If a Tree Fell in the City by Dean Koontz (Review)

The City Facebook 10_25_14

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.

t.e. (Tim) George has seen and lived many stories in his life. As a freelance commercial writer, he helps clients tell the story of what they do. As a ghost writer, he helps people tell the story that matter most to them. But it is as a novelist that he writes stories for who matter most – you, the reader. Tim’s latest novella, Only Time, is available now at Amazon.com.
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  • Kerry

    Part of me thinks it is because parents don’t make reading a priority for boys.  Always sending the boys outside to play, maybe?

  • Neppie

    I think it’s because women need to escape from reality more than men.   A woman looks to her parent/husband/partner to make everything OK/real/right and when they don’t or can’t she looks for it in a book.   Maybe they read books to see how other women deal with the pressures of life.  Men tend to think they can fix everything with little help.  Not jumping on men here, just making an educated statement.

  • I think more men don’t read because they don’t devote as much time to reading. I love to read, but I typically don’t sit down in my easy chair and read except on rare occasions. Most often I find myself preoccupied with other things be it the computer, my video games, kids, chores around the house, etc etc. Another reason for me is that I find it hard to concentrate on a book with all of the external stimulus…whereas my wife can read with a bomb going off in the room….

  • Guest

    i look at the Amazon bestseller list and it’s dominated by books for and by men.  When i look at the “christian” bestseller lists – its all mush written for and by women.  why is that?  What I notice is that my Christian friends read only non-fiction and my non-Christian friends read more fiction. 

    I am a guy and I read a lot of fiction.  I’ve read everything by Bernard Cornwell, Tolkien, the HP books, Wheel of Time, etc.  I also read Day of War and it is definitely the best “Christian” fiction I’ve ever read. 

    • If you can go back and drill a little deeper you will see that male writers do have excellent representation in the Mystery, Thriller and Science Fiction genres. Not so much anywhere else. But that makes sense because that is what male tend to gravitate toward the most.

      What you see in Christian fiction is a fact for one main reason: that is the group Christian publishers seem best equipped to market to. Zondervan is doing a great job with Day of War as Thomas Nelson did with all Ted Dekker books. But they are exceptions. Perhaps the bigger question is why these publishers don’t identify and market these kinds of books more consistently?

      • Kerry

        And I would guess the answer is because that isn’t the CBA target market. It isn’t their bread-and-butter, and probably will never be. Their market is the people wh0 typically walk into the Christian bookstore, and they like what they like. (Mushy or no.)

    • It’s true. The Christian bookstores are laden with Historical romances.
      Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they tend to be “safe” I
      think. Publishers don’t have to wonder whether there’ll be illicit
      sensual scenes or senseless violence trapped inside the cover. Perhaps
      they’re fearful of venturing out into sci-fi, fantasy, or
      thriller/mystery/suspense genres.

      My boys, especially my 17 year old may read more if there was more
      suspense/mystery on the shelves. Those styles, I think, appeal to young
      men and older men alike. The “Bourne” series attracted multitudes of men. Was it
      because of the male hero, bent on stopping the villain and protecting
      those in distress? Isn’t it instinctual for men to want to protect and defend? Isn’t it men who are first into battle?

      I personally love reading about David and his mighty men and would honestly like to see more books written about valiant, integrity driven men.

  • George

    Speaking for myself, I am visually prone to be aware of what’s going on around me unless I’m listening to something intently. Such as the lyrics of a new song , news, or movie. At that point I’m oblivious to everything else. However, if I’m reading I’m constantly distracted my everything going on around me. When I read it’s usually late when the home decibels are near zero. It’s usually the Bible. On another note reading tends to also make me drowsy regardless of what material I’m reading. Maybe subconsciously that’s the reason I tend to write short stories as opposed to novels. My bride however, can read a book in one day that would take me a week to complete.

  • Hoomi

    I think one reason more Christian men aren’t reading more Christian fiction, is what do we find dominating the Christian Fiction shelves at our local book store? Historical Romances. Take away all the historical romances, and you’re left with a selection of fiction books that will barely take up one shelf. I’ve read varying reviews of Dekker, but I don’t tend towards supernatural thrillers. Sadly, there seems to be a perception that “Christian” and “Science Fiction/Fantasy” are mutually exclusive.

    I recently finished “Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall” by Thomas P. Hopp, “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde, and last night finished re-reading Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring.” I’m deciding right now whether to read the murder mystery I bought on sale at B&N for the Nook, or look for another book. If “The Two Towers” were currently available for ebook checkout from the library, that would be my choice. My reading tends to be for entertainment and relaxation, so I look for books that I’m going to enjoy.

    • @92558ec25225dc59b32c3f83bfc79c16:disqus I’ll make you a deal. Email me your email address and I’ll lend you something from Marcher Lord Press for your NOOK I guarantee you will love. Leave Dinosaur Wars in the dust. tegeorge@att.net

      • Hoomi

        Well, I just downloaded Time of War for the Nook, but I’m always open for recommended reads. “Dinosaur Wars” was one of those rather mindless pleasures. Yeah, it’s not going to win any prizes for literature (not that I expect my work to, either), but it was just an enjoyable story and cheap.

        I would love to put together an extensive network of Christian Sci-Fi writers, with an eye on exhibiting at cons and such around the country. I think if we could raise the awareness of Christian readers to science fiction and fantasy with Christian themes and worldview, we could help increase the market and therefore the potential for publishers to invest in the genre.

        I’d like to think that all the novel-length manuscripts I’ve written so far would help in that effort, beginning with “Cardan’s Pod,” of course. The first book starts off very subtle on the Christian themes, with some more overt themes coming through in the as-yet unpublished sequels.

        You may still have my e-mail address from when you checked out how “Cardan’s Pod” looked on the Nook, but I’ll e-mail it to you again anyway.

        • Cardon’s Pod is on my to do list now. Look forward to reading it.

  • Catrina

    My husband loves to read, but like George, gets sleepy and can’t usually read for long stretches of time. He is also a “slow” reader — I think it took him 2 months to read “Under the Dome”. (It took me a few days, and I was EVER so anxious for him to finish so we could talk about the ending!)  We tend to like the same authors and genres, except that I haven’t read all of the Clancy’s and Ludlum’s (BO-ring!) and he’s only read one Anne Rice and NO Clive Barker’s. He’ll read Christian fiction that appeals to his tastes – mystery, horror, suspense, comedy, thriller, etc. Most men I know that don’t read just aren’t interested. We talked one friend (who hadn’t read a book in over 30 years) into borrowing “Lighting” by Dean Koontz, and he LOVED it! When we suggested another book for him, he said, “No thanks. I’m good for a while.” LOL.

  • Day of War by Cliff Graham is free on Kindle and NOOK until July 18th!!!

  • Nicole Petrino-Salter

    Profound, indeed. The beauty dulled by sin. Our best is still our worst. Nothing without the cleansing Blood of Christ. Well done, Tim.