Look, I know that Dean Koontz is hardly a literary genius, but I’ve been reading him since middle school and I enjoy his books. They can be repetitive, and once you notice what kind of themes and characters he likes to re-use, it’s hard to unsee that. But I like his flowery, occasionally babbling style, I like his over the top bad ass ladies, I’m a big fan of golden retrievers and I’ve truly enjoyed probably 90% of the books he’s written. The City, however, kind of sucked.
“Riots come and go, wars come and go, but under the tumult, day after day, century after century, millions of people are doing nice things for one another, making sacrifices, mostly small things, but it’s all those little kindnesses that hold civilization together, all those people who live quiet lives and never make the news.”
Jonah Kirk (who possesses like seven music-related middle names but they’re ridiculous so I won’t name them) lives in The City with his mother, who sings. Jonah and his grandfather play the piano and Jonah’s best friend Malcolm plays the sax. I recently finished a book called Ellington Boulevard in which music played its own role, acted as its own character. I think Koontz tried to do something similar here, but it comes off very forced and false. I think without all the nonsense about the piano, I would have liked this a lot more (for one thing, it would have been shorter!). Jonah has had a rough life, but he wants to be the man of his household — which to him means lying to his mother a lot (if this kid had told the truth to his mom from day one, I guarantee half of this novel wouldn’t have even occurred).
Like most Koontz novels, Jonah provides plenty of foreshadowing as he recounts a few years of his childhood during which he experienced dreams, premonitions and visits from a woman he calls “Miss Pearl”, who claims to be the spirit of the city. Jonah ends up discovering a great plot and tries to save The City from it. Someone dies. There’s a wise Japanese man who lived through the internment camps who counsels Jonah, and he came off as such a caricature that it made me crazy (his speech patterns, his haikus, his zen — he came off as such a stereotype). The bad guys are also kind of meh. And the evil plot that Jonah tries to stop is over the top in a dumb way, not a fun way.
Overall, I just found The City to be badly written, with poorly sketched out characters and a really (I’m trying to think of a better word than stupid but it was) stupid plot. Quit writing this tripe, Koontz, and go resurrect Chris Snow for me!