||Very entertaining, but with a few too
many deranged characters and too many stupid mistakes by others to make
it truly fulfilling.
One of the
most amusing lines in this book comes from a character who thought of
writing a novel at one point, but thought, if she wrote a 1000 page book
and it sucked, what to do then? This book comes in at more than one
thousand pages, and it's pretty good. Overly long, I think, in that a
few more characters could have been removed without much loss of
storytelling, and no loss of story.
There is plenty of story in this book,
as would be expected by any novel of this length. I love long stories,
and I have to say that I was never bored, and there was never any
thought of putting this one down for days while I re-gathered up the
mood for it, as I've done with other stories (which were often less than
half as long).
The Dome falls in the opening pages of
the book, a barrier that cuts a groundhog in two, causes a plane and a
truck to crash into it, as well as many birds. I love the author's
conceit in the opening chapter, as well as several places throughout
just before major disasters occur, to diverge from the normal narration
point of view to move around town, telling us in the present tense what
is happening and where, creating a summary of the collective thoughts
and feelings of the townspeople.
For yes, the Dome has cut off the
entire town from the rest of the world. They must become completely
self-sufficient, which I suppose every small town believes it is. And
there are several levels of self-sufficiency. There is physical survival, of
course, in terms of food and power, especially given that the Dome falls
at the end of October. There is political survival, in that the leaders
must either step forward or fall away so that others can lead through
this crisis. And there is personal survival, which includes securing
secrets and providing safety for families.
All of these come into conflict at one
point or another, or several, throughout the book. But the main focus is
political, because that's where the leadership can do one of two things
during a crisis: lead people as if they are smart and able to logically
follow instructions, or assume they are stupid, thus creating a
dictatorship so that they can run the town the way they see fit and make
sure nobody steps out of line through the use of fear.
Jim Rennie uses the second tactic,
because that's who he is. He rationalizes everything as God's will,
though it is very obvious that there is no way his acts could be God's
will. He has a superiority complex, probably a given because he sells
overpriced used cars and has swindled so many gullible people, and a bad
heart -in more ways than one.
A lot of people step up to be the bad
people in this story, and unfortunately, it's probably realistic that
this would be the case. I find it interesting that most of the thinkers
in this book are the women, while most of the men become bullies. Junior
Rennie (Jim's son) kills two young women in the first couple of chapters, and
sexually harasses them after their dead. Fortunately, we don't have to
witness that. He becomes the first new police officer, a complete bully
with a brain tumor, which causes him to be even more violent.
The balance between tenderness and
violence in this book is badly out of whack, which is probably normal
for a horror-novel writer, and leads to a quicker feeling that somebody
is about to drive the situation off a cliff. But after sitting through
the details of a brutal rape of a young woman by the new police officers
(some of Junior's friends), and very late in the book one of them
essentially masturbating against a clothed woman against her will, it would have been
nice to have details of lovemaking by people who were in love. The one
time people actually have sex, it's limited to kissing, getting ready to tear their
clothes off, and then there is a break, returning only in the morning.
Behind the scenes, Jim Rennie is
pulling all the strings. He organizes a riot at the main grocery store
in town, which justifies him hiring more thugs as police. He has his son
burn down the local newspaper, because the woman who runs it is printing
unpopular things about him. He actually kills two people on his own,
after they try to expose him. One of those is his pastor, the other the
wife of the former police chief (who died when his pacemaker exploded
against the Dome).
For Rennie, part of taking charge was
due to his need to run things his way. The other part was because he was
running a drug production plant, crystal meth, at the back of the church
radio station. This is a secret that he needs to cover up, and which
will eventually cause the destruction of the town, as he tries to
redistribute the propane he stole from all over the town to run the lab.
The author reduces the town population
through attrition. Hundreds die on Dome Day, as they crash into the dome
or have body parts severed. Only four are murdered, by Big Jim and his
son Junior. Others commit suicide (including the girl who was raped,
after finally killing one of the officers who raped her and the female
officer who cheered them on, which I suppose is also murder) as the
crisis drags on. I was completely surprised by the number of people who
were killed in the fire that swept through the town, like a college science
experiment except on a much larger scale. That fire, of course, used up
all the air, turning the atmosphere poison, which killed the rest of the
town. Under twenty people survived, from the original population of more
than two thousand.
The heroes of the novel, who do not
much more than survive, rather than saving the town, are Dale Barbara
(known as Barbie), Rusty Everett (physician's assistant who becomes town
doctor after the latter passes away) and Julia Shumway (editor of the
local paper). Barbie has only lived in the town for less than a year,
and the locals of his age (including Junior) don't like him, so they
gang up on him, and he beats them up before the book begins (he served in Iraq, after all, and
has a secret of his own that he's ashamed of, beating local Iraqis to
death). So he is on his way out of town as the Dome falls, and he ends
up just on the wrong side of it.
Barbara is liked by many of the good
guys, and hated by the bad guys, and there are plenty on both sides. He
is charged by the military outside the Dome with finding the its source
and taking charge of the situation. Barbara is able to get a Geiger
counter out of the emergency shelter under the town hall, but has
assessed the town's political situation, where there is no way he could
take charge. And when the military fails to breach the dome, Rennie uses
this to his advantage, too.
Eventually, when things have built up
enough, Barbara is arrested on the count of murder, and even the
normally smart-thinking people of the town believe the charges, because
Junior planted Barbara's dog-tags in one of the women's hands. It takes
a while for them to see the truth, that the evidence is just too
convenient, and it goes against Barbara's nature. But he's not from this
town, so the deck is stacked against him from the start. They do break
him out of jail, but it's a bloody affair, because Junior's brain tumor
has reached a critical point and he thinks everybody is conspiring
against him. So he kills some of the police guarding Barbara, and goes
after Barbara in his cell, on the same night the smart-thinking officers
are trying to get him out. Junior is shot in the back as they come down
into the cell area.
Junior and the two killed by Sammy
(the girl who had been raped) are the only ones who actually pay for
their crimes in this book. Sure, Rennie dies while being haunted by
ghosts and fleeing the shelter, only to breathe the poison air. But
nobody knows this, as he dies alone. The others who did terrible acts
die in the explosion and subsequent fire.
So what is the source of the fire? The
Chef, Sammy's estranged husband, cooks up the crystal meth, and has
become possessive about it, especially when Rennie tries to appropriate
some of the propane to redistribute to the town. So he and a deranged
Andy Sanders, who lost both his wife (to the dome in an airplane) and
daughter (to Junior, unknown to him) start smoking the stuff together,
and decide to defend the lab. When Rennie's men come and mortally wound
The Chef, he detonates some explosives he hid in the chemical
laboratory. The wildfire that ensues obliterates the town.
Fortunately, the adults in this book
didn't trust themselves to find the source of the Dome (for afterwards,
they were all in some sort of trouble, like jail). They handed the
Geiger counter over to teenager Joe McClatchey and his friends, Ben and Norrie.
It doesn't take them long to find the radiation ring that is a first
defense of the small alien generator. They hand the information over to
Joe's mom and Rusty, who goes out to the highest point in the town and
finds the thing. And it is alien. When the humans touch the thing, they
make mental contact with strange alien beings, who think them worthless,
and who are enjoying the struggle of the people trapped within.
Because the aliens turn out to be kids,
and the Dome is their version of putting ants under a magnifying glass
and watching them burn. After the fire, during which time Barbara
instructed the military to install huge fans just outside the dome
(because the kids all had premonitions of a big fire on Halloween), the
survivors are breathing the scant air that is coming through the Dome.
Julia decides that she should go beg to the alien kids to let them loose. And
she does, drawing on the memories that everyone has shared with her
about things they did which they felt was wrong, including Barbara's
time beating up Iraqis, and when Julia was beaten as a girl.
And so the Dome is removed, and at
least a few people from the town survive.
Of course, this small town almost
deserved to be wiped off the map, given the number of bullies, stupid
people and power-hungry maniacs who inhabited it! This includes the
person who was supposed to be in charge, Andy Sanders (who instead bows
to everything Rennie says), as well as the new police chief Randolph
(who probably doesn't have a brain and is merely a face for everything Rennie does), and many others.
Others make a multitude of stupid
mistakes, which I suppose are lessened by the fact that the author calls
them stupid mistakes as well. As a reader, though, they stand out as
things necessary for the plot to work, and can be called contrived. Yes,
people make mistakes, like Rusty forgetting to check Rennie's chart
after his heart attack, so his attempt at blackmail by withholding
medicine (which Rennie already received) only gets him beat up and put
in jail. Rennie has a grudge against Rusty because he can think by himself, and won't bow to Rennie without asking pertinent questions. When Andrea, third in line
for leadership of the town, finally kicks her drug habit, she drops her
gun by accident while trying to kill Rennie -oops. Brenda, widow of the former
police chief, makes a big mistake by going to see Rennie by herself,
against the express instructions of Barbara, giving the evidence of the
drug lab and money laundering to Andrea (who ends up dead, of course).
As already mentioned, Brenda ends up dead, too.
For the most part, though, people in
this town don't ask any questions, and are led along through the crisis
the way they've been led along by the corrupt city council for years.
This is fine for the most part, except that those who do think don't
actually get anywhere against the corrupt. The finale of the book is
more sedate, as the bad guys die amongst themselves and the good guys
I don't require an actual showdown, but
it might have been more satisfying to see the efforts of the good guys
pay off somehow, and not just in surviving, and having the bad guys pay
for their actions, maybe at the hands of the good guys or the law.
Still, the ending wasn't unsatisfying, because the good guys did survive
because of their brains, and the bad guys died either fighting amongst
themselves or haunted by their actions in the end.
The book didn't let up from beginning
to end, and it was a lot of fun, which is almost all I can ask for in a