Saturday, November 05, 2011

King's Under the Dome a riveting read

Book 115: Under the Dome by Stephen King

A virgin no more.

In late October, I completed by first novel, Under the Dome, by horrormeister Stephen King.

It's a fat book, a tome, yet despite weighing in at almost 1,100 pages, the book is an amazingly quick read. In the author's notes, King said, "I tried to write a book that would keep the pedal consistently to the metal."

And to his credit, King has done exactly that.  An exceptional storyteller, King is the kind of writer who keeps you reading for pages and pages after you think it's time to stop for the day.

Under the Dome
is the story of Chester's Mill, a small, unexceptional Maine village. Unexceptional, that is, until one morning when an impenetrable dome, in the exact shape of the village's dimensions, suddenly isolates the village from the rest of the world.  Although minute amounts of oxygen and water penetrate the dome, even a cruise missile can't break through. 

King combines Lord of the Flies with Babbit as Jim Rennie, the owner of local used car lot and the town's second selectman, sees the dome as an opportunity to consolidate his control of Chester's Mill and eliminate the traces of his criminal enterprise.  Rennie, who urges his stooges to fall to their knees and join him in prayer, has corrupted numerous townspeople, including his own pastor, through the wealth generated by what may well be the largest meth lab in America.

Rennie's rapacity is offset by the crusading publisher of the local weekly newspaper and a former military veteran, who is seconds from leaving town when the dome comes down.

All of this is fairly straight forward, until King adds his unique touch by mixing in his traditional brand of horror and science fiction.  The children of Chester's Mill emerge from convulsive spells with dire warnings concerning Halloween. And, as for the dome, it's not the product of any earthly science. That's all I say about it's sources. If you plan to read Under the Dome, you'll want to discover it's true nature for yourself. And if you aren't going to read it, you don't care.

King's no stylist, but, as mentioned earlier, he's a superb storyteller, mixing popular culture with elements of horror and sci fi to deliver a satisfying read.

(I was delighted to see King make reference to Lee Child's Jack Reacher in Under the Dome.  A nice tip of the cap to a terrific series.)

Book 114: Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser

Dangerous Laughter is a collection of bizarre stories: a high school boy who conducts a summer romance with a school friend's sister entirely within the confines of a darkened room; domes that fit entirely over houses, but soon grow larger and larger; a group of teenagers that virtually torture one another with laughter.

Millhauser is a stylish writer, but his stories will not be to everyone's taste. Certainly, they were not to mine.

1 comment:

  1. I am an avid King fan and have read nearly everything he's written. Yet I struggled with Dome, and eventually put it down, as the beginning was so opressive and dreary.

    Thanks for the review - I'm working myself up for another go.