Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jen's Book Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

A transparent dome suddenly descends on the small Maine town of Chester's Mill. Several accidents occur before residents figure out what has happened. People cannot get in or out of the dome, and, therefore, must survive on their own. This leads to extreme power trips of local officials only interested in themselves and not the livelihood of the town's residents, namely town Selectman and used car salesman Jim Rennie ("Big Jim"). Big Jim takes it upon himself to become the leader, creating his own police force, enforcing his own rules, and invoking violence, leading to an extremist government. Within just a few days he dupes the majority of the residents into being his followers and seems to have the entire town on his side, but there is a group of residents who can't be fooled and know they must turn the town against Big Jim before it's too late. Will they be able to save the town and will they be able to find the cause of this dome that has alienated them from the rest of the United States?

I'll start off by admitting that I'm not a huge Stephen King fan. The only other book of his that I have read was Hearts in Atlantis, and I'm really not sure why I decided to read it. It wasn't his typical terror novel, and I believe I actually enjoyed it. They made it into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins, which I've never seen. The reason I don't like Stephen King books is because they are terrifying (I don't do terrifying), they can be pretty gross, etc. This book was not terrifying, but it was definitely gross and gory and way too detailed at points, notably the first several hundred pages. I didn't really enjoy it until maybe the last 400 pages. It's definitely a fictional book with some sci-fi in the mix, which I also don't enjoy. I had the same issue with Greg Isle's The Footprints of God and several Dean Koontz books. If you get too sci-fi and unrealistic, I can't stand it.

My husband bought me this book for my birthday, thinking that it looked interesting. I was reluctant to read it because it was just under 1,100 pages. Gigantic! I don't have any reading time at home, so I just read before work, during my lunch break, and any other major downtime at work. I was actually surprised that it only took me about 2 weeks to read. Also, just as intimidating was the cast of characters, which King lists in the first few pages. I was a little discouraged but ended up not having an issue with the numerous characters. King did a very good job of rounding out each and making them their own person.

While I didn't like the unrealistic and sci-fi parts, I did like the scarily realistic ideas on which King wrote his book. He initially started on the idea of Under the Dome in the mid 70s, but he felt like it just wasn't the right time to release this book. The current era of near extremism allows for the book to work now. The dome is a metaphor for the way America has sealed itself off from the rest of the world in most recent past administrations and what some believe is that continued path under the current administration. Isolationism is a scary thing, and King definitely plays that up.

I do confess that I liked the ending and that I was pretty teary-eyed during some of the last pages. Somehow I managed to get sucked into the events unfolding near the end. I'm not totally sure if I would recommend this book to anyone. Even if you are a Stephen King fan, this one is different from his normal genre.

On a side note, in searching the internet to find the name of the other Stephen King book I had read, I discovered he wrote The Green Mile. How did I not know this? Don't laugh.

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