City of the Sun

This will be a quick review, because there is another book I have a lot more to say about. So it goes. I picked up City of the Sun by David Levien in a bookstore in the Atlanta airport after spending many hours on a plane with no reading material at hand. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I grabbed three books (one for fuego, two for me in case one blew) as we waited to board. On the flight I made it perhaps ten pages in before falling asleep.

I did read the book once I got to my new home in San Jose, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a detective novel, and it does have some good action and there is suspense, but the story really revolves around two fathers, both dealing with the tragic loss of a son. It is the chemistry between the two that drives the story, and the gradual healing we see (or at least coming to terms with their losses) is the real payoff of the story.

As far as the writing itself goes, the style annoyed me at first. There is a lot of present tense and some shifts that didn’t take me with them. I thought about that later, as I was tearing through the pages, how I wasn’t annoyed anymore. Then I realized the author had stopped doing that stuff and had just settled down to write the story. As soon as he did that I was along for the ride. Hopefully in subsequent books he won’t feel the need to start out fancy. Once he got rolling his prose was almost invisible. There was a story going on, not words on a page. Now that I pay so much attention to the mechanics, it’s really refreshing when the story just takes over.

As interesting as the progress of the characters and how they dealt with their loss was, I found the plot payoff at the end of the story to be rather annoying. I won’t go into detail, but there’s one bit of good fortune that doesn’t belong and actually undermines much of what came before. It would only take a small twist to provide a chance to really get inside the guts of these two men and provide a powerful finish. As it is, we really don’t get the detective’s take on the final events.

It’s a quibble, but often the detective seems a little too perfect — there’s a bit of superman to him that a few demons can’t hide. Maybe in the sequels his former drinking problems will resurface, he’ll hit someone he shouldn’t have, or something else will jump up and blindside him. Here’s hoping. The sequels will certainly be worth checking out.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

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