Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

The City (Hardback)


Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Harper Collins
RRP: £18.00
ISBN: 978 0 00752 028 2
Publication Date: 31 July 2014

Dean Koontz has been a successful and prodigious novelist and short story writer since the publication of his first novel, Star Quest, in 1968. He has worked in horror, science fiction and is probably, at the moment, best known for his Odd Thomas series of books, which have recently been made into a film. As a writer he has grown in skill, to the point where there is little point in discussing whether he is an accomplished writer, his continued presence as an author attests to this. As he has continued to write, the subject matter of his books has diversified.

The City (2014 - 398 Pages) is a very different story to his better known series, and one that is likely to divide his readership.

In the book we meet Jonas Kirk. The story is told as one long flashback as Jonas takes us back to a time in the late sixties when he was nine. Through Jonas’s eyes we encounter the people which inhabit his world. He lives with his mother and grandfather, following his no good father’s disappearance. Jonas has little love for his father and at points in the story runs away if the two encounter each other.

Koontz paints a very detailed picture of the apartment block where Jonas lives, including the enigmatic Pearl, who Jonas comes to believe is the embodiment of the cities soul, made flesh so that the city can experience itself. Jonas is no ordinary boy and is musically talented like his mother; her talent is as a singer whereas Jonas longs to be a piano man and shows a natural talent as a pianist at an early age. This level of domestic detail will either entrance the reader or turn them off. There is a murder mystery to be solved, but this doesn’t even kick in during the first half of the book.

I guess I felt that the book was akin to Woody Allan’s Manhattan (1979) a love story about a particular time and place. The City even appears as one of the characters. That said Jonas is not the kind of child to spend time out and about, so we never really get to know the city, except as Pearl. She flits in and out of his lift, so Koontz doesn’t really have the space to develop her as a well-rounded character.

As well as the overabundance of domesticity, the book lacks a sense of drama. Stuff happens, but as the book opens with Jonas recounting the events, then we know that he is never in any real danger, indeed the whole point of the book appears to be an oft quoted phrase ‘everything will be okay in the long run’.

Whether you enjoy this book will almost certainly depend on whether you find Jonas a compelling character, unfortunately I did not. I found it difficult to empathise with him, so reading the book just felt like watching a series of events happening, but happening very slowly. If you lose your focus on Jonas then the rest of the characters become even less interesting.

Although the book is well written, and it’s always interesting to see writers doing something different, unfortunately Jonas’s story did not resonate for me.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Kindle edition
iTunes GB
Digital Download