Let me begin how I always begin when discussing Stephen King. I’ve read all of his books with the exception of the Dark Tower series. In that regards I would consider myself to be a fan. I think, since his accident (in 1999) that his work has declined. His last three books, Duma Key, Lisey's Story and Cell have left me…wanting. It seemed gone were the gross King, the seriously macabre King, the King that made me get lost in a world of horror. I found that he had been replaced by someone else, someone less…disturbed. So, when I was given Under the Dome I was expecting, yet again, to be unimpressed. The result was the opposite.
Under the Dome is a story, at its core, about a small town. This small town, Chester’s Mill-Maine, is surrounded by an invisible force field that no one can explain. The novel details the events that take place throughout the town during its captivity. The main characters would be, essentially, Barbie (a former Army Lieutenant now drifter) and Rennie (the towns very own corrupt politician). Overall the cast of characters is quite large and rather expansive. Some of these characters go on to play larger roles, others simply drift into the background.
How is he back to form? The book has everything a King lover could hope for. Murder (in sickening detail), brutal rape, crazy fuckers, suicides, dismemberments, fire, lots of fire, more crazy fuckers, beatings, aliens, nightmares, drug addicts, even more crazy fuckers, child to child lust (he always creeps me out when he goes that route…think IT), plane wrecks, car wrecks, tales of childhood woe, broken bones, yet even more crazy fuckers. The book has everything, including his inability to write sex scenes:
“He kissed her again. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and gave back as good as she got. And when his hand tugged her blouse from the waistband of her slacks and then slipped up across her midriff to cup her breast, she gave him her tongue. When they broke apart, she was breathing fast.
"Want to?" he asked.
"Yes. Do you?"
He took her hand and put it on his jeans, where how much he wanted to was immediately evident.”
God bless you Stephen.
The bad? The length. Most of the times I get a King book I can read it in one sitting, no matter how long it is. There are times in Under the Dome that he just over expands himself. I think, at some points, he got lost in his cast of characters. Like he wanted to give all of them equal page time despite the fact that some of them didn’t need to exist…or could have been combined into one character. As always this usually comes in the form of the children (I’m convinced he doesn’t understand kids…at all), and old people. The other factor is pop culture. I’ve always loved his references to days of old. Just look at Christine and Tales from a Buick 8. I love when he throws out old school songs, books, television. In this one it always seems that he’s trying to show that he’s still hip, that he’s still got it, and it started grating on me after awhile. The main one that got me was the damn fist bump. I don’t know how many times I read where people are fucking fist bumping each other. “’Good luck,” Joe said, and extended his fist through the window. Rusty pounded it lightly, then did the same with Norrie and Benny. Rommie also extended his fist. ‘What’s good for the kids is good enough for me.’” There are other examples: “…’He’s not my biggest fan right now. He’s probably even deleted me from his Facebook page.’” He also, at one point, talks about a show that is a sequel to “Lost,” and about a 2012 BMW. Another part of the book that I didn’t understand came at page 800, or the 16th chapter. He suddenly switches voices. Now I don’t recall if he did this earlier in the book, but if he decided to pull it out that late in the game its rather confusing. Throughout the book he follows certain characters. At chapter 16 he suddenly starts floating, like a narrator, and guides us around the whole town. It was weird.
Prognosis? King is getting back to being King. At least, I hope so. I hope this isn’t just a fluke. Now, this book is definitely not an airplane read, nor is it a toilet read. You’re actually going to have to sit down and invest some time in it. I think its worth it though.