Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stephen King's "Under The Dome": A Mid-Season Perspective

Stephen King has a way of peeling the veneer away from both civilization and the people that comprise it.  Most of his literary worlds are very dark, but they are always enlightening.

Under The Dome takes yet another look at what happens when people are given a chance to be themselves. Societal structures keep our collective evil in check; what happens when we are released from the obligation to conform to the moral expectations of those around us? Though the current series is not as good as the book (published in 2009), King's stories are good enough to translate onto the screen, and the series is crushing the summer competition.

"Wealth was the short beer of existence. Power was champagne."

When the mysterious dome descends, it does more than cover the town. It uncovers the true nature of the people trapped within its transparent and indestructible parameters. A love-struck boy kidnaps and imprisons his girlfriend;  a businessman publicly becomes the monster he was privately; a preacher's duplicitous life comes to life; a policewoman's nobility and courage shine.

"A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men."

As the crisis escalates, the trajectory of people's lives do as well. Those inclined to evil find it increasingly hard to maintain a semblance of normalcy; those inclined toward good find they need to fight more and harder battles. It's not always easy to tell for whom we should cheer, but we certainly know what we hope will happen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

"Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't."

In an attempt to better understand the entertainment shaping my kids and the rest of today's youth, I submit my latest review of books impacting a YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers' worldview. 

This review will look at The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the latest from best-selling author Neil Gaiman. The film rights were optioned even before the book's publication date, with no less a name than Tom Hanks attached to the project.

When the unnamed narrator was a child, a monster began to haunt his town when someone with an unfortunate request released it from its prison:
"Something came to me and pleaded for love and help. It told me how I could make all the things like it happy. That they are simple creatures, and all any of them want is money, just money, and nothing more..." 
But, as Chesterton said, happiness is a hard taskmaster, and there is always something more. When the narrator wakes up with a coin in his throat, he goes to the family of Lettie, a mysteriously ancient girl who claims the pond in her backyard is an ocean. Lettie allows the narrator to accompany when she binds the creature provided he does not let go of her hand. He lets go, of course, and becomes the conduit through which the monster can now readily access the world. That's not good. As Ginnie Hempstock notes, "It's a dangerous thing to be a door."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Here Comes the Bloom: A Review of Aprilynne Pike's "Wings"

“Every little girl wishes she was actually a princess or a faerie or a mermaid or something. Especially girls who don’t know who their real mothers are.”
As a faerie embedded in the human world when she was just a baby, Laurel lives unobtrusively among her friends and with her adoptive parents. Then one day she begins to bloom – did I mention she’s a plant, a type of faerie, and she didn’t know it?

She tries to hide her wing-like flowers, but they are part of who she is. As they open, so does reality. She discovers a formerly hidden world around her filled with other faeries, trolls who want to kill her, gorgeous mythic warriors who like her, and a reality that defies explanation.  

Her boyfriend David’s a great guy, but he soon discovers a reality about Laurel that may be a problem: she has no pulse. Even worse, she has not heart. And the trolls are coming after him too.