Whenever I enter a library, a bookstore, or a book aisle in a chain store, I feel very at home. I think that, if it were possible, I would even live in a library. Books have been my friends for most of my life, and I cannot help loving them any more than I can help loving the wind or the sunshine. They are part of me, just like the soil I was raised on.
This brings me to another Dean Koontz book I read, The City. I discovered it during the same trip to the library when I picked up Relentless. What attracted me to The City, however, was its setting. The City is described as a “coming-of-age” story, but it is the decade wherein the events of this Koontz’ story are set that caught my attention. The City is set in the turbulent 1960s in the U.S., a time I am not very well acquainted with because: a) it occurred before I was alive, and b) so much has been written and said about the ‘60s that I am wary of trusting any book or story that claims to tell those who read it “exactly what happened in the ‘60s and what the ‘60s mean to current times.”
Mr. Koontz is an author I trust, and so I picked up The City in the hopes that he could, in a roundabout way, educate me about that time period. The story was not entirely as in-depth about the events in the ‘60s as I had expected/hoped, but that is because it is a story, not a history book or a manifesto of some sort. And despite this vagueness about actual events, the story’s tone suits the times just fine.
The focus of The City is Jonah Kirk. At the beginning of his first person narrative, Jonah states, “For as long as I have been alive, I have loved the city. It is a love that has been reciprocated.” (I may not have the exact words; I no longer have the book with me. Apologies, therefore, for any misquote! 😊) Jonah tells his story in the fun, rambling way I have come to associate with oral story tellers. They do not start off with, “’It was a dark and stormy night when I was born.” They jump feet first into the interesting stuff, usually by saying something like, “I was playing baseball when I was twelve and ended up socking the neighborhood bully in the jaw.” They give you the goods and then fill in the details. Jonah is no exception.
Right off the bat, Jonah gives the reader an apparently impossible statement, hooking them immediately. Though The City lacks the rollicking suspense and humor of Relentless, this does not make it any less interesting. Where Relentless grabs the reader in a headlock and races said reader into the end zone like a human football, The City has the suspense tempo of an afternoon fishing trip, or the subdued strength of a story told beside a campfire. Before the reader knows it, they are having trouble breathing waiting for the hammer to drop on Jonah’s world – and for the mystery of the city’s “love reciprocated” to be totally revealed.
I will not spoil The City for you, readers. This is not a story I would characterize as horror fiction; it has its creepy moments, but nothing scary enough to keep the children awake in bed, throwing their flashlight’s beam all over the room looking for monsters. Relentless was more frightening in many ways than The City. Also, The City is actually a very good, entertaining, “coming-of-age” novel, better than many others I have read. All in all, I was impressed with it and I think I can recommend it highly to whoever would like to pick it up.
Dean Koontz may specialize in horror fiction these days but, at least in this little corner of the world, he has earned himself the admiration of one who usually prefers swashbuckling romances to stories of the undead and demons. I raise my sword to him in salute to him.
The Mithril Guardian