Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dome for the holidays

I don't really know why I haven't read Under the Dome since it first came out, but here we are. I'm kind of an idiot for skipping it all these years, though. Under the Dome is a pretty fucking good Stephen King novel.

I do feel like I need to add that qualifier, that it's a Stephen King novel, because I'm not sure this is a book that fits neatly into any genres. There's suspension, science fiction, horror, humor, and bedroom drama but all tied together and just a bit downstate from Derry so I guess the only place it really feels at home is in the literary universe of King.

I don't really like adding those kinds of qualifiers, but I'm not sure that anyone whose first experience with King was Under the Dome would feel like they got it. I think they'd kind of sit up and go "what the hell just happened" because there's a fair amount that happens that I'm not sure other authors could get away with: hell, I'm not all that sure that King gets away with it.

At one point in the book King references the journalist's basic "W"s - the who, what, when, where, why, and how that a local (or regional, national, and global, really) newspaper reporter should turn to before all else. I think that, when King was writing this novel, he could have safely abandoned the last two questions of his fictional journalist. Why and How cause problems in Under the Dome. Why and How aren't things that the audience really needs answers to and I think the answers that King gives are the only problematic part of the story.

I'm trying to dance around giving bits of the book away, here, and there's a good reason for that: I'm not worried about spoilers, I'm worried that the why and how of Under the Dome will be enough of a turnoff for some readers that they won't even bother with the book. Why and How feel like a cop out, like the easy answer, and like the things that define UtD as a Stephen King novel instead of a political apocalyptic horror story.

This book is over 1000 pages. It's a great book for 985 of those pages but there are just a couple thousand words that feel really problematic to me. The rest is AWESOME so I don't have that much of a problem ignoring the flaws, but I'm also a fangirl and I don't know that new readers or people who are critical of King will be as happy to overlook the frustrating answers to Why and How.

But they should. The characters in this book are stunningly crafted and the unearthly universe King plops into the middle of central Maine is fascinating. The plot is perky and keeps you going through a few draggy spots. There are plenty of people to love and hate and be incredibly frustrated by as you move through the pages, so if you have a day or two to kill Under the Dome is a good way to take care of that time.

     - Alli

King, Stephen. Under the Dome. Scribner. New York: New York. 2009.

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