Written By Stephen King
It’s very popular to hate on Stephen King for some reason. I’ve never understood why, because he’s a really solid writer. Most often other writers hate on him and it comes off like jealousy due to his popularity. King has an amazing ability for developing characters and dramatic cliffhanger moments that require further reading all the way to the end of the book. He does have his formulas that he has used since the beginning of his career and that’ll get discussed later in the review. Suffice it to say, that my Grandmother uses the same recipe every time she makes a banana pudding and I absolutely love it so I never want her to change it.
Have you ever read Stephen King’s The Stand or even seen the miniseries? If so, then this book will feel very familiar to you. While this story is focused on one town rather than potential global destruction, the set up for this story is similar to that of The Stand in that there is a huge cast. All of the members of the cast have their own dramas but in the end, there will be groups that need to find a way to survive the situation while also opposing each other. Components of the cast are also familiar. The most familiar element of the cast for readers of The Stand is the crazy guy. There’s one in both books but overall I have to say that the one in Under the Dome is more entertaining and creepy. Oh, this book is a brick,very similar to the The Stand was at over 1,000 pages. That part of it isn’t really an issue for me as I read the book via audio book. Yes, it is still reading!
The back of the book plot description involves a small town suddenly being covered by a giant invisible dome. If the story feels more science fiction than horror, your feeling is correct but don’t be discouraged because there’s plenty of classic Stephen King style gore and suspense to keep you riveted to the book. This small town, like any other, is layered with tons of drama but now because of the dome, some elements are forced to the surface that would normally have just been kept to the shadows. Stephen King may be getting to be an older guy but this book, and the stories of these characters, is proof positive that he hasn’t lost his edge. Some stuff happens to these characters that is truly wince inducing.
I’m a huge fan of social and political commentary in film and television,so I appreciate a lot of what this book has to say about the human condition. The book is much more of a success with the social commentary than it is with the politics. King seems to feel a need to make a statement about the political environment in which we lived during the time he was writing this book which was from 2007 to 2009. You may have heard that he started this book in the 70’s but the truth is that he only had about 75 pages of the book written in the 70’s and he admits that he actually lost those pages and had to restart the book from scratch in 2007 with only the memories of one of the characters from the first several pages of the book. The politics don’t play into the story as cleverly as Stephen King is normally capable of especially compared to how well the social commentary is built into this book.
For a book of a 1,000 pages, this one moves along at a break neck pace. Characters all get their due amount of development and complexity but it all happens within riveting events that keep learning about the characters from bogging the story down. The characters have so many layers that they feel like real people not just caricatures of stereotypical figures found in similar stories. Have you ever read a book and saw certain actors as the characters in the book? That won’t happen in this book. Instead you’ll see THESE PEOPLE, not some actor playing them. One of the beautiful things about taking this book in as an audio experience is that the reader understands the need for dramatic pause. King is at his best when he’s building these characters from what at first appears to be mundane daily life. Then quietly he ends the development with a shocker of a line that will drastically change that character at some point later in the book. Those moments are when the hairs creep up on the back of your neck and you ahve to stop for a minute and catch your breath. In the audio the reader pauses for just a second or two when these sequences come making them all the more dramatic.
At first the dome may feel like something from pulp science fiction books or comic books and while it is that ,King manages to use enough real world situations and effects of the dome to ground it in such a way that it feels completely real within very few pages of the book. A situation like this brings out the very best in people and the very worst in them and it all plays out in some extremely horrific ways in this story. There are a few moments of humor to provide a break from the action but those moments are few and far between. These characters all have stories to tell for better or for worse. Speaking on the social commentary, the finality of the story doesn’t come off preachy at all. Instead it offers up those stellar moving Stephen King moments and culminates with was simple truth, something so simple and brilliant that it requires a moment of thought after closing the book. I enjoyed Cell and Duma Key ,but this book is King’s new conversation piece. I’d love to go in depth and discuss some of the major thematic elements and even the smaller moments that have huge impact by the end of the book and maybe I’ll do that in a future article after everyone has had an opportunity to read the book.
Under the Dome is dramatic, suspenseful, scary, and funny. King is as good as he’s ever been without a doubt. He needed to make a political statement here and it’s the only failing of the book. Fortunately, that statement is an extremely tiny part of this enormous and amazing book. There are plenty of people out there who love to hate on King and say he’s lost his touch. I feel for those people because they are missing out on something great. Spielberg has already optioned the book and wants to shoot a film. I hope he doesn’t screw it up.