Under the Dome 1

Tuesday November 16, 2010 in books read 2010 | stephen king

Russell T.Davies picks Stephen King’s Under the Dome in the Guardian’s Books of the Year 2010. It strange that his choice only appears on the Guardian iPhone app and not the website. Perhaps the paper don’t want to fully endorse such a commercial author. Or Russell T.Davies.

I’ve only read a few hundred pages of Under the Dome, a novel which ranks as one of King’s longest. And most ambitious – he claims to have delayed writing it for years until he matured sufficiently as a writer. It’s easy to understand his caution. A deceptively simple premise (an American town is encased by an invisible yet inpenetrable force field) is handled with great skill to unravel a complex story with a huge cast of characters. The opening chapters, dealing with the consequences from the day when the dome falls, are brilliantly handled and a lesser writer would have failed in setting up the book so brilliantly.

Once King’s outstanding opener has passed the book settles down into character study, carefully sketching out who’s who as the horror of the situation begins to sink in. I’m going to be in for a long ride, although Davies reckons that the last 100 pages of The Dome are the best that King has written, so the journey should be worth it.

Under The Dome is certainly powerful stuff – worth anyone’s time if they have an imagination, even if they aren’t into “horror” per se. It’s a pity King is often still pigeonholed as a horror author when his writing, at its best, has a universality that many potential readers would never suspect was there.

John H    Monday December 6, 2010   

Yes I agree. I got into Stephen King late in life. But I rather enjoyed Under the Dome.

The Book Tower    Monday December 6, 2010   

That poor chuck!

Glad you’re enjoying this one. It’s King’s best in decades, and contains one of the most powerful scenes he’s ever written. You’ll know it when you get there. You’ll get chills, because it’s so understated and epic at the same time. That scene did it for me.

I often wonder why people piss on King so much. Maybe people are just afraid to admit that he’s better than they want him to be, and that, after forty years, he’s now a Serious Novelist. (He makes tons of money, and writes horror, so he must be absolute drivel, right? Right.) Granted, he’s not high literature, but he’s never claimed or tried to be. His dialogue is atrocious. His endings usually disappoint. But Under the Dome shows what he’s good at—he’s most comfortable with a huge cast of characters (see The Stand), and multiple plotlines (again, see The Stand) and he pulls it off masterfully. You’re right: other writers of lesser talent would have drowned. King knows what he’s doing. He focuses on the people and how they deal with their little inconvenience.

It’s interesting to contrast Dome with another horror epic, The Passage. The Passage also had a big cast, but the book failed miserably. The author just couldn’t handle the cast, and had no interest in shading his characters (this is another thing King is good at—characterization). They even talked the same way. I couldn’t remember or discern who was who, and I got so lost that eventually I stopped caring about the story.

Brandon    Thursday December 9, 2010   

I was going to write a very full review, but haven’t got past the title yet – which is Trouble at Chester’s Mill.

I’ve also been meaning to read The Passage for some time, although your comments have put me off. Don’t think I could stomach another long novel, especially a disappointing one.

The Book Tower    Friday December 10, 2010   

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