Book Review – Under the Dome by Stephen King

Book Review – Under the Dome by Stephen King

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How I can finish this book, Under the Dome (1074 pages), before I can finish The Stand (1141 pages), when I started the Stand one year ago, and Under the Dome three weeks ago is beyond me, but it’s true.

Under the Dome reads like a season of 24. The book opens with a series of tragedies that initially befall the residents of the small Maine town of Chester’s Mill, and lopes along, downing one domino of tragedy after the other, until… Whammo! What happens? Well, you’ll have to read the book for that.

King populates this novel with many characters. So many, in fact, as a budding writer, I find it intimidating. I think the more I study writing, the more intimidated I get when I look at the minefield of cliche I must traverse in order to get to the inside of ONE character, much less twenty of them. King may not flush all the cliche from his population, but does he have to? In a town like Chester’s Mill? It’s believable that people would live by them. I wasn’t distracted by Big Jim’s H3, nor by Barbie’s military kick-ass a la Reese from the Terminator. The characters are fun. They fit the bill. They are reachable and understandable to everyone, and no one has to tread through a mound of rich metaphor to get the point. Sometimes that’s just what I need to read, and I am so happy King is there to provide.

The Plot involves a fun thought experiment. (I personally LOVE thought experiments like this) What would happen if … a large indestructible dome suddenly enclosed an entire town, completely separating it from the rest of the world in every way (except, for some odd reason, sound and radio-waves pass through it with no problem, and air and water can trickle through as well). The immediate issues are apparent:  Will the oxygen run out? Will the sky heat up? Will the pollution  start poisoning the populace? What about food? What about water? The more interesting questions become: how will the population deal with the crisis psychologically? Of course, this is a mini situation that sums up a much larger and real issue, as King infers in his interview about the book: We are trapped under the dome of our atmosphere… and we may go so far as to wipe ourselves out.

One thing I wanted to cover is what keeps me coming back to read more King. He has this way of layering his scenes such that the following scene begins a little before the previous scene ends in time. In this way, there is time overlap, so we get to see what was happening elsewhere while the previous scene was occurring, yet, we still ‘move ahead’ in time. It makes his stories feel like a musical canon. The more he writes, the better he gets at it, too. It is something I have always admired, and would like to weave some harmonic of it into my own writing. Of course, King is the master of leaving you hanging as well. He’ll end one segment just when you HAVE to know what happens next, then insert a new predicament in after it, just long enough to hold your interest before he moves back to handing over the information you were in dire straits to uncover previously. Sound complicated? Whoops, that’s just me. Anyway, it’s a page turner, for sure.

I give it a thumbs up, and can’t wait for his November short story release of Full Dark, No Stars.

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