Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Under the Dome
Of course, considering the vast number of characters Stephen King presents to us in Under the Dome, it's no wonder it comes in at a hefty 1,072 pages. In fact, I'm pretty sure there was little he could leave out. Still, it was daunting.
Under the Dome is, I think, a very real look at what would happen to the people in a small town if they were completely cut off from the rest of the world. At least, it's exactly what would happen if you had these types of people all in one town.
Okay, I'll be honest. I can't take this book seriously. There, I said it.
Maybe part of the problem is that I rarely read Stephen King novels. In fact, I think the only one I've ever read is The Green Mile (now that was a good book). I'm not a fan of scary things (unless it's Halloween) so I've generally veered far away from King's supernatural/dead/creepy clown fantasies. But the premise for Under the Dome really intrigued me (if not making me want to cry out "Simpson's did it!" every time I read the title). What would happen to a group of people if they were suddenly, inexplicably cut off? Well? Wouldn't you want to know?
So I waited for months for this tome to arrive at the library and then promptly rushed out to pick it up. I must say, I think my arms are more toned than ever. Then I dove right in.
And I quickly came to realize that this was not a book I could stay up all night to read. The tone is not something I can immerse myself in for long without becoming depressed. It's really no spoiler for me to tell you this, and I learned it within the first 50 pages: everyone dies.
Don't act so surprised. It's Stephen King, after all.
I can't give you much of a summery because it would give away too many important details, so let's move on to a more specific look at what I did and didn't like.
I liked how well some of the characters were developed. I will never forget the character of Big Jim Rennie, or his son Junior. If I'm lucky, they won't haunt my dreams. I also liked how much effort was put into getting things right: if a town was cut off from the rest of the world, how would that effect the seasons, the air, the water supply? I liked the psychological look at the toll this kind of phenomenon would take on human beings.
Having so many characters is good and bad for this novel. You need a long cast list to really get the feel for the town. But too many characters can leave a reader feeling overwhelmed, especially when some of them are named similarly. (Rennie, Rusty, and Rommie. Really, King?)
I did not like King's use of slang as a narrator. I was completely aware of how old he was. Also, as an English major, I cannot approve of his utter lack of apostrophes for words like hangin' or nothin' or anything else that would normally end in -ing. But that's minor.
**** If you have any intention of reading this book and haven't yet, do not read the next paragraph. It contains SPOILERS! ****
What really annoyed me was the explanation for the existence of the dome. Truthfully, I think the book would have been better if the explanation were organic or military or something, anything, other than aliens. It seemed too much like a deus ex machina. It was like King couldn't think of a real reason for the dome to exist, so he created children of an alien race playing with this small town in America. Come on. Really? And then, to top it all off, the only thing they had to do to get the dome removed was to wait until one of the children was alone and then beg for her to remove it because, dammit, there are people down here! Too bad they didn't think of that before thousands of people died and 500 pages ago.
**** Okay, spoilers are done. ****
All in all, this is an interesting read and, if you can get past the issues I had with it, you'll be in for a treat. But be forewarned (if you're a more-than-occasional King reader, you don't need the warning): this is a book you will need to take a breather from occasionally, not because of it's length (it's actually a pretty quick read, despite the size) but because of the totally and utterly depressing display of inhumanity. I really hope King was exaggerating when he depicted the descent into immorality, but I have a sneaking suspicion he wasn't. Let's hope we never have to find out.
2.5 out of 5 stars, because I really can't get over the reason for the Dome's existence.