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(3.5/5) In Chester's Mill We Are All Doomed

  • Mar 21, 2010
Stephen King is an author that goes above American Literature.  He is a global phenomenon.  He has gone from being influenced by pop culture... to actually influencing Pop Culture.  At least at one point in time he did.  There's a lot King has done to influence Pop Culture and he is still a capable writer, even while he's going onto his sixth decade and pushing his career onto forty years.  Under the Dome is an ambitious novel; one he's had rolling around up in his head for a fairly long time.  For almost thirty years, in fact.  Until recently, he never actually knew how to get it going.  Now that he has, it's hard to say if this is something we can all accept and love.  Is Under the Dome a good book?  Certainly it is.  It's not the most fantastic book in Stephen King's repetoire.  With a man who has put out as many books as Stephen King it would be unrealistic to think everything he puts out there is going to be golden.  As far as glory days go, Stephen King is probably beyod them. 

Under the Dome is about the town of Chester's Mill, Maine.  It's a small town where everyone knows everyone and the local government--that is the townspeople--know everyone's business.  One day, out of the blue, the town becomes incased by a giant forcefield that is only known as the dome.  And with Chester's Mill isolated from the rest of civilization... things start to turn bad as the denizens lose their mind and the town selectmen become more and more corrupt.  It seems as though this dome is inpenetrable by anything anyone could throw at it. 

I know exactly what you're thinking.  The moment you hear about the book it's hard not to think of The Simpsons Movie.  Indeed when I first heard what the book was about my mind immediately went there.  Then I heard it was over 1000 pages and that pretty much shot that theory dead.  The SImpson's Movie may have featured a dome but it most certainly didn't focus much on life within the dome, or show how Springfield deteriorated.  People are always willing to point out how two ideas are similar, but never willing to talk about how the execution is different.  Where as The Simpsons Movie was zany in its own way, KIng's Under the Dome is a bit more serious, far more horrific and just all around... very different.  Even the idea itself seems very different in the mind of Stephen King.

There are a lot of characters in Under the Dome.  It's one of the books strengths... and weaknesses.  While there are some nicely developed characters, the book is too populated and too long for you to really get to love the lot of them.  For the bad guys in particular, Stephen King opts instead to make them two-dimensional instead of aiming for something more believable and real.  That's not to say that Big Jim Rennie isn't interesting.  You'll find certain aspects of his character quite amusing such as his over-the-top religious aspects which are handled in a more satirical way.  That's not all that's satire in King's Under the Dome.  In fact, you'll find yourself laughing at some moments that are just all around terrible.  If dark humor is your thing, you'll find it in Under the Dome.  You just won't find a cast of memorable characters here.  Some are well developed such as Dale Barbara, but for the most part King doesn't give it his all in character development like he usually does.  Considering how thick this book is, it's rather sad.

Which brings about the other criticism.  Under the Dome is... a little long.  I have very little against King writing long books.  I typically tend to enjoy them more.  The Stand is without a doubt one of his best books.  IT was also incredible (though a little lengthy thanks to story arcs that went no where).  They often have characters that are great.  Under the Dome makes sure you take you through town life in Chester's Mill.  Arguably, this is what King wanted to do.  Not to focus on all the different characters, but small town life in the event that they become isolated.  It's more "Lord of the Flies," than it is The Simpsons Movie.  It's just unfortunate that not much of it comes alive. 

King also dabbles around a lot in politics.  The two leading town selectman are, as he describes it, commentaries on the Bush/Cheney administration.  It's all too obvious as the one in charge of Chester's Mill, a man named Andy Sanders is... well, dumb.  And Big Jim Rennie is the guy running things and striking fear.  If you're burned out on politics you might be annoyed.  It still makes for funny satire (unless you're an overly serious Conservative... then you'll probably be insulted).  He's not nearly as in-your-face with the politics as you might expect.  And King has never been one to show his disdain for politicians in any of his works.  In many of them they're often corrupt and all around bad people doing bad things to innocent people.  If you've been reading Stephen King for a while none of the themes here are going to be new to you.  The politics, the religious commentary and the characters who are anti-intellectual.  These are all archetypes you've seen in King before.  These themes are still tackled really well.  Just don't expect every character to come alive as well as they have in previous King outings. 

Pacing is often a mixed bag with Stephen King.  There are some books he's written that are unreasonably slow paced (The Shining, for example) and others that set the right tempo (The Stand) and others that hit the ground running (Desperation).  Under the Dome is one of those that can set the right tempo, but it slows down a lot.  It moves surprisingly fast for a book this long.  There's enough to keep you interested.  But it can't separate from the fact that it's a little long.  In epics such as The Stand, he's made sure every word was necessary and that no scene was wasted.  Under the Dome isn't such.  There are moments that could've easily been left on the cutting room floor.

Endings are also not King's strongsuit.  They come together, it's that sometimes the resolution isn't as good as the shocking climax.  The journey is better than the reward.  At 1072 pages, however, it's nice to know you're in for a good ride, but after so much build up, some may find the ending to be a letdown after spending so much time getting there.

King doesn't spend a whole lot of time using terrible langauge as he did in say... Lisey's Story.  Although from time to time the substitutions for Jim Rennie's swears (because Big Jim is a good Christian who doesn't swear).  There are moments where it gets so annoying you start to think King would've done better off making Jim Rennie more like one of those "good Christians" that will swear in private but not among others ("Clustermug" in particular is the word that becomes incredibly annoying).  Luckily, Under the Dome is too populated to spend too much time with Jim at any given time.

In spite of some of its shortcomings, Under the Dome is still a good read.  The characters are a little flat and the story is a little long, but it's not a bad read.  It certainly doesn't reach the heights of any of King's other works.  But it does at least stand tall as a good book in its own right.

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March 23, 2010
Intense review, Sean! I really enjoyed it; especially the comparison to The Simpsons movie (even though they sound very different). It does make me want to watch the movie again and then read this book; the fact that one took a humorous approach while the other took a serious approach to the issue is extremely fascinating as well. I've been a fan of King's epics before, but from the sounds of you assessment, you are spot on with my own opinions regarding them (and probably this one). I'm going to put it on my TBR shelf on Goodreads for the time being.
More Under the Dome reviews
review by . March 29, 2011
Under The Dome. Well, you read the synopsis.  The story takes us into a small town in (where else) Maine, where an invisible dome has appeared (pretty clever the way that ties in with the title, eh?). Anyway, in typical King fashion there are horrific accidents as people/animals/machinery run into the dome. And what Stephen King tale would be complete without a well placed and homicidal nutjob? Fear not, it's got one of those too.    The book was well written and you …
review by . June 09, 2010
I had never read a Stephen King book before I received Under the Dome as a gift last year - I just didn't really think they would interest me. But this hefty piece of writing actually changed that opinion for me quite a bit. The book defied most of my stereotypes, lived up to a few others, yet still managed to be highly entertaining throughout.      From the very beginning, the book reads like the literary offspring of a Michael Bay movie and an episode of South Park. Surprisingly, …
review by . May 16, 2010
One of Stephen King's Best Novels
Under the Dome may be one of the most entertaining novels Stephen King as written in years, and maybe one of the longest, weighing in at a hefty 1,072 pages.  But don’t let that deter you, this novel keeps rolling from start to finish and keeps the reader deeply engaged in the story.  A small New England town, Chester’s Mill, is a rather normal little burg.  It has a small town police force, punky teens on skateboards, trailer trash, a megalomaniac politician on a small …
review by . August 01, 2010
Iraq veteran Dale (Barbie) Barbara is on his way out of Chester's Mill when an invisible shield drops down, running along the small town's boundaries. Planes, cars and birds crash into it, people run into it, and no one can figure out what it is. The US military's calculations are that a large force field in the shape of a dome has settled over Chester's Mill, cutting the town off from the rest of the country. Their efforts to destroy the dome are fruitless, as are their attempts to figure out who …
review by . June 25, 2010
Under the Dome is a TERRIBLE book.  Actually, it’s a fantastic book that just contains terrible things.         Stephen King continues to thrill with his latest post-retirement book which, in my opinion, is his greatest non-Dark Tower novel in the last 10 years.  Under the Dome is a frightening look at what might happen in small town America when the town finds itself cut off from the rest of the world.  This is King’s longest book since It …
review by . June 17, 2010
   Stephen Kings novel "Under the Dome" is an in-depth look at the inhabitants of a small Maine town by the name of Chester's Mill, barely a blip on the map, that find themselves cut off from the rest of the world due to an invisible barrier - the sudden appearance of which causes numerous injuries and fatalities to both humans and animals. Follow the inhabitants of Chester's Mill as they learn about and attempt to deal with the confusing and at times tragic series of …
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Long read, but good. Not as good as some of his others, but good...really kind of makes you wonder, what if? Along the same lines as "Cell".
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
really disappointing. I used to love Stephen King but maybe I'm too old for him now. The writing seems really simplistic.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Under the Dome was the first book I read on my Amazon Kindle last Christmas. Definitely a page turner with some likeable characters and other you love to hate. I found it enjoyable and interesting but didn't like a couple of ways the story turned. I still recommend it though!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
I didn't like it as much as other King books, the end kind of disappointed me.
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Under the Dome is a novel by Stephen King that was released on November 10, 2009. It is a rewrite of a novel King attempted writing twice in the late 1970s and early 1980s, under the titles The Cannibals and Under the Dome. As King stated on his official site, these two unfinished works "were two very different attempts to utilize the same idea, which concerns itself with how people behave when they are cut off from the society they've always belonged to. Also, my memory of The Cannibals is that it, like Needful Things, was a kind of social comedy. The new Under the Dome is played dead straight." From the material originally written in the 1980s, only the first chapter is included in the new novel.
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ISBN-10: 1439148503
ISBN-13: 978-1439148501
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Scribner, Pocket
Date Published: November 10, 2009
ISBN: 978-1439148501
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