Under the Dome

This week we answer two pressing questions – can you read a book and lift weights at the same time and can Stephen King write a decent ending to a very long book? If you read the Dark Tower series you might think the answer to the second question is a resounding no. (After all even Mr. King warned people that reading the final chapter might not be the best idea.) And that's not mentioning the mystery novel that Mr. King wrote that never shed any light on whodunit. Not that I'm bitter. Anyway, I was a little trepidatious about reading Under the Dome because I didn't want to read more than a thousand pages, get attached to various characters (some of whom are guaranteed to die) only to be left with the burning question of WHY unanswered.

Under the Dome takes place in a small town in Maine, near the often doomed towns of Castle Rock and Derry. One fine fall day the inhabitants of Chester's Mill are horrified when a plane falls out of the sky, closely followed by the horrible crash of a big truck. In the ensuing confusion many people think the plane and the truck crashed into each other, but the actual story is considerably more mysterious. The plane was flying along, minding its own business, when it crashed into an invisible barrier and exploded. The truck was barreling along at a good pace and hit the same barrier, with obvious bad results. At the same time a small furry animal, that is also minding its own business, is cut in two by the barrier and other mishaps ensue, although none as dramatic as the plane or truck. By the end of the day the townspeople will discovered they're trapped in the dome, the murders will have started and a wretched, wretched man will have begun a dictatorship.

To make matters even more complicated for the townspeople, the outside world, which is just as baffled by the turn of events as those directly impacted, suspects that the Dome surrounding the town is the result of terrorism and that those responsible may be in the town. So the military is supposed to help them, but is also supposed to treat them as suspects. But that's not all – if the Dome is impenetrable what kind of help can anyone deliver? It's horrifying for everyone to have the barrier there; those on the inside can't get out or get what they need and those on the outside can't do even the simplest thing to help.

Stress starts to take its toll on the townspeople immediately, as the horror of the accidental deaths and murders sink in. At the same time the second selectman starts to manipulate the citizens, pushing and poking them so they fracture faster. His goal is to increase and consolidate his power, as well as cover up something very big that will ruin him if it gets out. Opposing him is Barbie, who was on his way out of town after being jumped in the parking lot of the restaurant where he was working as a cook. The selectman's son Junior was one of the assailants and Barbie knows his continued stay in Chester's Mill would be miserable so he's trying to hitch out of town when the Dome comes smashing down, cutting off all egress.

Life under the Dome would be hard enough if the only thing the inhabitants had to deal with was isolation from the rest of the world but they have many more problems pressing in on them. There are environmental issues, with pollution building up very quickly, especially following things like the fire from the plane and truck disasters. The hospital is grievously understaffed, leaving the injured and ill in dire straits.

Anyone who has read one of the Mr. King's longer works knows what to expect. Loads of characters, lots of death and destructions, sustained suspense and worry over the characters, who worm into our hearts with ease and a little wear and tear on said hearts. Under the Dome is longer than most of Mr. King's books and I was somewhat worried that I would want to try and finish it at one go, which would be tough, especially on a weeknight. Luckily I was able to put it down long enough to get stuff done, at least until I got to the last two hundred or so pages, at which point I pretty much swallowed it in one enormous gulp that might have choked a less determined reader. At the beginning of this column I said I was worried that I was going to be left with a lot of questions about what happened to cause the Dome and why but that fear was unfounded. I came away from this book feeling pretty satisfied.

The only real question I have is what is the message of this book? Of course not every horror books is going to have a message, or at least not one beyond "Don't go in there", but I did feel there was a message in Under the Dome. But the message I took away is disturbing because it seemed to me that message is don't excel. Hide your light under a barrel. Blend in or else. And if someone is cruel to you for being different then you stop being different. I was kind of appalled. I'm curious to see if anyone else has that same interpretation.

You can read an excerpt here: http://simon.worldarcstudio.com/WAS/LandingPage/v1/130/staging/22177_exc....

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Fhtagn who writes in to say, "Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth is awesome. The insanity meter causes panic as soon as anything strange or chilling happens. Your vision blurs and your hands shake. Some thing is charging at you – as it approaches you shoot it rapidly, just as it reaches you it falls to the ground unmoving, your heart rate slowly returns to normal but there are more lurking in the shadows. Madness reigns." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.