Sunday, January 17, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King

There was a tremendous hollow clang from behind him, followed by the boom of a secondary explosion, followed by the blast of heat that struck him from heels to nape. It shoved him on his way like a warm hand. Then all thoughts blew away and there was nothing but the body's brute need to survive.

Dale Barbara ran for his life.

Under the Dome
is the story of a small town in Maine (go figure, King fans) called Chester's Mill. Chester's Mill operates like any other small town: You've got your hospital, your police force, your school, your local government, etc. There's small-town gossip and romance and politics and strife. But everythinglez changes when one day a transparent, impervious, indestructible barrier encloses the exact borders of Chester's Mill. Completely cut off from the rest of civilization, the town is forced to fend for itself. In the chaos that follows Dome Day, local government becomes supreme government and human nature takes over. It's only days, not weeks or months, before blood is shed in order to protect that new government and its demagogic leader, Jim Rennie.

I really enjoyed Under the Dome. It's pretty much standard Stephen King fare but I certainly don't consider that to be a bad thing. I like King a lot... In most aspects. The guy is brilliant at coming up with fantastic, interesting premises. His endings... I don't love so much. You can always count on King to bail himself out of an intricate, compelling plot with some kind of harebrained supernatural twist. In some of his books it works, in some it doesn't. I think, in the case of Under the Dome, the ending fit the book.

Under the Dome has a humongous cast of characters. As a result, the town of Chester's Mill (population: 2,000) really comes to life and by the end of the book you feel like you've been there. One of my favorite things about King's writing is his characterization. His characters are always very fleshed out and behave realistically. With King, you can always count on intelligent characters to behave like intelligent people. King's characters always find themselves in extraordinary circumstances but they always react to those circumstances in ways that I feel I can relate to. I also love King's antagonists. Under the Dome did not disappoint in this category. Jim Rennie Senior and Junior were expertly crafted. Both evil but in different ways.

All in all, I recommend Under the Dome to anyone who isn't put off by a 1,100 page novel. I can attest that it reads more like its 500 pages or so. The story is a bit derivative, we've all read novels about how people devolve into animals if you separate them from society and turn them against each other. But we've never heard Stephen King tell that story and I'm glad I finally got to. King understands how to write an exciting story, its as simple as that. The guy writes like a novel a month, so it might be easy for this one to disappear in the fold (being in Africa, I have no idea if this book has been hyped at all). If you're a Stephen King fan, make sure not to pass this one up.

Highlights: The Chef is one of my all-time favorite characters
Lowlights: I was hoping for just a little bit more from the ending


Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

King can be so hit and miss with me. His endings often fall short for me though and I would hope after 1,000 pages there would be a worthwhile pay off. However this does sound pretty interesting, thanks for the review!

Nihil Novum said...

I'm just about through this book. It definitely reads more like a 500-600 pp novel.

billy said...

i'm glad you gave this a good review. i used to love stephen king and would like to reignite the passion. fun fact: my stepmom was friends with his (then future) wife tabitha when she was at u maine. one time they both got the measles or something and had to spend a few days at student health, and stephen would sneak them pizza. lee said he's a totally creepy guy in real life, too.

Awaris said...

I just finished Under the Dome (and reviewd it myself on my blog, but it's in Czech, so..) and really loved it. There was a stage when King books were quite disappointing for me, like Cell or the highway thing, but already with Duma Key and Lisey's Story, the King I love came back. But Under the Dome... excellent. I thought the ending was the only thing that didn't fit, though. This is a great thriller that could do without the alien/morality thing at the end.