Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review of Stephen King's science fiction epic, Under the Dome

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished Under the Dome's 880 pages. What an epic, so much death and destruction, so many arseholes - King certainly enjoys writing about corrupt fools and the fools that follow them.

The novel starts with an invisible force field suddenly enclosing a small town. It traps the local cafe cook, Barbie, an ex-Iraq veteran, as he tries to flee small-town persecution. Barbie then has to deal with the local council, headed by car dealer Jim Rennie. Rennie also happens to be a major drug manufacturer and religious psycho. In real life he would be an ideal Tea Party Candidate. Unknown to Rennie, his son, Junior, is suffering major delusions and has embarked on a murder spree. Much mayhem results.

When I first started reading Under the Dome, I was struck by the distant third person it was written in, partly because I had recently read a lot of books written in first person. The distance that King stands back is a lot like watching a movie, and it did not allow me to really get to know the characters.

But what a cast of characters, it was huge. The story is told from about twenty different character's point of view, usually corrupt arseholes or the people resisting them. The fools that followed only had brief appearances as they were usually lead over cliffs. I can't help but think that King was commenting on the real world ignorance of the American electorate.

I found the novel sagged a bit in the middle. It was foreshadowed that the main character would end up in jail. I waited and waited for this to happen. Once he was in jail, other more interesting characters took over the telling of the story.

It took an awful long time to find out who made the dome and why, but that just added to the suspense - would Barbie and his mates be stopped by Rennie and his lackeys before they have a chance to get rid of the dome.

The novel posses an underlying question, are the novel's readers guilty of the same motivations as the creators of the Dome?

There is a reasonable resolution, but most of the fun is getting there.

Under the Dome is a very enjoyable science-fiction thriller that could make a great big budget mini-series.


Mozette said...

I purchased this book for myself a few years back - when it first came out on the market - however after 3 months of slogging through the plots, subplots and sub-subplots of who can be more evil than the next guy, I put it down just 3/4 through as I felt as though it wasn't taking me anywhere in particular.
On one hand it was a bit like 'The Stand' but on the other it was like a primary school mud-slinging match where the bullies were winning and the good guys were in jail having their faces rubbed in it. Kind of childish really.
I gave the book away this year to somebody in the UK; having to post it via sea mail due to the weight of it.

Anthony J Langford said...

I'm sure it will be a mini-series in no time.
Arent they now remaking The Stand as well?

As I may have mentioned to you, I was very frustrated when this came out as I wrote a two novel story called Oblivion City with similiar themes. I had a giant energy ring called The Rim, which encircles a city, trapping all the characters. I had finished them some time before this came out, but I couldn't get mine published. (sent to over 90 agents). I'm still trying but it frustrates me no end.
In mine the Rim is moving though. It's closing in. Shrinking. It's a giant ticking bomb story, which I think, adds a lot more suspense. As well as the dark character that makes King's books so interesting.

Still a fan of his, and have read many, but I may give this one a miss.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Mozette,

I reckon the "childish" element you mention comes partly from the way King stands back and does not really get into the minds, and therefore motivations, of the characters, with his very distant third person.

I did not expect any great comment or themes from King, just mayhem and fun. But halfway through, I was a bit like you, wondering if the story would pick up, especially when they would get back to finding out what caused the Dome.

There's no way I would have quit 3/4 of the way through a novel. Under the Dome did, as I said, have a reasonable conclusion. A conclusion that said very little about life, but was appropriate considering what had gone before in the story.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I had read the very interesting section of Oblivion City you put on your blog. Have you thought about Self-publishing it as an ebook?

Reading Under the Dome is a bit of a commitment with its 880 pages. I have read very few of King's books. In fact I think this is the only one of his "horror" novels that I have read. I did read an attempt of his at fantasy, where a guy weaved place-mats into a rope using a toy loom, which I wasn't that impressed with, but I did very much enjoy King's collection of four novellas in Different Seasons.