Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton

The dome in the tome?
‘Under the Dome’ is Americanspeak for happenings in Washington: Stephen King is symbolically writing about his government in this stonking great thing.
Tell the tale
A Maine town is cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome that clangs down, chomping off a woman’s arm, neatly halving a woodchuck and de-nosing a plane in midflight.
Yeah, it starts big. The US government sends in the army, as is its wont. But nothing gets through the dome: not missiles, not acid, certainly not troops.
And inside?
Inside, it’s like a speeded-up view of the onset of Naziism. The corrupt Selectmen (like county councillors) already have a giant meth lab running behind the Jesus is King radio station…
Surprising, all right. The police chief dies when his pacemaker explodes in the Dome’s electrical field, and evil used-car salesman and Selectman Jim Rennie hires thugs as policemen.
But there’s a hero?
Naturally. Dale Barbara - regretful Iraq veteran and short-order cook - is named by the President as leader. But Rennie ain’t havin any.
Rubbing my hands here
So was I. But after the first 200 pages, which rip along, it stumbles around for the next 700. Our Barbie isn’t MacGyver. A second crash - of an Irish jetliner - is desultorily treated. The characters are great and there are wild plot twists - Rennie’s son turns necrophiliac - but the story somehow doesn’t integrate.
Should I buy it?
The writer of Carrie, The Shining, Misery and a million other hits loses the plot here. I wonder if it’s because computers are so fast to write on. After that fabulous opening, the story is like an extended video game.
Best points?
Shows how easily totalitarianism can happen; how we’re all stuck on a planet with limited resources; how the powerful bully the weak.

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