Under The Dome by Stephen King
Call me crazy but I have just finished reading Under the Dome by Stephen King… for the third time. I am a serial re-reader, especially when it comes to King. If you follow my blog or know me then you’ll already know that I am a huge Stephen King fan, so I won’t go into my love of all things King too much. However, I do think that Under the Dome is particularly good and could be a great starting point for new Stephen King readers. I say could be because it is pretty big, my hardback is a pretty hefty tome and is 886 pages long. Don’t let this put you off though, it moves at a quick pace, never letting off from the very first couple of pages.
The reason that I started to read Under the Dome again was because of the television series starting (and ending) recently. I watched the first episode of the series and just could not resist the urge to revisit Chester’s Mill and its occupants again. I also knew that if I needed to interrupt reading the book to read something else for book group (which I did) it wouldn’t be a problem and would easily pick up where I left off. I can’t claim that I had forgotten everything that happened in the book from my two previous readings, but I certainly didn’t remember everything that did happen. I had forgotten how quickly and at what pace the book starts with and then continues, I had forgotten certain scenes and in some cases characters within the book; I hadn’t forgotten how much I enjoyed the sprawling story and the plethora of characters that hold this book together.
The book opens with a giant, indestructible dome mysteriously appearing around the small American town of Chester’s Mill. It cuts the town off from the outside world completely although communication with those outside of the dome is not impossible. People can talk to each other from each side of the dome, mobile phones work within the dome, and the townspeople have still have access to television and the internet. This is key to the novel as it progresses because of the various interactions those under the dome have with the rest of the world. Although the premise is quite absurd, the reader is completely sold to the idea from the off. Life continues under the dome, people deal with the crises and pull together; however, as in many of King’s other novels the action swiftly descends into a madness that is so compelling to read. Before you have a chance to question anything that is happening, you’re hooked.
Despite the length of the novel and wide range of characters, King holds the story together quite tightly; he concentrates on a few main characters and has them interact with the other residents of Chester’s Mill. King has a selection of ‘goodies’ led by Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara, and to counteract these characters he has his ‘baddies’, and they’re really bad. ‘Big’ Jim Rennie is a caricature of a ‘baddie’, so over the top he belongs in a comic book, but he is completely at home in the novel. These people are well written, their traits and backgrounds developed over the course of the story. The good guys are flawed and you really want them to be ok. Not everyone is going to be ok though, it’s a Stephen King novel, and when you’re reading it you can never be quite sure how it’s going to all turn out. The other key feature to the book that keeps it tight, is the time frame – set over about a week you are with the town residents the whole time under the dome, it seems that you barely miss a minute.
I’m not going to go any further into the book; I’d like to think that people will find out for themselves how good it is. Many members of book group have read ‘The Dome’ and although not hard core King fans have loved it. I would urge you to give it a shot, it’s very enjoyable and worth the time you put in. Most people I know that have read it said that they loved it and didn’t want it to finish despite its page count. I really like it, I don’t think it is his best novel but it is definitely one of his most enjoyable. I will no doubt re-visit Chester’s Mill again in years to come as I have with most of King’s novels and I am also sure that I will enjoy it again.
Now, on to Doctor Sleep…
If you have read Under the Dome and enjoyed it there are some other Stephen King books that I would also recommend that are in a similar vein – ‘Needful Things’ in particular and then to some extent ‘The Stand’. Both are big novels, with lots of characters.