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Dome Comes Down! Ping Pontificates On King – Book Review

June 23rd, 2013 · Tags:Arts · Politics · Wi-Fi

During my first brush with entertainment writing in college, there was a joke that I was a “not-in-good-standing” member of the book of the month club. As entertainment editor, all of the major and some minor publishing houses sent me dozens and dozens and dozens of books to review for the college newspaper. Ha … I could barely get my assignments read, much less spend time reading books for fun. So, the books were lined up, end to end on the front of my desk, like a little Great Wall dividing my space from the reporter whose desk butted up against mine. It was the joke of the newsroom … about how “well unread I was” … “the world’s largest library of unread books” … stuff like that.

Well, now I have a little more time for such things, so I just knocked out a book that is about as thick as all those books together, the ones that formed the fortress on my desk. That’s 1072 pages in paperback …


Just in time for the network TV event, I have made Stephen King’s “Under The Dome” my little “rhymes with witch” … done. So, after all these years, my first book review … Stephen, you are my little squirming lab rat … prepare to be dissected in a most unsavory fashion. And starting Monday night, I get to play that game where I compare the TV show’s integrity, based on the book. I hope the TV show does well.


Under The Dome TV In NY Times


The TV series ads first caught my eye when I saw that a couple of actors from Breaking Bad are in the project.


The title refers to a mysterious dome that encapsulates a tiny town, making them a “snow globe,” “fishbowl,” or test tube for a study of man’s inhumanity to man, with some global warming mixed in. Trekkies might very well have called it a force field. Interesting. King started this work in 1976. He shelved it, and then finished it in 2009. He had to tweak little things like cell phone technology, drone missiles and references to George W. Bush.


Perhaps surprisingly, “Under The Dome” is my very first Stephen King novel and what a great place to start. Early in his career he was “type cast” as a horror author. So … just not my cup of tea. For years, a TV viewing of “Carrie” was my closest encounter with the prolific author (introducing Sissy Spacek). Years later I first enjoyed and then learned that two favorite films are based on King’s writing, the classic “Shawshank Redemption” and the magical “The Green Mile.” Incidentally, there are a few references to Shawshank — the prison, not the movie – in UTD.


And yes, for the Wi-Fi fans following along at home, this review also has a “high-tech” angle … The Dome is also my first eBook purchased for my iPad, downloaded through the magic that is Wi-Fi — all 2,500 pages in the digital format. (Previously I had given friends instructions to shoot me if they caught me reading from a Kindle instead of the printed word in a book. Ha … but I am using the iPad, so we’re good.) Before The Dome, the only digitized book I had read was The Good Book. Two opposite ends of the book spectrum, I assure you.


But don’t get me wrong. I loved The Dome (book). I am now kicking myself for not reading Stephen King before. Forget all the sci-fi, horror reputation. This guy is a poet, a teller of tall tales, a talented wordsmith, a detail freak, multi-faceted character developer … and the master of multiple story lines and wordplay … a writer’s writer.



Such a wonderful book … other recent reads paled horribly by comparison. But, as I gush unashamedly I am also saddened. Such a great writer … and so obviously lost. This book could be considered a great piece of literature – but it is so soiled by political bias. It oozes propaganda and political agenda at every turn. Is it this way with all SK novels? (I have already grown tired of the same by my favorites Irving and Conroy …)


A reader might conclude King’s philosophy is such — good, moral people are actually inherently evil and liberal people of dubious character are the only ones worthy of breathing the air of our dying planet.


I call horse shit.


After developing dozens of complex, multi-dimensional characters, King creates mere “cardboard cutouts” for characters to represent his misperceptions of Christians. Mr. King, step away from the TV the next time the bogus televangelists are begging for your money.

There are two pastors serving this KingDome –  a guy who mutilates himself out of guilt and a woman who doesn’t believe in God.

Find some real Christians. Go build houses and churches in Guatemala for impoverished children. Join in helping some Ethiopian orphans. Hang out with some Christians when you go through the sorrow of losing a loved one. I guarantee you will have a new understanding that will change every other novel you ever write. I digress …


The antagonist of the book, Big Jim Rennie prays with people, murders them and then praises God that they will be “eating roast beef and mashed potatoes in heaven with JEEEEE-sus.”


Another Christian goes insane in the troubled times under the dome and so his scripture quoted out of context is numerous and of course apocalyptic. He only becomes likable once he is out of his mind smoking meth while toting his automatic rifle. (These two “Christians” work together running a Christian radio station and laundering money from one of the largest meth kitchens in the country.)


And, Stephen being Stephen, he plays the macabre card. The Christian boss’s son, under the influence of a brain tumor, has “a little thang” with a couple of girls, after he murdered them.


Speaking of guns and gun control, Mr. King actually kind of vacillates back and forth in the plot. For the most part it is as simple as guns are bad. But in a passage or two, the author makes the point that guns in the hands of the citizenry is the only way to defend itself against an evil police state run amok. Bravo!


As for the politics … he only gushes a little about our current president and of course still takes pot shots at Republicans. He stopped short of blaming The Dome on Bush.


Here’s a great specific example of how King shoots himself in the foot. His credibility diminishes greatly because of bias trickling into the work. There is a section where the town’s vigilantes need to wear masks to disguise their identities. They could wear any number of ridiculous masks, but one chooses a likeness of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Really? Why do I have a problem with that? Do you really think it is believable that a department store in Smalltown USA has no Little Mermaid Halloween masks, yet it has a Cheney mask on the shelves. Pretty ridiculous. There are many more examples.



One thing Stephen and I can agree on — James McMurtry! I think SK would probably lick the Americana songwriter’s boots. He quotes McMurtry’s “Talking At The Texaco” over and over … through the magic of iPad and eBooks … lets just search it … 12 times. I have to wonder if the TV show will use the song on their soundtrack. It’s not even that good of a McMurtry song, but I guess the tale of a small town fits the plot better than the singer’s masterpiece “Choctaw Bingo” (even with the references to “cooking meth” in the lyrics). I digress.



(By the way … uncanny.  McMurtry’s lyrics in the video speak of Lake Texoma.  Pure coincidence … see previous blog here.)

I once saw McMurtry absolutely rock Dallas’ Sons of Hermann Hall — a German social club, but that’s another story … I digress. This was most interesting. I met two fairly attractive women at the show, who had travelled from Buffalo, NY to hear McMurtry play this small venue. They pretty much followed him everywhere. I thought they were certainly McMurt’s biggest fans. Not so, right Mr. K?





OH … there is also a funny misquoting of the late great Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” at the most inopportune time. Funny. Kudos King! “I’m the werewolf and I saw Lon Chaney dancing with the queen.”


At one point, I thought old Steve had a pro-life epiphany. As the character’s realize their predicament is the result of another being, they discuss the value of all life … “But still … if we found ants on Mars, or even microbes, we wouldn’t destroy them. Because life in the universe is such a precious commodity.”


Another observation — in addition to the fantastic attention to detail, there is endless brand awareness — Prius of course saves the day at the end. Mr. Coffee keeps ’em percolated. There’s Nikon cameras, also a Honda Odyssey, Amana refrigerator, International Harvester trucks, Rhino propane tanks, Fruit Loops, X-Box, Snow’s clam fryettes, the boss’s Hummer, every farm boy’s favorite Bag Balm, etc., etc. Surely these are not paid product placements as one sees in films. More likely, just King’s way to make the reader know exactly what he means.



The Dome is a great adventure on a small playing field. An ex-Army drifter is thrust in the role as the protagonist. He teams up with the town’s teenage Wi-Fi guy (not making this up) and a journalist to save the day. (Ha … the journalist is a Republican, so we are talking fiction here …) But wouldn’t you know it, Boss Hogg’s Christian police force sets fire to the newspaper and burns the mother to the ground. (Spoiler alert.)




Poetry … Ha … there is a line with all the alliteration of a classic poem … may not be able to find it, even with the iPad … but here is a gross one … but poetry all the same – “The engine of Velma’s light truck shoots backward and tears her in half. (Here comes the poetry.) Her upper body exits through the windshield, trailing intestines like party streamers.” Poetry, I say!


Lots of clever word play … neat ways of saying things in ways which most people never would have written. Ping likes this King – 6 pings. Let’s break bread sometime.


Know what I sayin?