Under the Dome

Thoughts on Stephen King's Under the Dome

Under the Dome is not ripped off from "The Simpsons Movie". Those of you ignoramus maximi who are saying that on every Internet forum I have seen on the subject of this novel or the upcoming television series on CBS need to stop immediately. You are embarrassing yourselves. Good. Now then...

I love this book. The size of it was intimidating, but I calculated that I would need to read just thirty-six pages per day from the day I started reading the book on May 25 to finish before the premiere of the television series on June 24. For a Stephen King novel, thirty-six pages is manageable as his novels tend to be page-turners, quick reads, hard to put down. I averaged almost twice that and finished well ahead of schedule. I was in from the first chapter. This is one of King's high population novels like The Stand or The Regulators (R.I.P. Richard Bachman) with lots of interesting characters who get themselves in all kinds of trouble. And like The Stand, there are good guys and bad guys. I hesitate to use the word "evil" as much of the evil done in the book is a product of either illness (mental or otherwise), physical and emotional stress, peer pressure, environment, or opportunity. Indeed, this last point is one of the main themes of the novel. What would happen if consequence were eliminated and people were free to do as they pleased? Read Philip G. Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil for a chilling tale of a real-world experiment that explores how good people can break bad given the right set of circumstances.

I found myself cheering for some characters and loving to hate others. King does a fantastic job of creating a huge cast of characters, all of whom are distinct, most of whom are sympathetic (even those who do bad things), and all completely believable. Not once did I scoff and think that no human being would behave in such a manner in such a situation. Anyone with a modicum of adult life experience will know that some people are capable of just about any behavior at any time if they think they can get away with it. In most cases, I dread the television or film adaptation of a beloved novel, but in the case of Under the Dome, I look forward to seeing these characters on screen and watching how the actors choose to portray them.

My only gripe is that I did not care for the ending, the cause of The Dome, but I so completely loved every moment that lead to it that I cannot allow the ending to cloud my enjoyment of the rest of the story. I felt the ending was too out there, too ridiculous. It speaks to Stephen King's ability to make outrageous situations feel so real (I mean, a gigantic DOME that traps an entire town... c'mon) and believable that I bought in to the entire story, over one-thousand pages before I said "waaait a minute". I had no trouble believing that the dome was there and I was horrified at the immediate impact (pun intended, maybe) that it had on the people of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine. That is some impressive story-crafting.

I am looking forward to the television series based on this novel. For one, Stephen King is an Executive Producer and has input on any changes that are made. Second, the series is created by one of my favorite comic book authors, Brian K. Vaughan. Check out his Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad for examples of his brilliance.


Thoughts on Stephen King's Cell

Stephen King is a master of creating horrible situations and then dropping average people into them to see how they react. This is one of the reasons I enjoy his novels so much. The heroes of his stories are regular folk, easy to identify with, carrying the same life baggage as the rest of us. None of them are prepared to deal with the atrocities Stephen King is about to throw at them. Another thing of which Stephen King is a master is describing these atrocities in such a manner that he has me laughing out loud. To be able to create such scenes and infuse them with a bit of humor takes real skill and this is King's bread and butter. The initial scene of Cell is a cavalcade of horrific events that get crazier and more surreal with each turn of the page.

It is no spoiler to say that the premise of this novel is that a strange signal is broadcast over the cellular networks causing all who hear it to completely lose their minds. The victims of this broadcast become murderous or suicidal which winds up being really unfortunate for those who were not using their cell phones at the time of the broadcast. Small groups of people not affected by the signal band together and try to survive while wondering what caused such a bizarre event. Their journey is fun to read as King crafted some terrific, exciting scenes full of "holy [EXPLETIVE DELETED](I am trying to swear less in 2013)" moments. I enjoyed the core characters, all of whom are believable in their behavior, their reactions to events around them and their interactions with each other. Ultimately, though, the explanation of the cause of strange signal did not satisfy me, nor did it make much sense to me. Still, in this case, the journey is more important than the destination so I can easily recommend Stephen King's Cell to people who enjoy reading End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It stories.

John Cusack

John Cusack

A film version of the novel was announced in October 2012. The film is still in the pre-production stage, but so far John Cusack has been attached to star.  He is one of my favorites so I'm optimistic.  The script was co-written by Stephen King himself and "Last House on the Left" remake screenwriter Adam Alleca.  There is no information yet about who will direct, but at this point, Cusack's involvement is enough to pique my interest.