Book Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King

UndertheDome HeaderIn preparation for CBS’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, I sat down with this brick of a book too see if the show has a good chance to succeed where so many other high concept shows tend to struggle.

Honestly, after reading the 1000+ pages I really don’t know.  I am a fan of Stephen King’s work, which is what originally had me picking up Under the Dome, but I definitely had more trouble burning through these pages as I usually do with his novels.  A firm argument could be made for being overwhelmed by the size and weight since I am used to reading on a kindle now, but honestly I believe it was something with the story.

The basic concept is that on a random day, a small northeastern town is cut off from the rest of the world when an invisible and impenetrable dome appears around it.  The initial day is full of chaos, death and destruction, mirrored by the later bookend that really makes for the most excitement.  But eventually the story moves on in such a way that isn’t the most satisfying.  Long story short, a political official in the area uses the opportunity to gain more power in the town, and the drama unfolds between two factions of people.  It’s less about the dome and its origins, though that is still a part of it, and more about this struggle that was already there before this world-altering event happened.

Either way I look at the story I find myself slightly disappointed.  The one side of me wishes that it would have been more dedicated to the dome and figuring out what the heck caused it, while the other side wishes that the answers would have never been revealed about it to explain where it came from and who was controlling it.  As it sits, the story is in this weird in-between where an explanation is given, but it is hardly one that is satisfying because its connections to the story aren’t really brought into focus until later in the novel.  It just seemed like an afterthought in many ways, after most of the story has been dedicated to the drama developing between the two sides of the inhabitants and one incredibly aggravating character that deserves to be punched in the throat repeatedly for all of time.

A few suicides and emotional turmoil do come into play, but I would have loved to see more of the trauma caused by the dome and how the people were changed by it, as opposed to the drama between Big Jim and his hatred of a man named Barbie.  These characters, like a young boy named Ollie whose family has a hard time coping under the dome, are highlights of the chapters, and I often wonder if maybe this would have worked better had the book been structured with more vignettes of random characters that were not connected to the main story.  Just futher expressing the levels of suffering in this town.  A sense of this helplessness and doom was definitely provided by chapters with no main character to follow, which was really appreciated, as these sections made the reader a fly in the town witnessing the little moments, some of no significance, some of great character moments that don’t push the main story on, but they still do much to fill in the world.  I would have loved for more of this.

Instead we get more Big Jim, hallucinating children, a dog that might hear dead people for one specific reason, and a dome that really just feels like a way to keep one character in town a lot of the time.  It’s still a decent read, and I am looking forward to see how some of the chapters are adapted for the screen, but I can’t say that I am overly excited for the show unless some changes come into play.

Final Grade: 3 out of 5     

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King

  1. Well the good news is that it isn’t sticking to the book 100% so there is still stuff for me to be intrigued about since I don’t know exactly what’s going on with every single character. The dialog was horrible though, so hopefully that picks up.

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