Book Review: Under the Dome – by Stephen King

Stephen King has stolen from me days of my time since Christmas that I had not allocated. This resulted in major schedule rearrangements. Bad, bad Stephen King.

It all started out at Costco a few weeks before Christmas. Without fanfare, without warning, without announcements, posters, book store advertisement or any other indication that a major Stephen King novel was coming, here it was in a huge stack on a huge table. Being 2.5 inches thick, this book is perhaps, aside from the unabridged edition of The Stand, the thickest book from Stephen King. It contains 1,075 pages and an estimated 440 thousand words – only the publisher knows the exact number.

I picked it up and all it had as indicator of what would be inside is was the cover art, showing a section of a town under what looked like a glass dome or bubble. No description, nothing about the author on the inside jacket (Stephen King is one of the few who can afford that), no jacket fold description of the story, nothing on the back of the jacket.

So I resorted to my old rule to follow before buying a book: Read the first page. Standing at the Costco counter, blocking a good section of the aisle with my still empty shopping cart, I read not only the first page, but the first chapter, which was about five pages, and as I turned the page and started reading into the second chapter I realized that I couldn’t very well stand at Costco and read this book.

Then I remembered my other rule of book reading list maintenance: No new books until  all the books on the list are worked through. I pictured my reading shelf, how full it was, and put the book down and went on with my grocery shopping.

Before I did, however, I pointed the book out to Trisha and commented on how Steven King was one of the few writers who could get away with putting a book on the shelves without any apparent marketing. And this is how it ended up under my Christmas tree.

I started reading the book on Christmas day. I am a slow reader, I hear the words in my head when I read, and I like it that way. With time to live, eat, hike and work taken out of my reading time, I ended up finishing the book on January 6.

The book weighs a lot; it’s hard to travel with, it’s hard to hold up in bed, it’s a weighty brick to lug around, but that did not stop me.

Stephen King keeps a frantic pace of storytelling. To use his own words: Faster, Stephen, faster. The non-stop action never ceases, and the conflict between good and evil, brilliance and stupidity, character and cowardice, keeps developing at breakneck speed.

The story is a simple one, based on the question: What would happen if an impenetrable, yet invisible dome, sort of like a bubble force-field, were placed over a small town in Maine? Nobody can get in, and nobody can get out. That’s the only strange and science-fiction type premise of the story. All else plays in our world, in the 2012 timeframe. Obama is president. Sarah Palin is mentioned in the story. 9/11 comes up several times. One of the protagonists just came back from Iraq. It’s a contemporary story that we can all relate to.

As typical for a Stephen King book, there is no great moral, no lesson and no philosophy. This is first-rate entertainment, nothing else. Stephen King tells a gripping story with all King-esque elements: Visions and dreams by children foreseeing the near future and its catastrophic events, evil and murderous, albeit stupid thugs wielding terror on innocent town people, small town heroes who would rather get the job done without getting the spotlight or credit, reminiscent of Stu in The Stand.

Take “It” and “The Stand,” surround them with today’s background, and weave a new story, and you have Under the Dome. I kept thinking I had more productive things to do, but I couldn’t stop reading. It was like going on a vacation.

Steven King had fun writing this, and it was a good ride reading it. Thanks, Stephen King.

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