It’s no secret that Dean Koontz is my go-to author when I want a great story that is also almost certain to make me think. His latest, The City, is no exception. Because of the breadth and depth of this piece of fiction, a quick review would do a disservice. Instead, I offer some random thoughts it sparked in me.
I knew this was going to be a story set in the ’60s that would feature family love and talk about the best things in our culture, some of which perhaps we’ve lost in recent years; otherwise I didn’t know where the story was going to go. – Dean Koontz
Rotten Trees Ultimately Fall
In the weeks and months after Hurricane Ivan a few years back nature proved it is ruthlessly efficient at making formally hidden flaws painfully obvious. Nearly ten years later, Ivan the Terrible could still be felt as a long standing tree came crashing down in my backyard. A once seemingly invulnerable oak betrayed by the hidden secret of internal disease and rot joined its less noble pine brethren that had fallen long ago.
In the same way, the storm winds of cultural and societal change reveal fractures and flaws some would rather ignore. John S. Dickerson, in his The Great Evangelical Recession, makes a convincing case that orthodox faith had become a minority position in American culture long before Roe v. Wade, transgender public restrooms, and free condom dispensers in public schools. As the Jesus movement gained steam and mega churches sprang up across the land, disease lay hidden deep within the root system of our churches, society, and government.
The City is not my Fortress
Like many in the late 70s, I listened to and admired Cal Thomas. Once a central figure in that movement, Thomas sees things far differently now. Looking back on that era he writes:
We were going through organizing like-minded people to ‘return’ American to a time of greater morality. Of course, this was to be done through politicians who had a difficult time imposing morality on themselves.
I confess my starry eyed youthful belief there ever was any such thing as a Moral Majority. Does this mean I no longer have opinions about what should be happening in Washington or the local mayor’s office? Not at all. There’s just too much to do and too little time to do it to lose sleep over what Augustine called “the city of the world.”
Dean Koontz sees his City embodied in a person. A person who offers the best of us amidst the worst of us. As such, he offers an optimism I admire. At the same time, I am also a realist. Night has fallen on the Baby Boomer fantasy of spirituality by legislation and the supposed redeeming influence of the institutional church.
A Brutal Illusion
I still want to see the city of this world a better place. Like Koontz, I too see the best of this world – more often than not in individuals rather institutions. However, even when it appears to be at its best, I know this city is ultimately what D.A. Carson calls a “brutal illusion”. At its best, this world is still at its worst.