Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Prison Dome: Survive or Die Trying by Warren Wagner

The Prison Dome: Survive or Die TryingThe Prison Dome: Survive or Die Trying by Warren Wagner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read this book; it was so good!

Chuck Berger was a great guy: likable and easy to get along with. But during his time as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, he missed being killed along with his best friends and tent-mates because he'd been out playing poker. His friends died alone when a bomb destroyed their tent, and Chuck has carried the weight of guilt, survivor's guilt, on his shoulders ever since. Out of the Army and back home in the states, Chuck was a changed man, and when he caught his wife in bed with another man, he snapped, killing them both in a moment of rage and black-out. For his crime, he was sentenced to three years inside "The Dome:" a wilderness prison that once was part of South Dakota but now enclosed by an invisible, impenetrable barrier that keeps whatever was inside in and whatever was outside out. Three years didn't seem like much, except no one had ever come out of "The Dome" after their sentence was up…ever.

Such a good story! I was immediately engaged by the plot, the characters, and the wilderness setting, and now I’m fervently hoping there will be a sequel.

Chuck Berger was an unlikely hero. He’s a convicted criminal, a multiple murderer, but even before he went inside “The Dome,” he had become a very sympathetic character. The reader is told that Chuck is a nice guy, and he really is, and he’s also very troubled by survivor guilt.

The denizens and setup of the community he encounters upon his arrival in “The Dome” seemed pretty normal at first. But like Chuck, I could feel that something was just “off” about the whole thing. Their means of waylaying new arrivals to the wilderness prison was extreme yet clever. The author did a fabulous job setting things up to reveal the true nature of the group (and the prison), including the fictionalized portrayals of how things were inside “The Dome” by social media and the entertainment industry of Chuck’s former life.

This is a tale of a dystopian society existing in a wilderness that was once South Dakota. I especially enjoyed the author’s inclusion of nature and woodcraft (I.e., knowledge of the woods, camping, and other outdoor pursuits) throughout the story. I also liked the workarounds for the lack of tools and technology: a couple of interesting MacGyver-ish moments.

I want to note that none of the above slowed the story down one little bit. It enhanced a plot that was exciting and truly action-packed. There is never a dull moment as Chuck overcomes everything that comes his way using the skills he has acquired as a former Army Ranger: realistic, believable skills.

The tension between characters is present every second of the story. There is absolutely no trust anywhere. It really kept the characters off-balance and uneasy, and I felt the same way, too - always wondering about everyone's motives and true agendas.

Another thing I liked is the author had his characters reason through their problems with each other on occasion. The reader can follow their logic and ultimate decision-making as the characters move from problem to solution to implementation. This made the characters seem more human, like regular people you could identify with and get behind. The story made sense.

I recommend The Prison Dome for readers of action-adventure stories and those who enjoy tales of dystopian communities. I’m so delighted I picked up this book and look forward to more from this author.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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