At the Mercy of Children

SPOILER ALERT!

So I finally got around to reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome. (Yes, I know there was a TV mini-series, but I don’t think I’ll ever watch it.) In short, I liked the premise of the book and enjoyed the experience of rushing through it to see how Mr. King would wrap up all the craziness he’d created, but the ending was sort of a bummer.

Big Jim Rennie was probably one of the best King villains I’ve read about in a while. He’s your (stereo)typical slimy used car dealer, and to make matters worse, a hypocrite of the highest order. I wanted so badly for him to have a much more gruesome death than he actually did. Having him die alone haunted by the “ghosts” of the people he killed did not in any way justify the hell he unleashed upon the other characters, as if actually being under the dome wasn’t bad enough for them.

I didn’t like the idea of alien “leatherhead” children using the dome as a kind of experiment just to get their kicks, the same way that human children would burn ants under a magnifying glass.* Because the town of Chester’s Mill was basically a huge meth lab, I wanted the dome to be some kind of byproduct of all those chemicals. Wouldn’t that have been a positive anti-drug message? Yes, but that’s not what we got. Instead, we got a sermon on how we should treat ants and those smaller than us with respect because you never know: they might have quite complex lives after all, just like us. (I mean, it wasn’t a bad message, but it wasn’t quite big enough and loud enough to match the bigness and loudness of the book. I suppose it was too “literary” for mainstream horror/sci-fi.)

King also tried to be charitable toward Republicans by making one of the heroines a Republican journalist. However, he was not in the least charitable toward Christians, whom he often portrays as a bunch of mindless sheep who can be very cruel and unaware of how hypocritical they are acting. I find it somewhat unfair, but hey… everyone has their bias, right? King also uses his typical tactic of having a young kid save the day—or at least prove himself to be smarter than most of the adults. I like that trope of his because it is nice to see an underdog pull through and have a victory.

The best parts of the book were the fast pace and the interesting characters. There was literally never any downtime. It was one death right after another, and just when you thought the carnage would be over for a few pages, it started right back up again in the next paragraph, which of course made the book nearly impossible to put down. I kept comparing it to my favorite Stephen King book, Needful Things, mostly because it centered on the destruction of one small town and followed a multitude of raucous characters. However, Needful Things had the satisfying ending that Under the Dome did not.

I’d recommend Under the Dome if you want a big, juicy book to keep you turning the pages on a boring car ride or maybe on the beach. It’s so gory at times that you almost feel like a sick person for enjoying it so much… then you wonder about the author’s sanity.

*As much as I disliked the ending, it was incredibly accurate because when I was much younger, I used to pull the legs and wings off Japanese beetles, mostly because there were so darn many of them and they destroyed my mother’s rosebushes, so they were basically Public Enemy Number 1. At one point when I got a bit older, I realized that as gross and destructive as the bugs were, they were living creatures that felt pain and had lives, no matter how short and seemingly useless. When I realized that, I let all the Japanese beetles out from the glass jar where I kept them… under the dome. So I was one of those creepy leatherhead alien kids after all. So reassuring.

4 thoughts on “At the Mercy of Children

  1.     I couldn’t care less about King – who’s a hack, IMNSHO – ok, a GOOD hack – but it’s nice to know you’re still alive & writing. Kicking, too? Any kids on the way? How’s married life treating you? Etc.

    Best,  Rich

    PS – I’ll share w. you the reasons why lately I’ve been identifying with the biblical Job: in the last 5 weeks, the following has ensued:      discovered termites in the garage, which could substantially cost a zillion dollars and make our home problematic re: reselling in the future;      Diane’s car was stolen off the driveway by persons unknown, with 18 years’ worth of therapeutic equipment, some of it irreplaceable;     miscellaneous medical problems, including one which the doctor at first said I might need to do a brain MRI for (now he’s uncertain);     the water filter system we’ve been using suddenly and for no reason burst, causing a minor flood, and of course it’s out of warranty, so we had to get a new system;      one of our cats ran away (or was killed by a local fox?);     our Macbook crashed and it’s not only expensive but problematic to reinstall the data from the backup hard drive, and the word processing program (Pages) that came with it is no longer available for the OS it’s using;     since we were concerned about identity theft – Di’s pocketbook w. driver license, SS card, credit cards, etc., was in the car – we changed our bank account, and now her company is having problems redirecting her direct deposit;     a couple of raccoons ate through our deck screen and came into the house, to get at the cat food;      my psychologist said he heard on the news that Kia – the new car we got – has reportedly suddenly been bursting into flames (fortunately neither the year nor the model we bought).      I think there were a couple of other things – e.g., Diane lost her new car keys – but you get the drift, eh?! Want to share an option for the movie rights with my psychologist? Hmmm…soon to be a major motion picture…Netflix, maybe?!

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    1. Eh, Stephen King’s writing seems to have gone downhill over the years (or perhaps I’m getting more cynical), but I still enjoy it… and every now and then, he puts out a good one. Sorry to hear about all that misfortune. You are probably due for a round of good things after all this. Worst thing that happened to me recently was that the cable company decided to overcharge because they made a mistake in their billing system. My in-laws had it worse. It was one thing after another. Refrigerator broke, TV broke, car got hit in a parking lot by a teenage driver, A/C decided to stop working, the dog kept getting sick, and so on, but that all seems relatively minor compared to what you went through. There probably ought to be more movies about all the crap that goes on in the lives of ordinary people. I’m tired of all this superhero stuff. But I guess if we all looked like celebrities, we might get more positive attention. 🙂

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  2. I don’t remember being cruel to animals and bugs when I was a kid — though that could be a failure of memory — but the magnifying glass? I remember sitting in the back row in an elementary school class (I guess we weren’t seated alphabetically) trying to surreptitiously use a magnifying glass and the bright sunshine to light the (light brown, as I recall) hair of the boy in front of me on fire. I don’t think I succeeded. This was a popular activity at the time, and the teachers were all on the alert for it.

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    1. I don’t remember doing that in elementary school. I know there were several kids who used to turn their eyelids inside out, and that was gruesome enough for me. 🙂

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