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Under the Dome: A Novel Hardcover – November 10, 2009
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Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan share their enthusiasm for Stephen King's thriller, Under the Dome. This pair of reviewers knows a thing or two about the art of crafting a great thriller. Del Toro is the Oscar-nominated director of international blockbuster films, including Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy. Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Standoff and Prince of Thieves, which won the International Association of Crime Writer's Dashiell Hammett Award in 2005. The two recently collaborated to write the bestselling horror novel, The Strain, the first of a proposed trilogy. Read their exclusive Amazon guest review of Under the Dome: The first thing readers might find scary about Stephen King's Under The Dome is its length. The second is the elaborate town map and list of characters at the front of the book (including "Dogs of Note"), which sometimes portends, you know, heavy lifting. Don't you believe it. Breathless pacing and effortless characterization are the hallmarks of King's best books, and here the writing is immersive, the suspense unrelenting. The pages turn so fast that your hand--or Kindle-clicking thumb--will barely be able to keep up.
You Are Here.
Nobody yarns a “What if?” like Stephen King. Nobody. The implausibility of a dome sealing off an entire city--a motif seen before in pulp magazines and on comic book covers--is given the most elaborate real-life alibi by crafting details, observations, and insights that make us nod silently while we read. Promotional materials reference The Stand in comparison, but we liken Under The Dome more to King's excellent novella, The Mist: another locked-door situation on an epic scale, a tour-de-force in which external stressors bake off the civility of a small town full of dark secrets, exposing souls both very good...and very, very bad.
Yes, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," but there is so much more this time. The expansion of King’s diorama does not simply take a one-street fable and turn it into a town, but finds new life for old archetypes, making them morally complex and attuned to our world today. It makes them relevant and affecting once again. And the beauty of it all is that the final lesson, the great insight that is gained at the end of this draining journey, is not a righteous 1950’s sermon but an incredibly moving and simple truth. A nugget of wisdom you'll be using as soon as you turn the last page.
This Is Now.
Along the way, you get bravura writing, especially featuring the town kids, and a delicious death aria involving one of the most nefarious characters--who dies alone, but not really--as well as a few laugh-out-loud moments, and a cameo (of sorts) by none other than Jack Reacher. Indeed--whether during a much-needed comfort break, or a therapeutic hand-flexing--you may find yourself wondering, "Is this a horror novel? Or is it a thriller?" The answer, of course, is: Yes, yes, yes.
"...the blood hits the wall like it always hits the wall."
It seems impossible that, as he enters his sixth decade of publishing, the dean of dark fiction could add to his vast readership. But that is precisely what will happen...when the Dome drops.
Now Go Read It. --Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The Story Behind the Cover
Click on image to enlarge
The jacket concept for Under the Dome originated as an ambitious idea from the mind of Stephen King. The artwork is a combination of photographs, illustration and 3-D rendering. This is a departure from the direction of King's most recent illustrated covers.
In order to achieve the arresting image for this jacket, Scribner art director Rex Bonomelli had to seek out artists who could do a convincing job of creating a realistic portrayal of the town of Chester's Mill, the setting of the novel. Bonomelli found the perfect team of digital artists, based in South America and New York, whose cutting edge work had previously been devoted to advertisement campaigns. This was their first book jacket and an exciting venture for them. "They are used to working with the demands of corporate clients," says Bonomelli. "We gave them freedom and are thrilled with what they came up with."
The CGI (computer generated imagery) enhanced image looks more like something made for the big screen than for the page and is sure to make a lasting impact on King fans.
Meet the Characters
From Publishers Weekly
- Publisher : Scribner; 1st edition (November 10, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 1074 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1439148503
- ISBN-13 : 978-1439148501
- Item Weight : 3.15 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 2.5 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #81,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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King himself, in the Author's Note, admits there is quite a large cast of characters in the novel. It seemed to me he was trying to balance the bad characters with the good. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I believe that most people are basically good, and especially in a town the size of Chester's Mill, with a thousand or so people, it would be hard to come up with a police force of a couple dozen people who were willing to ignore their conscience and follow Rennie's orders. And I don't think Rennie could have fooled so many people into trusting him. At one point, Colonel Cox mentioned that Rennie had done things like charging interest rates up to 40%, having people pay for their car two or three times over, and the like. There had to be enough people in Chester's Mill who knew Rennie for what he was - a greedy, heartless moneygrubber - to prevent him from acquiring so much power.
Another difference between the book and the TV series is Dale Barbara ("Barbie") spends almost three-fourths of the book in jail, whereas in the TV series he is one of the main characters and in almost every scene. Except for the few times Barbie is visited in jail, he is only active in the book in the very beginning and in the end, after his friends bust him out of jail.
Just because I liked the TV series better, that doesn't mean I didn't like the book. I did, it's just that there were times when I got really tired of reading about mean, nasty people, or people who were drug addicts or alcoholics or otherwise had serious problems. Like, for instance, Junior's brain tumor which caused him to act on impulses which must have already been there but he managed to control them until the tumor started eating away at his brain.
Speaking of which, even though the book for the most part didn't have the graphic violence of the TV series (I closed my eyes during the opening credits every time the Dome split the cow in half), there were plenty of descriptions of some pretty nasty stuff. Typical King, but somewhat restrained, for which I say a resounding "Thank you!"
I was glad that King offered an explanation for the origin of the Dome in the book (no spoilers), something the TV series never really dealt with. It reminded me of several Twilight Zone episodes, however. So many books are written these days, it's hard to come up with truly original ideas. The Dome as something that is done to people, as opposed to something that is done for people (which I've read in other science fiction books) is original. And the book doesn't have the easy answers for problems caused by the Dome that the series did.
Is the book worth reading? Definitely. But this is another case where I would advise watching the TV series first, before reading the book, simply because the series is more enjoyable - in my opinion.
It appears most people categorize this as horror/supernatural fiction, because Stephen King is a horror writer. There are a few instances where there are occurrences which could be labeled supernatural: a dog hearing (and understanding) the voice of a dead person, for example. But considering the origin of the Dome and the detailed description of the effects of the explosion on the Dome, I would call this speculative fiction at the very least, if not science fiction.
Top reviews from other countries
I've read quite a few of King's books now and I'm always impressed by his ability to weave an engrossing story. Under the Dome is no different as it dives into the action almost immediately, introducing the town itself and the many characters. King explores how this small town and its inhabitants react to this extraordinary set of circumstances, revealing the best and worst of human nature as characters such as Barbie, Julia and Rusty attempt to hold things together whilst 'Big' Jim Rennie and his cronies exploit the fear and apprehension of residents for their own gain. It's a fascinating insight into human nature.
I would have given this 5* but as with other King books, it was a bit too long. This is definitely not a story that can be told in three or four hundred pages but I felt it didn't need to be quite as long as it is. But don't let this put you off! Under the Dome is worth the effort.
Since I've read about 300 books in between readings, my memory was pretty hazy as to the details, but I knew the major plot line - a small town in Maine is suddenly cut off from the outside world by a invisible, impenetrable dome. What follows is the story of what happens to the townspeople inside as s*** starts to get real.
I was a huge fan of the opening of Under the Dome the first time, and the second time was no exception. It's a real attention grabber - the dome falls within the first few pages, and the amount of detail in which King describes the event is so imaginative that once I started reading, I found it difficult to stop.
As with many King novels, the cast of characters is huge, but there are only a few key characters - some of them average guys just trying to do the right thing and others are just plain crazy evil bastards. I love me a good baddie, and the baddies in Under the Dome are pretty despicable. Despite all the characters, I really liked how it gave me more perspectives - although I'm definitely a reader that will disregard less-than-stellar characterisation for a good plot line, so readers who need that strong character connection may not be able to forgive as readily as myself.
Under the Dome sounds like it couldn't possibly stretch to over 1000 pages - it's a bunch of people stuck in a small area and it sounds like the problems they face could become pretty repetitive, but King finds ways to make each persons' story unique. A pretty big deal considering the multitude of characters, but as always the amount of imagination and planning that goes into Under the Dome is pretty typical of King, and one of the reasons I enjoy reading his books so much.
Perhaps my only disappointment in the book as a whole is the actual reason behind the dome and the ending. It's kinda cool, and unique, but it also felt in the scheme of the plot it was over and done with pretty quickly - just not as balanced as I would have liked it to be, and perhaps even no real explanation would have worked better for me.
On the second reading, I've rated it slightly lower than my first reading, but before blogging my ratings were pretty much on gut feeling and the speed of which I read a book rather than weighing up the pros and cons, but I still really enjoyed Under the Dome, and it's definitely one of the most memorable Stephen King books I've read.
Characterisation is Kings bread and butter and this book is no exception: you will find yourself cheering when the protagonists occasionally triumph and mourning them when they fail. King has also created some entertaining villains who will have you clenching your hands in fists of rage at certain points The point I am getting at is that King makes you care. And does so effortlessly.
My main gripe is with the revelation near the end - although it isn't terrible, I found much of the suspense lost once we knew who/what was behind the Dome. Some of the child characters also slightly irritated me. As other reviewers have mentioned, some of their dialogue is cringe worthy and can leave you shaking your head with embarrassment.
This is still a fantastic book and some would argue a return to form for King (I personally have yet to read a bad book from him). By the standards of some of his earlier works, this is a solid 4 Star book. By the standards of the rest of the world, there's no question: easily a 5. Highly recommended.