Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome by Stephen KingI flew. Or maybe I floated? Either way gravity seemed disengaged. Naturally this lasted momentarily as flying was little more than an illusory falling: gravity’s poor attempt at humor. Falling too lasted momentarily transforming into rapidly accelerating tumbling. Mild panic transformed to deadly terror. We’ve all had dreams of falling. Woken to the terror and disorientation as the world tumbles out of control. As kid, my nightmarish dreamscape was always inspired by a cheap mass produced print over the couch, some unholy synthesis of Escher and Dali filled with bright geometric blocks melting into irrational lines, which I always seemed to fall endlessly through. Stephen King’s Under the Dome, another mass produced print, kept bringing me back to my youthful hallucinatory spills into continuous falling terror.

The beauty and talent of Stephen King lays in his ability to turn a merely terrible situation into a never-ending (your wrists will remind you of this fact as you attempt to prop up this 1000 page tomb) frightfully disturbing psychological drama. As Under the Dome unravels and you think nothing may get worse, it gets worse, and worse, and worse until the last glimmer of hope is crushed. In expected King fashion, Under the Dome begins in an idyllic Maine town which is suddenly isolated from the world by an invisible dome. Limbs and animals are severed in two, planes and automobiles explode as they hit, and loved ones are separated by this mysterious barrier. A local leader and his psychotic son stop at nothing to seize power as a crew of valiant average citizens fight for freedom against the clock. The premise is simple, even uninspired, but the execution is complex and compelling.

Again, in typical King fashion, the crux of the book is his intricate and detailed character development. King spends a seemingly endless number of pages detailing the horrors and shadowy potential within ourselves as he casts light on the vile secrets we all seek to keep closeted away. King reveals layer by intricate layer the motivations and challenges of each character, making even the most twisted character easy to relate to (or easy for me, which might be revealing far too much). I found myself empathizing with the delusional grandeur and psychopathic tendencies of the characters in a way only King can illuminate.

As the highest rated television show this summer, I felt compelled to read the original book. The TV show and book should not be compared. Not only do the plots deviate significantly, but the book is not plagued by the absurd dialogue and insipid acting of the show. If you have a few hours of your life to lose, you can catch the whole first season with a free 30 day Amazon Prime membership. That being said, the book is not without flaws.

The standard King critique applies: anti-climatic ending with a repetitive, practically monotonous, structure. I find King struggles to bring his books to a fulfilling conclusion. Perhaps it is impossible to draw a proper end to the deep tension, power, and drama King creates throughout Under the Dome; however, I was left with a case of reading testiculoscrotal pain that just left me annoyed and unsatisfied. Moreover, while Under the Dome pales in comparison to the egregious excess of the expanded edition of King’s The Stand, you can be forgive for the urge to skim past 300+ pages of endless character development with minimal plot change.

These are the known flaws of Stephen King, although I would appreciate at least one novel with an explanation for the supernatural creepiness that is not disappointing. Under the Dome’s remarkable ability to illuminate the darker side of the human condition through compelling character development and scare the crap out of you as you fall deeper into the abyss more than make up for these failures.

Pages: 1,074     FOA: 30,742

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