Maine. Check. Strange doings. Check. Alien/demon presence. Check. Unlikely heroes. Check.
An early scene in King’s latest (Just After Sunset, 2008, etc.) takes us past Shawshank Prison, if only in the mind of a character—and there are dozens of characters, large and small, whose minds we enter. One of them, a leading citizen in the quiet town of Chester’s Mill, is crooked, conniving wheeler-dealer Big Jim Rennie, whose son, a specialist in taking wrong forks in the road, is the local terror but has apparently surrendered his power to awe to larger forces—in this case, the ones who have very gradually sealed off Chester’s Mill from the rest of the world. Why? It’s the kind of hamlet where a big night of fun involves driving with a six-pack and a shotgun, hardly the sort of place where the overlords seem likely to land. But these overlords, they’re a strange bunch: They walk among us, and they might even be us. King runs riot with players, including a newshound who numbers among his ordinary worries “the inexplicable decay of the town’s sewer system and waste treatment plant”; a curious chap named Sea Dogs; some weekend warriors; and the lyrically named Romeo Burpee, who “survived a childhood of merciless taunts…to become the richest man in town.” Evil is omnipresent here, but organized religion is suspect, useful only for those who would bleat, “The Dome is God’s will.” The woods are full of malevolent possibilities. Civic and military leaders are usually incompetent. And it’s the brave loner who has bothered to do a little research who saves everyone’s bacon. Or not.
It hardly matters that, after 1,000-plus pages, the yarn doesn’t quite add up. It’s vintage King: wonderfully written, good, creepy, old-school fun.