Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: Under the Dome

Under the Dome, Stephen King

Scribner Hardcover, 2009
ISBN: 9781439148501
1,088 pages

In 1978, King wrote the 823-page The Stand, an epic tale of Good versus Evil. Jump ahead thirty- one years to 2009. Feed Steve a large helping of mental methamphetamine, and the result is Under the Dome, an epic tale of Good versus Evil where, for 1,073 pages, the action never stops.

Other than the theme, The Stand and Under the Dome have little in common. The former was post-apocalyptic, while the latter takes place in the now. In the former, King was still honing his writing skills (he re-worked it in 1990); in the latter, he pulls out his full bag of tricks and uses them profusely. Steve has ramped up the profanity, the gore, and he almost writes his first-ever coitus scene—backing off to the usual authorly cliche, “Afterwards . . .”

The story takes place in Chester’s Mill, a picture-postcard town of 2,000 in where-else-but-Maine. On a lovely autumn morning, an inexplicable and impenetrable dome literally falls over the town, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the world. The dome is transparent and a curiosity to the residents—until, that is, they witness the carnage wrought on the humans and wildlife attempting to enter town from the other side. Fear sets in quickly. Is it aliens? Is it a secret sect of sick scientists? Even worse (and the most night- marish), is it a government experiment?

It might be all or none of these things, but the dome has effectively set up Chester’s Mill as a captive laboratory for observing human nature. Let the games begin, the Great Battle of Good versus Evil.

Since this huge book takes place over just seven days, the action is frenetic. With the dome as catalyst, the bad guys use it to their advantage to take control of the town; the good guys, meanwhile, have to stop a takeover from hap- pening and solve the dome problem as well. At any point in the book there are a dozen things going on, going wrong, or in the midst of going. Add King’s frequent foreshadowing of dire events yet to come and the reader is hard-pressed to get off the rollercoaster.

Unlike many reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere, I refuse to write anything specific about the dome or the characters. Under the Dome should be as fresh and surprising to you as it was to me. I can make some general comments, however.

Is this classic Stephen King? For the most part, yes. He writes to entertain, and Dome is pure entertainment. As always, his characterizations are superb. For fun, he drops in references to Seventies and Eighties culture and some of his other books, many of which younger readers will miss. What is not classic is his over-the-top gore factor and his use of book-as-soapbox: he takes several swipes at Bush, Palin, and whoever else angers him at the moment. For those so inclined, be warned that he treats Christianity very badly throughout the book.

I liked this book and give it a thumbs up. I recommend it to diehard King fans only; it is definitely not a Stephen King primer.

[Please remember that this review is my opinion only—your results may vary.]


Ponita in Real Life said...

Will have to give this one a try... one day... when I have time to read... I've always liked Stephen King. Thanks!

Wandering Coyote said...

I hate Stephen King.

savannah said...

i remember reading the stand and LOVING his style, but somehow, we parted ways. i'll have to check this one out, sugar! thanks for the recommendation. xooxoo

Attila The Mom said...

I've been rather disappointed in his last few efforts. But since I'm a diehard fan, I'll prolly end up with this one on the list.

Thanks for the review, Charlie!

TechnoBabe said...

The Stand is one of my favorite books but I also have in that list Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. My hubby just read Under The Dome and I will be reading it soon. I think you did a great job with this review. And I appreciate you did keep it at a place where those of us who will be reading it will be reading it fresh and not will all the info to see it through a reviewers eyes.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I haven't read any Stephen King for decades, but am just curious enough to consider this one.

Pat said...

I'm picking up on your enthusiasm and think its time I tried his fiction. I've just ordered 'Blood and Sand' - not the classic by Vicente Blasco Ibanez whicn no-one seems to have heard of these days but an account of the experiences of a BBC reporter in the Middle East - and that's my ration for the week.
BTW I don't think a true believer will be affected by his opinion. IMO:)

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Since I am not a die hard Stephen King fan I guess this is not for me.
I have read one of his books and I will be darned if I can remember which one it was.

Regardless I am sure I would love his stab at Palin, Bush, and Christianity.

Great review Charlie as usual!

Cathy said...

I was a diehard King fan when he first started, but then it seemed as though he was cranking them out on a conveyor belt. I left him alone for about 20 years, and now I've read his last 3 or 4 books and enjoyed them. I've just begun Under the Dome, and it is very like climbing aboard a rollercoaster. Problem is... I don't think anyone let me strap in before it took off. YaHOOOOOO!

happykat said...

Having just read Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants and now reading The Devil's Punchbowl, I think this might be a nice change of pace.

Thank you for the recommendation.

Oh, and hi!

kara said...

i think he stole that from The Simpsons movie.

Meg said...

Sounds like a good one. I was waiting to catch your review of this one before I went out and bought it. I'm making my way through the mind-blowing Dark Tower series right now. I have yet to read The Stand but I've read just about everything else of his.