Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King

Last summer I was tricked into watching the terrible first season of the television show adaptation of Stephen King's Under The Dome. CBS was advertising it as a summer miniseries (or at least did not reveal that it was going to be a multi-season show), and I was under the impression that it would be a good opportunity to experience the brilliant work of fiction I'd wanted to read but couldn't make time for (the hardcover edition is 1,074 pages long, likely with tiny print).

The show turned out to be a laughably bad adaptation that strayed from the source material (one character who dies in her first appearance in the book is a main, living character in the show). I watched it with friends, as it was fun to mock, was mysterious enough to wonder what would happen next, and was seemingly the only new thing on TV for the summer.

I knew that in order to get the high-quality Stephen King version of the story I'd have to go right to the source. I had recently discovered that my local library has quite a selection of audio books on disc, including Under The Dome. I decided it was time to dive in and listen to the 30 disc book on my commutes to and from work.

To get the audio book-specific review out of the way, I'll say that this was my first time listening to a fictional audio book (and my third audio book overall), and it was very well done. Raúl Esparza did an amazing job telling the story and fitting a different voice to each character of the very large cast.

Like most people, I enjoy the work of Stephen King. Lisey's Story is one of my absolute favorite books (and is apparently the favorite of Stephen King's own works, he once admitted), and I've read and enjoyed several others such as Thinner, Desperation, The Shining, Christine, The Eyes Of The Dragon, and Cell.

As far as his writing style is concerned, I find myself occasionally skipping some of his extensive explanations of things, and I even grew tired of and decided not to finish The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon because I couldn't stand so much description of so little happening. I definitely zoned out a couple times while listening to Under The Dome for the same reason, but overall this is a book full of action.

The story is told by a third person omnipotent narrator from the perspective of multiple central and non-central characters. You get to know the inner thoughts of the good guys, the bad guys, and even a dog. This method of storytelling helps flesh out the world perhaps more than any other Stephen King has written. You get to know a good chunk of the many citizens of Chester's Mill, a fictional town in (where else?) Maine. This helps to create a world where, rather than a lot of action being done to or by a small group of people, it feels like every citizen of the town is involved in the crisis.

The crisis is, of course, that the town of Chester's Mill has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible and impenetrable dome. It's like The Simpsons Movie, except more supernatural and Stephen King apparently had the story drafted decades before that movie was written. Within only days of the town being cut off, the local used car dealer and selectman rises to power; converting the small town into a military state, the weather and color of the sky changes as pollution gathers on the outside and inside of the dome, and various citizens experience disturbing visions of future events.

Under The Dome is easily one of the best Stephen King books that I've read. It's exciting from beginning to end, and even with the visions of the future teasing me, I couldn't guess what would happen next. I'd highly suggest this to anyone with the motivation to read such a large book, as it is surely worth your time.

And yes, I'll be giving season 2 of the show another chance to win me over.

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