Category Archives: science fiction
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Now that I’ve finally read through Under the Dome, I feel I can say with all honesty that I’m in the best shape of my life. Why? Because reading the hardcover edition of this book was a workout. Nearly 1,100 pages added up to be not only an epic read, but a hefty dumbbell by which to exercise.
And that sums up my primary complaint about this novel: it’s too long.
I understand how crafting a story with dozens of characters requires a fair amount of space in order to establish them in such a way that they feel reasonably genuine and sympathetic. But, let’s be honest, the events of the novel do not carry over a great passage of time–and the events depicted in the novel are at times drawn out to an interminable level. I’m not likely to be accused anytime soon of being an editor, but despite the purported cutting down of this book from an even greater length to its existing size, I think there is plenty of fluff left in the novel to whittle it down to a healthy–and relatively trim–eight hundred pages. I can think of a couple of superfluous scenes involving the points of view of animals which would not be missed.
As for the story, it’s an interesting one that’s for sure. On an uneventful October morning, the bucolic little Maine town of Chester Mills is unceremoniously trapped within an invisible forcefield. Not even the water from the brooks can penetrate the barrier beyond a miniscule trickle. The town essentially becomes the world’s largest snowglobe.
Trapped inside is Dale Barbara, a retired soldier and vagabond hash slinger, looking to vacate the town after a violent altercation with Junior Rennie and a few others. Barbie doesn’t want to hang around since Junior’s dad is on the town council and is the unofficial mayor, and that’s a headache Barbie can do without. Unfortunately for him, he reaches the outskirts of town just in time to see birds, a woodchuck, and even a small-engine plane crash into the newly formed barrier.
From there, civilization breaks down in record time. And that might be the other issue I have with this novel. With an event so extraordinary as an invisible forcefield, I would have expected a more mundane setting to greet it within its walls. You know, put plain folks in the situation and see how things play out. What Kind does, however, is introduce a sensational villain into the mix who defies belief–Junior Rennie’s father, Big Jim. Where nearly everyone in Chester Mills feels pretty regular and believable, Big Jim comes off as a nearly cartoonish antagonist. And if there are enough Big Jims in America to count him as regular too, then I weep for that nation.
The novel is by no means a bad book. All things considered it’s a good read with some inventive twists and turns. It is a novel that requires an investment of time and of patience, though. As a Stephen King, I am left mildly disappointed. Not because I foolishly compared this novel to The Stand, but because King has–in my opinion at any rate–a recent string of very good stories that make up a second win to his longstanding career. And King is at his best when he’s longstanding rather than longwinded.
“The Stand-Ins,” my latest short story to find its way into publication is now available through Pill Hill Press and the new sci-fi anthology, Zero Gravity: Adventures in Deep Space, edited by Alva J. Roberts. Here’s the write-up straight from their site:
This thrilling collection features thirteen fantastic adventures set in the cold vacuum of space. Read about rogues, scoundrels, aliens, robots, heroes, junkers and priests as you explore the rich and creative diversity of the following stories:
- “Junker’s Fancy” By Rosemary Jones
- “Leech Run” By Scott W. Baker
- “A Space Romance” By Paul A. Freeman
- “Hawking’s Caution” By Mark Rivett
- “Parhelion” By David Schembri
- “To Stand Among Kings” By Kenneth Mark Hoover
- “The Unicorn Tree” By Alethea Kontis
- “The Beacon of Hope” By Gregory L Norris
- “Tangwen’s Last Heist” By C.B. Calsing
- “The Stand-Ins” By Gef Fox
- “Glacier Castle” By Will Morton
- “Rescue” By Margaret Karmazin
- “At One Stride Comes the Dark” By Murray Leeder
I’m pleased to see my first science-fiction story in print, and I’m very much looking forward to reading everyone else’s stories. From what I’ve heard about the other stories, it should prove to be a widely varied colletion of interstellar tales.
I may do another Book Vs. Movie with Matheson’s classic going up against Charleton Heston in The Omega Man, but for now I’m going with the most recent adaptation with Will Smith in the lead role.
Richard Matheson has does it all in the writing world–western, sci-fi, horror–and the guy garners acclaim no matter what the genre. And one of his most iconic stories is I Am Legend, about the last man standing in a city, in a world really, that has fallen to a menace of mankind’s making.
This is one of my favorite novels, though I think it may technically be a novella because it’s less than 200 pages. So when Will Smith assumed the role and I had a chance to finally sit down and watch the movie, I was like many in that I had some skepticism held towards how good it would be. I’d heard Smith and others involved with the film say that it stayed truer to the book than The Omega Man, but that still left a lot of breathing room.
The protagonist is essentially the same, with Neville (played by Will Smith) living in a devastated and isolated New York City as he seeks to cure the disease that turned so many people into monsters. In the film, the monsters are revealed fairly early to be humans turned rabid and nocturnal. They exist primarily as instinctual creatures that feed on any human unfortunate enough to cross their path. Oh, and dogs are infected too. In the book, the monsters are of a different variety. They’re violent and also bloodthirsty, but there’s an intelligence about them, as one in particular taunts Neville each night to come out of his house-turned-fortress.
In the book, Neville is fairly composed, though there is the sadness for everything he’s lost and that fear he may ultimately fail. In the movie, the writers went one step further–or Smith did in ad-libbing–by making Neville a tad crazier thanks to the isolation, as he carries on conversations with mannequins he’s set up in his neighborhood, even hitting on one at the behest of his German shepherd. Yup, you read that right.
The climax of the movie starts off similar to the book, as a couple of characters are introduced and protected by Neville. But when the shit hits the fan, the movie takes a much different path from the book. I could easily dismiss the movie for this use of creative license, but I thought the movie’s ending worked as well as the one in the book. And when you consider the rest of creative license used throughout the movie, they basically had no choice but to come up with a different ending.
Winner: The Book. If you’ve seen the movie, read the book if for no other reason than to get a totally different experience. If you’ve read the book, but haven’t seen the movie, I’d say you should still give it a chance. Just keep in mind that it’s not exactly as Matheson originally envisioned it. I really do like the movie, but Will Smith’s performance was just too quirky and distracting to make me care about him. With the book at least, I was rooting for Neville the whole way through.