Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Book Review: "The City" by Dean Koontz
"...childhood is a time of fear as well; some of those fears are reasonable, others irrational and inspired by a sense of powerlessness in a world where often power over others seems to be what drives so very many of our fellow human beings."
Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk was born in the late 1950s to Sylvia, an exceptional singer, and her erstwhile husband, Tilton, who saddled Jonah with all of those names in an effort to ingratiate himself with Sylvia's father, Teddy, who was a musician. But as Jonah grows, he realizes that his father is not a dependable person, and he drifts in and out of their lives until the moment Sylvia puts her foot down, when Jonah is eight years old.
One day Jonah meets a mysterious woman he calls Pearl, a woman who calls him "Ducks," and intrigues him beyond anything he can imagine. She claims to be the heart of the city in which he lives, and she can see everything that is going on within it. She unlocks Jonah's musical ability and finds him a piano on which to practice, and then opens his eyes to some disturbing visions. Over the next two years, he sees Pearl several times, and in his dreams she shows him more disturbing things that obsess him.
When he sees a woman featured in one of those visions, he wants to understand who she is and what will happen to her, but in doing so, he sets in motion a chain of events that will drastically impact his life and those he loves, and cause him to question what causes people to do the things they do. It's a lot of pressure for a 10-year-old boy trying to be the man of the house.
The City is an intriguing, well-written look at growing up in what seems like a simpler time, yet life isn't ever simple. It's the story of feeling like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and how finding an ally can make the responsibility easier and so much harder to bear. And it's the story of how we carry the scars of our youth through our entire lifetime.
When an author is prolific, like Stephen King, John Grisham, or Dean Koontz, we tend to expect the familiar from them. It's not that every book they write is identical, or isn't creative; it's just surprising when we read a book that's a departure from what we're used to. That was definitely the case with The City; while it's been a while since I've read one of Koontz's books, this definitely wasn't quite what I expected from him. While there are some distinctive Koontz-ian touches, this is a more straightforward novel than I've seen him write in a while, although what I expected when the book began was vastly different than where the book finished.
If you pick up The City expecting a novel full of fright and horror and psychological drama, you'll be disappointed, but if you pick it up expecting a nostalgic look at growing up and facing the demons you know and those you don't, it will be worth your time.