Saturday, September 22, 2012

'We're a blue planet in a corner of the galaxy, and for all the satellites and probes and Hubble pictures, we haven't seen evidence of anyone else. There's nothing like ours. We have to conclude we're on our own, and we have to deal with it. We're under the dome. All of us.' Stephen King

I am quite simply a Stephen King fan. I sing it loud and proud, so it was only a natural progression that I would reach for Under the Dome [2009]. 

The book has a simple premise. A small town in Maine is quite suddenly disconnected from the rest of America by a dome. Quite simple really. This obviously has horrifying consequences as the government begins to realise that the barrier is completely impenetrable to all of their attempts to destroy it. What ensues is an uncomfortable read of how the townspeople of Chester's Mill suddenly turn on each other, and what happens when people stop fearing the law (think of Lord of the Flies by William Golding).

King does an amazing job of commanding his MASSIVE cast of characters. And basically speeds through the plot. The characters can be scary, only because of just how real they are. They can be difficult to read, as deep down, we know that people can truly be as described. This, of course, is what makes King great - he has such an insight in to the human mind, our capabilities and our spirits that his novels (even his not so awesome ones) always have believable, uncomfortable characters. What is scary though, is how we read the townsfolk basically destroy themselves and others because they stop feeling accountable. 

The villain of the piece is 'Big Jim' Rennie - the Second Selectman and downright control-freak. He does anything to keep his power, and even uses some Hitler-esque techniques such as employing his own police-army, organising arson and vandalism too, oh, and stealing gas canisters from hospitals (the last one isn't so Hitlerish). I have yet to find a character in any novel I have read that I loathe as much as him.

We are also introduced to Dale Barbara i.e. 'Barbie', who plays the typical 'goodie' an ex-serviceman who spent time in Iraq. He is in constant opposition to 'Big Jim' Rennie which creates such a jarring atmosphere that I found I could only applaud King. I wish I could write characters with as much believability.  

There is a recurring theme of hypocrisy throughout the novel, and quite rightly so. We see corrupt mothers, corrupt pastors, corrupt town officials and corrupt policemen, and as readers we become so drowned by this corruption it can create a sense of bleakness and a despair at the human condition.... well, that's how I felt anyway!

King also makes it a point to discuss the ecological effects of living inside the dome. With cars, explosions, pollution, fires and what-not, we read as the dome becomes darker and darker with pollution - and also, how it starts to become warmer, being magnified by the sun's rays. 

Throughout the read I was bragging to my friends 'King is back... King is back!' and I believed it. Until the end.

[Spoiler alert] 
Yes. Until the end. Until the only explanation King could muster for the dome was a silly ol'cop-out in the form of extra-terrestrial children, deciding to perform a little experiment by placing a dome over the town and watching how it self destructs. King reiterates this idea by likening it to children burning ants with a magnifying glass. This, I just could not reconcile with the rest of the book. I was quite honestly disappointed, and what should have been the climax of the book was a complete let down. It just could not stand up to the build-up. 

The sci-fi aspects of the novel really ruined it for me, but that is only because I pretty much stay away from straight sci-fi books. Although it is barely touched upon it made enough of an appearance that it overshadowed the rest of the narrative. 

My advice (to those of you like me) is this.... read it, please do, it is awesome... just don't read it to the end! If you love sci-fi of course, you'll (hopefully) love the ending and close the humongous book with satisfaction!

I love you King. I do. But I just don't do aliens... (unless it is Dreamcatcher... it seems I can only do aliens if it is Dreamcatcher).

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1 comment:

  1. Great review! And like you I really liked the book until the end. I don't know that I blame him cos really, what other answer could you give for the dome? Whatever he came up with I think would have been a let down and not explaining it would have been a cop-out. I think he wrote himself into a corner.


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