40 days ago I started reading Stephen King's latest novel, "Under The Dome". While it did take me a while to read it - that should be no reflection the quality of the story itself. As you may know, the novel is close to 1,100 pages long and that doesn't exactly lend itself well to a quick read. However, I've been looking around online at various reviews and general thoughts on the book itself and a lot of people had actually sped through the damn thing in a week! Blows my mind.
Stephen King actually started writing this massive monstrosity in the 1970s, failed, then tried again in the 1980s - only to fail again. King credits it to the fact that the book was just too big for him at the time. While the first two attempts weren't exactly the same as the finished product; King admits that they were basically the same idea. He wanted to take a group of people and write about their behavior and their reactions after being cut off from the type of society that they've always belonged too.
In Under The Dome, King takes a seemingly ordinary rural Maine town and encloses it inside an invisible barrier. Chaos and death run rampant after cars, planes and birds smash into the side of the dome; exploding at impact. No one inside, or outside, of Chester's Mill knows where the dome came from or if it will ever leave. Shortly after being cut off, the town divides itself into opposing sides. One, led by short order cook and former Iraq vet, Dale Barbara, and the other, used car salesman and town politician, Jim Rennie. As time passes, Rennie becomes increasingly ruthless and does everything he can to maintain power over the town while Barbara attempts to solve the mystery of the dome and get out while he still can.
I've read some reviews that stated that King "put the pedal to the metal" from the get go and never let up. While I agree with that to a certain extent, you really can't expect a 1,072 page novel to be fast paced during its entire length, you've got to prepare for some dull parts. Granted, those "dull parts" are few and far between but everything has its place in the book; he's really trimmed the fat so to speak.
King's villain, "Big" Jim Rennie, is just awesome. Such a despicable, easy-to-hate bastard of epic proportions. I found myself getting angry at times; reading what this guy was doing and actually pissed off that he was getting away with it. I wanted to see him taken down so badly. His son, Junior, was just as bad at times - his "extracurricular" activities were downright disgusting. His confrontations with Dale Barbara were intense and some of the best parts of the novel.
King's "heroes" were some of the best written characters I've ever seen. They were simple, some of them were without complex moral problems - they were "good" and the bad guys were "evil" but they were still interesting nonetheless. Barbara came off as a likable guy, someone easy to get along with and a natural born leader. His main partner, Eric "Rusty" Everett, kicks ass in most of the scenario's he's placed in including his epic confrontation with "Big" Jim Rennie three quarters of the way through.
I'd like to talk about the ending but I don't really want to spoil it for anyone, so I'll just go on record as saying that while I did enjoy it - it partially felt like sort of a let down. Perhaps it's because my expectations were so high but honestly, where else could King have gone with it. The ending made perfect sense in regards to the origin of the Dome and the problems that had arisen in regards to breaching it so what can you do? However, the real greatness is in King's building towards the ending. The final 100 pages are superb with an event occurring that I did not expect. King's descriptions of the event in question are horrific.
All in all, I enjoyed my second Stephen King experience - which pretty much guarantees that it's not going to be my last experience. I recently found out that it's being adapted into an HBO mini-series, which is all kinds of awesome. I can't imagine a cast but I can only assume that it'll be relative unknowns; I mean how can you cast a huge roster like that made up of dozens of characters and keep your payroll at a respectable limit?
While I wouldn't put it in my pantheon of all time favorites - I'd give it a good hearty recommendation.
Also posted on Every Read Thing