Tuesday, 29 April 2014

"Under the Dome" by Stephen King

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Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 1092
Genre: Science Fiction
Format/Source: Kindle/Amazon

"[He] looked up and saw [her] brains drying high on one wall. What she used to think with now looked like a clot of oatmeal. He burst into tears."
On the morning of October 21, out of the blue, an invisible barrier appears all around Chester's Mill, Maine. The first two victims of the "Dome Day" are the two passengers of a little plane that crashes into the "Dome", the hand of a gardener who happened to be reaching over the town limits the exact moment is cut off by the force field, it's owner dies of blood loss.
Aside from killing another half-a-dozen or so people and one woodchuck, the Dome also prevents Dale Barbara, nicknamed Barbie, a cook and Ex-Iraq solider from leaving the town after a physical conflict with the son of the town's second selectman.
As the town scrambles to adapt with this situation, this selectman, Big Jim Rennie, is quick to hatch a plan and try to take on control over Chester's Mill, whatever the price is.
But Barbie and Julia Shumway - the publisher of the local paper - see through this plan and suspect there's a little more to Big Jim than the dutiful selectman and used car dealer than it seems.

This was a hefty read and a hefty review to write. 
I watched the TV-Series and I couldn't wait to find out how it ends so I wanted to read the book. I got a Kindle for Christmas for the exact purpose of not having to carry 600+ page books with me and since, on top, it was reduced to 2 € on Amazon I practically sprung to buy it. 
Turns out, the TV-Series is differs from the book in about 99% of all cases so I still don't know how the Series will end.

I'm not going to lie, after I read the first 40 or so pages I was veeeery close to quitting it. It wasn't the many deaths, I don't have a problem with that, it was just the prosaic and uncaring way the deaths were described. And throughout the book, King's langage stayes this plain and indifferent. It describes the situation but isn't beautiful in any way. 
"He swallows the last part of Jack, casts the bottle onto the grass and blows his brains out. He is The Mill's first official suicide. He will not be the last."
Maybe it bothered me because I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and somewhat spoilt from him.
Anyway, I realised 40, 50 pages was to early to quit a 1000+ page book, I decided 150 was more appropriate and went through with it.
And, oh wonder, after the initial carnage, King's writing wasn't so bothering anymore and the exciting part kicked in.

You wouldn't expect it from the humongous size, but the book only spans about a week or so, but it follows many citizens from the town, describing the same situation from different viewpoints in third person. 
And I absolutely loved the characters in this book. 
Well actually I hated many characters but I loved how they were written, how diverse and deep they were. Like the temper-ridden Reverend Piper Libby who stopped believing in go but still preaches or the violent teenager Junior who goes crazy because of a brain tumour but still describes a young girl hugging him as one of the best feelings of his life, a republican woman who publishes the paper called "The Democrat", an ex Iraq solider who works as cook, a lanky skaterboy genius... 
I've never actually read a non-fantasy book with this diverse characters and I looooved it.

The plot is very "Lord of the flies"-esque, many people under the dome immediately stop caring about laws because 
- who's gonna enforce them? 
Who's gonna punish them when they break a law?
Right. Noone. 
And so, with a little help of a megalomaniac selectman invisibly pulling some strings the whole town descends into chaos rather quickly. Only a few people build up the braveness to stand against the new brutal 'police' who soley acts for it's own needs.
And the whole book effectively builds suspense as to the questions "Who made the dome?" and "How do we get out?" That I found the end rather unsatisfying and a little sudden. It's the first book by Stephen King I've read so I don't really know which explanations for weird events he normally has, I found this weirdish and a little weak. 
But still, it moved me to tears when a few beloved characters died, it was delightfully suspenseful right until the end and I particularly enjoyed the friendship sparking between the farmer's kid Ollie Dinsmore and a young solider, Pvt. Ames.

The whole book is rather sad, frustrating, disconcerting etc. and I cried more than once. There are happy moments but not really many. From what I've heard, you wouldn't even expect that from Steven King, but juuust to be sure.

 Anyways, except the a little unsatisfying end, I actually loved the book. The straightforward writing style took a little to get used to but, oh well. The characters were great, the plot was suspenseful and thought through. However it has very little to do with the TV-Show, if you're looking for that.

I would definitely recommend this to you if your into complex characters, dystopia, fat books and a little sci-fi. I wouldn't recommend it to you if you're after a light read or sensitive about vivid descriptions of murder/death and/or rape.

I already bought a new book by Stephen King and am looking forward to reading it!

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