The City - Dean Koontz

As with most Dean Koontz books released over the past decade, THE CITY is readable, which is to say it's not riddled with errors or clunky writing. And that's about all this novel has going for it.

THE CITY is a betrayal, plain and simple. Not the content of the story, but the story itself is a piece of false advertising. Not even the title makes sense once you've read the book, because the MC doesn't truly reflect on the city, doesn't go for walks as the cover would have you believe, and, in truth, the reader never gets a feel for this place. The only tie-in (and boy-o, is it a loose one) is a woman who claims to be the city personified, but she doesn't matter. At all. The book should've been entitled JONAH, or some such. 

Let's take a gander at the synopsis (something I never do in my reviews, mind you). My comments will be in bold:

"The city changed my life and showed me that the world is deeply mysterious. I need to tell you about her and some terrible things and wonderful things and amazing things that happened . . . and how I am still haunted by them. Including one night when I died and woke and lived again.

Spoiler alert! That doesn't happen. That bit about him dying. Once again I'm reminded of LIFE EXPECTANCY, where Koontz couldn't even be bothered to follow his own synopsis. The opening paragraph of the blurb is misleading, giving one the hopes of perhaps a moving or thrilling read. The reader receives neither. 

"Here is the riveting, soul-stirring story of Jonah Kirk, son of an exceptional singer, grandson of a formidable “piano man,” a musical prodigy beginning to explore his own gifts when he crosses a group of extremely dangerous people, with shattering consequences. Set in a more innocent time not so long ago, The City encompasses a lifetime but unfolds over three extraordinary, heart-racing years of tribulation and triumph, in which Jonah first grasps the electrifying power of music and art, of enduring friendship, of everyday heroes."

There is no "electrifying power of music and art" present in this book. What Koontz does is list the greatest names in jazz, and mentions Carel Fabritius's Goldfinch painting. Jonah, our main character is simply great at everything he does without having any real hurdles to cross over because he's so naturally talented. Oh, and he's black. Make sure you make note of that because Koontz reminds you every time Jonah meets someone who isn't. And that's about as far as the character development goes with the kid.

"The unforgettable saga of a young man coming of age within a remarkable family, and a shimmering portrait of the world that shaped him, The City is a novel that speaks to everyone, a dazzling realization of the evergreen dreams we all share. Brilliantly illumined by magic dark and light, it’s a place where enchantment and malice entwine, courage and honor are found in the most unexpected quarters, and the way forward lies buried deep inside the heart."

This isn't an "unforgettable saga", it's an outline for a thriller involving bombings and robberies. It just so happens to occur around this little boy. His family's so remarkable that I cannot remember a single one of their names, because Mr. Yoshioka stole the show. That character is the one shining light in this dismal read, and I enjoyed every scene where his name graced the page. He is, quite honestly, the only reason I finished this book. 

In summation: The book promises magic, which we catch the slightest glimpse of with a woman who pops up three or four times in the book for no apparent reason other than to tell the kid something bad is going to happen, oh, and to show him her purse. The book promises a coming-of-age story, which never happens because the main character never comes of age... he simply remains the same emotionally after a horribly crippling tragedy. By the way, that tragedy is no more than an afterthought in this book, mentioned only as Koontz races for the finish line.