances or anything like that. In fact, Time Thieves points to the place Koontz ended up, after taking a quick detour into Dick Francis-land in 1974; Time Thieves could pass for a horror novel with a heavy sci-fi bent to it (Strangers, anyone?). A must for Koontz completists, and recommended for casual fans as well. ***