Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

My run of luck with reading Stephen King appears to have run out. Under the Dome is perfectly readable and reasonably surprising, but it surprised me most in a bad way. As in, the author really hates all those characters that much? At its heart Under the Dome is about unexplained suffering, and it has a nice dichotomy in two churches that form at the center of two rival camps which develop after a mysterious dome seals off the town Chester's Mill from the whole world. But the role of the churches completely disappears halfway through the story. Worst of all, I knew how it would end because the ending is way too telegraphed -- there's none of the "what will happen" suspense that was present in 11-22-63, and that was a novel that you knew the end from HISTORY, after all -- and what does happen causes me to lose faith, not in God, but in King's ability to empathize with his own characters. In the author's note King says the book has been in the works for decades and was edited way down, and I can't help but wonder if some of the removed material would have made the characters and events a little more real to me, but I also don't know if it would have been worth sitting through. It didn't help that there's a meth lab involved here and I was reading this while watching Breaking Bad, so, well, there's just no comparison, Breaking Bad is much better than Under the Dome. Insights into suffering require what feel like real people doing the suffering, and near the end King lost me in believing that these people were real. Perhaps the rule is, the more normal or historical the premise, the better the novel for King? This is a very abnormal and modern premise, then. There's some promising moments but without a decent resolution they don't add up to much.

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