1,127 of 1,211 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fate of the World, Under Glass
A small New England town is suddenly, inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world, trapping a large cast of characters inside (or outside) a huge, clear dome. As the emergency escalates, various heroes (and villains) emerge to play a part in the drama. What is the dome? Why is it there? Will the town survive? This is the premise of Stephen King's big, long, thoroughly...
Published on November 10, 2009 by Tom S.
601 of 712 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed -- can't quite put my finger on why
Me: Huge King fan. I have five bookshelves with nothing but King -- not just books BY King but books ABOUT his books. Hardcover firsts, special limited editions, graphic novels, and some books I bought only because King wrote the introduction. I've read him from the beginning and have been repaid with hundreds of hours of enjoyment. Anyone else remember the Castle...
Published on November 19, 2009 by Pam Gearhart
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1,127 of 1,211 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fate of the World, Under Glass,
King has rarely written a book as ambitious as this. As I was reading, I was constantly wondering about the motives behind the deceptively simple story. As with the best of horror and science fiction, it isn't just about a monster on the rampage. What clearly interests King--and us, the readers--is the reaction of the "ordinary" people of Chester's Mill, Maine, who are placed in this extraordinary situation. In the struggles of these heroes, villains, lovers, and fools, we can all see ourselves. And that is the mark of a great work of art, isn't it?
I've been reading Stephen King for 35 years now--I read his first 3 novels in college--and I've always been impressed by his work. But UNDER THE DOME is in a small group of King stories that go far beyond merely being entertaining fiction. This novel will inevitably be compared to The Stand because it deals with the horrors of the world around us. Forget ghosts and vampires and space aliens--there's nothing as horrifying as what humans are capable of doing to one another. Stephen King knows that: it's the reason his stories are so effective. In his long, distinguished career, he's rarely been as effective--or as entertaining--as he is here. UNDER THE DOME is a fast-paced modern horror story, and it's also an amazingly perceptive modern novel. Highly recommended.
628 of 683 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but addicting thriller,
The town of Chester's Mill, Maine, is a pretty typical-seeming smallish New England community. It has a diner, a used car dealership, a couple of churches, a supermarket, a newspaper, and a religious radio station. Most of its 2,000 or so residents are good, honest people who genuinely care for each other and for their town.
The scene changes abruptly when a mysterious and invisible barrier materializes out of nowhere, completely cutting the town off from the rest of the world. Within minutes, the death toll begins to rise. A plane smashes into the barrier followed by a number of cars. As scientists and government and military officials scramble to find a way to break through the barrier, those inside the dome have to quickly adjust to their new reality. And with Stephen King manning the controls, it's just a matter of time before that reality turns sinister.
Within days, Chester's Mill turns into a depressing cauldron of murder, corruption, conspiracy, and increasing fear. The town's police fall under the control of a vicious town selectman with dictatorial ambitions. Resources are seized. Vocal dissenters are jailed--or worse. Soon the air quality inside the dome begins to change. Illnesses increase. Children begin to have seizures and frightening visions. Fear leads to anger, and people start to do things they wouldn't have dreamed of just days earlier. As tension mounts, the stage is set for a final cataclysmic showdown between those who will stop at nothing to enforce their agenda for the town and those who believe the town's increasingly dangerous leaders must be stopped at any cost.
On some levels, Under the Dome is almost allegorical. The town's blossoming dictatorship is reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, with a charismatic leader ruling by force, police who operate outside the law, and "police solidarity" armbands for citizens. The worsening environment inside the dome could be a picture of climate change. The fact that the villains are all right-wing fundamentalist Christians (extremely hypocritical Christians at that) is probably a statement of some sort, and there are a few references to Falujah that some might see as antimilitary. In any case, whether or not the author intended to send a message through the story, the book absolutely illustrates the tendency of power to corrupt and the inherent wickedness of the human heart.
Under the Dome is not an easy book to read, and not only because of its size. Readers familiar with King's work will be unsurprised to find foul language and sexual content, some of it disturbing (most notably a gang rape scene and hints of necrophilia). There's plenty of violence, quite a bit of drug use, and lots of examples (very nearly too many, in fact) of people treating each other in all kinds of horrible ways. Though the dome is the reason the townspeople are in their predicament, the real conflict in the book is not people vs. the dome but people vs. each other. This book could just as easily have been titled The Worst-Case Scenario because on page after page, just when it seems the forces of good might be about to catch a break, King pulls the rug out from under them yet again. There's very little in the way of a redemptive message.
Yet all this is offset by King's trademark brilliance in character development and plot pacing, and much of the prose is beautifully crafted. King utilizes an antiquated but effective technique in his narration, slipping into present tense and addressing the reader directly at times to draw attention to a particular item of interest in a scene or to explicitly foreshadow some coming tragedy. Careful readers will find a few references to other Stephen King books peppered throughout.
When he wants to, Stephen King is capable of writing stunningly beautiful stories championing the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity (Duma Key is an example). Under the Dome is not such a book. This is a story about human ugliness, and it's all the more uncomfortable because it rings true. Even so, the brilliance of King's writing is evident on every one of the 1,074 pages. Fair warning: don't start this book unless you have some time on your hands. Uncomfortable though the book may be, it's compelling and suspenseful, and once you start reading, it quickly becomes very difficult to put down.
356 of 397 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And THAT is Stephen King's genius,
Okay, as an editor, when I see a 1,000+ page novel, my first thought is, "Does it really need to be this long?" Maybe not. I'm sure a few pages could have been trimmed. But I will tell you this... The deeper I got into this novel, the quicker I turned pages--right up until the end, when I was in a veritable page-turning frenzy. It reminded me, right from the start, of the fine work he did in the 70's, when as a child I devoured each new novel upon publication. King hasn't lost his touch with character, and he remains a consummate storyteller.
Under the Dome is epic. The time span is short, but the novel deals with the lives of more than 2,000 people trapped in a combustible hothouse. These are truly terrifying and incomprehensible circumstances. Things in Chester's Mill are bad, and hour by hour the situation got so much worse I didn't want to believe it. But I did. I believed it all. And THAT is Stephen King's genius.
601 of 712 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed -- can't quite put my finger on why,
I was enthralled with the first couple hundred pages of Under the Dome. Clear, concise language, vivid images, a well-paced story, and some characters who looked like they were going to be interesting. When the characters failed to develop and it became apparent that most of them were introduced just so we could watch them die in various ways, my interest flagged. Pretty soon I was reading just to get it all over with.
Now it's over. With the best books, you have the sense that the characters lived before you met them and that they will live on when you close the book. Stu Redman is still with me. So is Annie Wilkes. Jack Torrance. But the people of Chester's Mill never came alive -- they're just characters in a novel, thinly drawn pawns that King played with for awhile, moving them here and there without much thought or care.
Specific complaints -- unrealistic expository dialogue, an almost-cartoonish villain, too much foreshadowing that someone was going to die (sometimes King spoils his own books), and a few unbelievable and contrived spots where if you know anything at all about how things really work, you're taken right out of the story.
Maybe if I hadn't been looking forward to this book for so long, it wouldn't have been so disappointing. I hyped it up in my own mind. I'll never do that again.
190 of 238 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A real chore of a novel,
There is very little I can say is redeeming about this novel. The size alone isn't the problem; if the story within it were better, the size wouldn't even be noticeable.
The story starts out interestingly enough, giving you a hook that makes you want more. The problem is, the more you read, the more of a chore it becomes. The one thing that strikes me is how one-dimensional the protagonists are. There is really very little to them...nothing about them that really makes you CARE about them. The bad guys on the other hand...
The villains of "Dome" are written in excruciating detail. Every murder, every act of vile cruelty, every lewd thought, is described in glorious detail. Thanks to the likes of "Big Jim" and his idiot son, I stopped wanting to read more of this story. They are vile people who just get worse, and there is no satisfying comeuppance for them even by the end. The whole TOWN is run by scumbag bullies, and in the end this just foreshadows the truly awful ending. What's King's message? Bullies always win?
Even King's use of language grated on me from early on. His overly familiar use of common vernacular and hick-talk...always calling generators "gennies" and using words like "beshitted" (is that even a real word?)...it smacks of an author that no longer really has to WORK to sell his novels anymore. New authors would never get away with this overly familiar style of narration...it's just lazy writing.
* SPOILERS *
Through the whole novel I was searching for that hidden thread that would tie things together and make sense of the Dome. Between religious fanatics, drug labs, secret power struggles and the military, surely there was SOMETHING that ties it all together, some shared dark secret! Nope. Aliens did it. There is no reward whatsoever for the reader trying to puzzle out the story (think "Lost"). And just when you think you've had enough of The Redneck Rennie Show and his gang of juvenile thugs, guess what? The deus-ex-aliens are teen-aged bullies too!
The ending was so unsatisfying I think that's it for me...I'm done with King. He's only a shadow of the creative talent that created "The Dead Zone." I'd give this zero stars if I could.
107 of 134 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just Awful,
The characters are one-dimensional caricatures. The bad guys are so bad, the good guys are so good. Might as well put black and white hats on them. The town, collectively, is idiotic. No one would follow Jim Rennie for more that 5 minutes. The whole town is painted as a bunch of absolute imbeciles. The fact that so much time was spent on unimaginative characters is very disappointing.
Each scene should drive the plot forward but most scenes meander and have nothing to do in supporting the plot. I also grew tired of having to go through scenes multiple times. First from this character's perspective and now from this other character's perspective...Agh! Enough!
An interesting aspect of the story would have been to address what was going on outside the dome in trying to figure things out. Instead we are given, "Uh, we don't know, let's try to blow it up." When that doesn't work we get, "Uh, we still don't know, let's try to blow it up."
The deus ex machina ending is wholly unsatisfying. After STRUGGLING through 1,000 pages we are treated to a resolution of 3-5 pages. It's almost as if King were tired, (no wonder), and just gave up at the end.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some pros, big cons,
However, dear god, Katy bar the door! -- the characters are the most exasperating I have ever encountered in the history of literature. SK either has little respect for human intelligence in general or the intelligence of his readers in particular. Again and again and again, our "heroes," in the face of clear and present danger, in the face of blatantly gathering evil, act in the most compulsive, self-destructive, stupid ways that can only serve the designs of the novelist. These characters are so dim-witted and passive that I was actually ROOTING for them to be killed; they deserved it. I kept wondering, where are the intelligent people in town and why can't we be following their story? Time and again these shmucks go to confront the villain, self-righteous and alone, so he can do them in. They keep acting like the normal rules of society should apply; don't they notice that Rennie has amassed his own private police force of deranged storm troopers and that FOUR PEOPLE have been murdered?? Maybe slapping a deranged rapist in the face is not a good idea in a police state? Meanwhile, our hero (in spite of his military background) keeps scrambling eggs and flipping pancakes, passively waiting to be outsmarted by the villain, which he is. Didn't any of you other readers want to slap these people? Get a brain!
This is just lazy writing. Wildly, prodigiously creative, of course. I respect SK's gifts; but it's a crummy trick on your readers not to give us heroes we can root for. We expect that the bad guys will give our guys a hard time; we expect that the bad guys will stay a step ahead of us; that's the nature of drama. But I never would have thought it would be because our guys are so stubbornly naive, passive, and stupid.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good book...TERRIBLE ENDING,
This book was incredibly enjoyable and kept me turning the pages and wanting more.
Sadly, it had an abysmal ending and left me sad that I had wasted that much time reading a book only to be SO let down at the end.
This book was as anti-spiritual as it could get. All the athiests/agnostics are proven correct and all of the people with any semblance of spirituality are the bad guys who do things in the name of their faith. This was a 1073 page book about the problems with the republican party. Sad, because without the references...it would have been SO much more enjoyable.
I am rambling and going into more than I wanted to...
68 of 85 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What happened to this guy?,
The premise was great, classic King in a way, and I was expecting a book you can't put down. But after the first chapter or so, the story started to wander.
Since "Cell" in 2006, subsequent King books just did not pack the same punch that I had come to always expect. They all seemed a bit unfocused, or his heart was not into it. One thing I first noticed back in "Duma Key" was his personal politics were finding their way into his writing. It detracted from the story to an extent, a story which I also felt was a bit weak, but I felt the man is certainly entitled to a bad run every once in a while. However in "Under The Dome", King seems to abandon the characters so we can instead hear how bad people like Palin, Fox News, Republicans, Conservatives, etc. really are. Not that I necessarily disagree, but enough already. I want to be entertained, not attend a rally.
Every time I thought this book would get interesting, he rambled off in another direction. Characters and story lines were introduced that you thought might be important later on, but they never went anywhere. In fact this whole book just does not go anywhere and ends not with a bang, but a whimper. This could possibly be the worse ending I've ever seen dreamed up by such an accomplished writer.
It now looks like "Cell" may be the last great King story we'll ever get.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book was horrible,
The story is one of those plots that can only be found in a Stephen King novel. One day, a quiet town in Maine discovers rather abruptly that a "dome" has appeared over the entire town. Although invisible, it's definitely there and nothing can get in nor out. Animal, vegetable, nor mineral. This story starts off really well, but King manages to blow it in a bad way. It's not so much the story and how it unfolds, but the characters that King fleshes out in this yarn. It should be said that most of King's novels take place in a small town in Maine, and in many cases, you can't help but wonder that you've seen and met all of these hideous stereotypical one dimensional beings many times over that have been regurgitated from his previous works.
And, oh there are many characters. So many that King, fortunately, provides us with a "cast" at the beginning of the book detailing most of them. This aids the reader since it's so easy to get lost with all of the different people coming and going in and out of all the pages. Unfortunately, if there is one thing that is common about all of the actors in this play is that they're all,to some extent, ridiculously annoying. 95% of the folks we encounter under this dome are either a) good natured but really stupid or b) mean spirited and really stupid. You can probably already guess when panic sets in under this dome what will happen with all of these not-so-bright individuals.
The worst is the "main" bad guy - Big Jim Rennie (he's one of the few characters whose name I can remember as I write this, several weeks after I completed the novel). Big Jim is the owner of the town's used car lot, and one of the town selectman. He's also a big bad Republican and a so called "Christian". King never forgets to let us know this over and over and the author then proceeds to continue to offend these two groups of his readers by this ridiculous comic of a character. It seems like just about every scene Big Jim shows up in, King has to take a stab at this man's beliefs. He'll murder and sell drugs, but he won't curse - since cursing is, you know, sinful. Yeah. Right. You can't help but get thoroughly aggravated when this buffoon of a character says things like "We need to kill that rhymes-with-witch!" or when he tells of his meeting with Tiger Woods, he describes the golfer as a "pretty decent negro". Yes, King actually wrote that. As a matter of fact, you don't really end up hating this villain, yet you end up hating Stephen King for insulting the reader's intelligence. Doesn't Stephen King realize that people, you know, actually spent their money and buy his books? It's sad indeed.
Of course, there are a few "good" guys, yet the odds are ridiculously stacked against them because of the idiocy of the plot. They do somehow prevail and do, for the most part, accomplish what needs to be done. Not surprisingly, the "main" good guy isn't even from this warped town, he's actually a drifter. I guess King thinks this fictitious town can't have too many brains in it, or something.
Then we have the police. It comes as no surprise that they aren't that bright and aren't really any help as they should be at a time like this. Ol' Big Jim then deputizes many of the younger guys right out of high school to help keep the town in order, and of course, all of these guys would make the white supremacist groups look like a bunch of altar boys. This town is definitely not a place where you would want to stop for a cup of coffee on a good day. You can't help but seriously wonder where King actually comes up with this kind of town. Does he really believe such individuals can exist in mass proportions?
Another strike against this book is the "gross" or "disgusting" factor which is completely unnecessary. There's plenty of murder, arson, rape, drug abuse, suicide and even borderline necrophilia throughout these pages, but, believe it or not, this in itself actually isn't that bad in and of itself. King just seems to take some sort of sadistic pleasure within this story in making his readers sick to the stomach. Case in point: There's one scene where one of the "good" guys is placed in jail unfairly by the "bad" guys at the police station. When a visitor comes to see the good guy with a bowl of cereal for the prisoner, the bad guys, naturally, have to pass the bowl around and spit in it. Now, King could stop right there. But no, he has to describe the sound of each person's spit, the texture of each person's spit, the color of each person's spit, etc. etc. I ask Mr. King, what ever possessed you? Again, this entire novel is filled with scenes such as this.
Once the explanation of this mysterious dome is revealed, a lot of readers cried "foul" since it was kind of stupid. But this is Stephen King, remember, and most of his books deal with the unknown/unseen/supernatural etc. so it really wasn't too big of a shock for my tastes. As a matter of fact, I think King should have spent more energy and pages devoted to the cause of the dome, but he's too immersed in his warped town to go in that direction too far or too long. The climax of this book, especially, was a big let down. There was too much action and not enough understanding. Yes, I realize that King is making a commentary on how human beings treat each other and how we treat nature, but a little bit more care could have gone into the last 100 pages or so.
Had this book been cleaned up a bit, and I mean that almost literally, the story might have been a good one. King states in the Afterword that he actually started writing this book about forty years ago, but then discarded the story until recently. You really wish he would have left this idea in the trash bin.
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