Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME: A Review
Believe it or not, I had never read a Stephen King book until this one, even though I have several of them sitting around the house. I've seen several movies based on his books and have enjoyed nearly all of them. I knew from his reputation that he must be a passable writer to have gotten as much attention as he has received over the years. Now that I have read DOME, I will attest the Stephen is the King--at least of this kind of writing.
The premise of the story is that a huge impenetrable transparent dome has settled upon the Maine community of Chester's Mill and surrounding area. People on the outside of the dome can see in and people inside the dome can see out, but otherwise no one can move between the two realms. The people of Chester's Mill are trapped and physically cut off from the outside world. The story takes place over a span of about a week or so as we see how the lives of these trapped citizens are affected.
The setting is well drawn out right down to a map of the town in the front pages of the book. The cast of characters is extensive. The characters are drawn believably, though they are stereotypical and shallow. In fact they are much like the characters of a movie or a TV mini-series--hmm! Should this surprise anyone? For the most part the characters were people that I did not particularly like, but I was intrigued about their situation and how they dealt with it.
The story is well paced and interesting. The chapters are very short. The dialogue is natural and flows easily. I am normally a very slow reader, but I was amazed how the book was not only a fast read for me, but also very easy to follow and retain. I never had to go back to reread anything because every page flowed smoothly to the next. Every detail was depicted vividly and the reading experience was highly cinematic for me. I think this is masterful writing and I can easily understand King's popularity among readers and why so many of his books have been made into films. King is a master of pop-shock-shclock, taking it into the realm of highly readable literature.
This does not make DOME great literature. I liked the book and it will stay with me for a long time, but reading it did not really enlighten me or change me in any way. It was just grippingly good entertainment. Much of the book is very topical and makes reference to current events and people. King was right on top of things when it came to writing a book that will feel really fresh for the next few years. I don't think it will have staying power in decades to come.
I was also disturbed by some of the crassness and profanity. There is some pretty disgusting stuff said and portrayed in these pages. In other words, this one is definitely not for kids--adults only! In all fairness, the story portrays some pretty disgusting people and the language and actions suit these characters. Also another thing that perturbed me in this book was how the worst villain was labeled as a Christian and some of the worst activity of the town was related to so-called Christians. I'm not saying that wacko people who relate themselves to Christianity don't exist in the world, I just thought it was played a little heavy-handed in this book, but King did make it work effectively in the context of the story he created.
If you are very offended by bad language and immoral behavior, I would recommend that you avoid this book. However, if you can get past that aspect and enjoy good story telling then you might like UNDER THE DOME. Hard core science fiction buffs might scoff at the resolution of the story, but overall I think King was pretty meticulous in dealing with many of the scientific problems arising from the circumstances of the dome's presence. Also, other details of the events in the book seemed to be pretty well researched. All in all, UNDER THE DOME is worth the money and time if you are merely looking for light entertainment that is well written.