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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME: A Review

         A couple weeks ago I was somewhat laid up with an extreme backache problem and a general sense of not feeling so well--highly unusual for me, but it happened.  I'd gotten of copy of Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME at the end of November but just could not set aside the time for this book then.  I mean, at well over one thousand pages this book is huge!  I'm not saying that lifting it caused my back problem, but it just seemed  to be too big to carry with me on my vacation.  Well, as fate would have it, my unfortuitous health circumstance seemed to provide the best opportunity to read King's latest book.

         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.



  1. I think King is an excellent writer, for all the reasons you mentioned, but the vulgarity, profanity and the making evil characters religious zealots always bothers me in his writing.

  2. I've never read Stephen King either. Too graphic for me. I assume he's a great writer, he must be! But I do tend to avoid profanity for profanity's sake.

  3. Have you read his -On Writing? His sense of humor stands out in it as well as great writing advice.

  4. I'll have to check this book out! I am with you I have never read a Stephen King book, only seen a few movies which I have liked, but this one does intrigue!

  5. King has his writing down to a SCIENCE. He really amazes me by his speed and creativity. I haven't read him in a while...I'll have to check out "Under the Dome"--thanks!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  6. I'm an original King fan. Then, his word-count began to grow...and grow. I didn't think the quality grew accordingly. In fact, saying less with more was how it struck me. Now, I see he's up to 1000 pages. That's too much book for me to carry, much less read. So, I'll pass on this one--too unmanageable. I, too, am a slow reader, so, gotta spend my time wisely.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  7. I was King fan from way back - The Stand, Misery, Gerald's Game were all well written novels with intriguing stories. But then I realized he must have reached the point in his career where he could say, "No, I don't want an editor, thank you." And the word counts rose, the paragraphs rambled on, etc. I did gain some insight in his "On Writing".

  8. I have never read a Stephen King book, but you have written an excellent write up. most informing and a pleasure to read.


  9. Thanks for the review...I've been a Stephen King fan for awhile and have hesitated to buy this book.

    While I think he is definitely a very gifted writer, I'm increasingly bothered by the vulgarity and profanity he feels the need to use so often. It distracts sometimes from the story and writing.

    I'm still on the fence as to whether I want to try this one out.

  10. Sounds like a Stephen King book to me!
    I actually prefer his shorter stories.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes. My only hint on age is I'm Gen-X.

  11. Hi Lee:)


    I hope you have recovered from your health problem. I have never read King's books although I have seen them prominently displayed in many book shops. I have not seen his movies also.

    From your description of his writing, he appears to be a good writer capable of gripping ones attenion. I somehow abhor to buy or read voluminous books. The only ones which I probably read are WAR AND PEACE and LES MISEERABLES.I have no patience. In fact there are many books lying around my house wanting to be read. I read a few pages and go to the next book. Bad habit,I suppose:)

    Hopefully, one of these days I will buy one of King's thinner books and read it:)

    Take care Lee:)

  12. Thanks to all for the comments. I thought I'd be the only one that had never read any King before, but I see I'm not alone and many of you share the same concerns I have about his writing.

    Teresa -- I have ON WRITING and SECRET WINDOWS but have yet to read them. I've heard they were really good books on writing.

    Galen -- I was intimidated by the 1000 page length, but believe me this is a fast, light read.

    L. Diane -- Hope you had a great birthday!

    Joseph -- Thank you, I have been feeling much better of late -- the backache is gone. Actually Stephen King has a thinner book called THINNER. I've never read it,but I saw the movie and I think I enjoyed it, but I don't really remember. I've heard the book is better.

  13. I just recently finished his non-fiction "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft"

    I recommend it. It is a bit graphic in language and situation, but no different than his fiction. I have read three of his fiction, 'Bag of Bones', 'The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon', and 'Hearts In Atlantis', a long time ago. I picked up the Under The Dome at the store the other day and read the first several pages. Unsure, it didn't really grab me. The non-fiction book did, I may read it again soon.

  14. esb-- ON WRITING is so oft recommended that I really need to read it. It's been sitting here on my bookshelf I haven't gotten around to it yet.
    By the way, been reading your quirky posts, but you don't have your site open for comments so I never tell you, but I enjoy the bizarrity.

  15. I think you hit it on the nose that all the characters are shallow. It works for King, obviously, but part of what kept me turning pages was the hope that there'd be more indepth of the few characters I cared about.

    I also get the feeling that Christians and Republicans are his go-to stereotypes for bad guys. I'm not all that political or religious, but it still grated on me.

    Good review!

  16. We should combine our reviews into one larger more inclusive review.
    Thanks for comparing.


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