Thursday, 26 August 2010

"Under the Dome" by Stephen King

I've spent the past week completely engrossed in Stephen King's new novel "Under the Dome", this book is a hefty 880 pages long (in paperback) and has taken me around 5 days to complete. It is a monster of a book, but as one of the reviews states, it is "staggeringly addictive" - I really couldn't put it down, and today spent 2 hours in the bath finishing it.

It's a hard book to define, and I guess the genre is really "Speculative Fiction" as opposed to Horror or even Sci-Fi/Fantasy (since the ideas within would put it in those categories). It deals with a small town that suddenly and inexplicably has a dome (like a bell jar) placed over it. No one knows how or why, and for much of the book, you still don't know how or why - not that it really matters, since the dome itself isn't that important, it's the reactions to it that matter.

The book covers a time line of around 5 days, which really given what happens seems a bit short - and lacks a lot of explanation by the author. It's almost suggested the speed at which society falls apart is caused by something the dome gives off - but is never stated for definite. If you can suspend belief on the short time span, and the often sheep like nature of the town people, the book is highly readable, if a bit predictable. However the writing is superb, I truly cared about these characters and felt angry/sick at the treatment of characters in the book. Knowing what would happen, but at the same time not wanting it to happen. Which I feel is a sign of a superbly written piece of fiction.

The cast of characters in the book is huge, but well managed. I found myself following the obvious like/dislike as suggested by the author, but at some points saw glimmers of redemption in the roles of the ''bad'' characters that I would like to have seen played out a bit more. There were some evil, evil characters in the book - but had moments where they could have shown more depth, and didn't. In contrast - some of the ''good'' characters just seemed too good, with almost token bad behaviour thrown in to show they weren't always good, but hey, whatever they did back then was forgiveable. However, all in all - I felt the characters were well portrayed, I mourned their deaths, and actively wanted the deaths of others.

I read on some of the reviews for this book that it was an ''indulgent'' piece of work, and in some ways it is, but for the man who wrote The Stand, and with this being a closely related piece of work - I feel he has a right to be indulgent. This seems to be his comfort zone, the lives of people in events beyond their control and the destruction and construction of society and make-shift government in these events.

To close - I would recommend this novel, it's available for £3.99 and even if you buy it and don't read it, it's a cheap doorstop. It is long, but with short and snappy chapters, you are left wanting more and it's easy to pick up and put down, if you can manage to put it down that is. I've not enjoyed all of Stephen King's fiction, but this truly is one of the best he has written, and if you liked ''The Stand'' - you are bound to like this, just allow a suspension of belief when it comes to often stupid/mindless behaviour of the massed town people and a suspension of belief when it comes to what caused the dome, which is perhaps the weakest part of the book and a let down, which I won't share as I try to not spoil endings :-)
~ Kitty

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