Hardcover, 416 pages
Bantam, 1 July 2014
Jonah Kirk is the nine-year-old grandson of a top-notch piano player, the son of a extraordinarily talented lounge singer and an absentee father, and a musical prodigy in his own right. He's just beginning to explore his musical gifts, when an accidental meeting with a group of very dangerous people has disastrous consequences. Jonah is a young man coming of age in a remarkable family during a time when his city was coming of age as well.
Jonah Kirk, now in his late-50's, is telling the gripping story of a very important time in his young life. Koontz is in his element here, weaving a story that is lyrical to read, though it takes some time to wade through. The plot moves slowly, almost luxuriously so, because Koontz is so descriptive, taking his time to make sure you can visualize every bit of Jonah's city. The city almost becomes a character itself due to Koontz vivid descriptions of its people, it's art, and it's architecture. Koontz explores the idea of a city having a soul, as personified by "Pearl", the mysterious woman who teaches Jonah to interpret his dreams.
This novel was as much a character study as it was the coming-of-age of Jonah. The character development of the "good guy" characters - Kirk's family and friends - was rich and expansive. Disappointingly, however, the "bad guy" characters felt one-dimensional and a bit stereotypical. The characters sometimes felt as though they were being used to explore themes and not carry the story themselves. Jonah's relationship (or lack of one) with his father, his dedication to his mother, his friendship with the quietly formidable Mr. Yoshioka, and his love of Amelia Pomerantz all felt as though they were just as important to the story as the plot itself. When Koontz allowed the characters to shine on the page, the story was wonderful to read. Unfortunately, sometimes too much space passed between these glimpses of brilliance.
My problem with this novel was perhaps in my expectations. I am a long-time fan of Koontz's novels because they're usually such page turners. An interesting main character, an intriguing premise, a whole lot of suspense, and a thrilling conclusion. While The City definitely had an interesting main character, it was missing everything else. It was by far a more philosophical novel than I'm used to from Koontz, and as a result it sometimes felt like work to read. In the end, The City was a good book I just couldn't get into.
(I received a copy of this book from Bantam Books in exchange for an honest review.)