‘Under the Dome’ review

February 15, 2010

I’m back, with a sometimes-sticky keyboard, but I’m back. Hooray!

Since I no longer see book reviews listed on the News-Journal Web site, I’ll start posting my reviews here. For instance, while traveling (more info to come), my book review of Stephen King’s enormous “Under the Dome” ran.

The King is back”
The sheer size of Stephen King’s latest book “Under the Dome” is imposing. It could pass for a doorstop.

But readers shouldn’t worry: The 1,088-page book is hard to put down. There were several nights of saying, “Just one more chapter before bedtime.” As that so often goes, however, one chapter turns to two, then three…

In “Under the Dome,” the town of Chester’s Mill is isolat­ed by a sudden invisible dome. No one can go in or out, and that brings out the best and worst of its citizens. The dome may be remind some of “The Simpsons Movie,” but King has said he started writing portions of the novel in the 1970s.

Because there are a hundred or so characters, going through all of them, much less remem­bering each one, is a little tricky. Before the novel starts, there’s a who’s who of charac­ters.

One of our heroes is Dale “Barbie” Barbara, an Iraq war veteran who made enemies out of the good old boys in Chester’s Mill because of someone else’s lie. He’s perfectly content to be a drifter and leave the town, but circumstances require him to return to duty.

He’s helped by Julia Shum­ way, who is the editor and pub­lisher of The Chester’s Mill Democrat. She gets the word out when those in power would wish otherwise.

The major villain — and truly one of King’s most terrifying vil­lains since Annie Wilkes in “Misery” —is used car salesman and local political kingpin Jim Rennie Sr. (His son is just as scary — and sick.)

It’s amazing to see how a func­tioning society just falls apart, and so easily, too. That’s part of the pull of the novel.

With its topic and scale, “Un­der the Dome,” compares to King’s epic “The Stand,” but doesn’t quite surpass it. There seems to have been massive trimming in the second half to shorten the gigantic novel.

By the time one reaches the end — and finds out whether the dome has been placed by the government, supernatural forces, local yokels or some­thing else entirely — some of the magic evaporates. Deaths get glossed over, and while King rightly kills some of his darlings and wraps up the entire enter­prise, readers are left wishing he’d done an epilogue to explain it a little more.

Though the ending may feel unfinished for some, the novel is worthwhile. If nothing else, it will inspire readers to think about how they or their leaders should act in a crisis.

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