Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Constitution's been canceled in The Mill

I just finished Stephen King's Under the Dome and man. That was a long and stressful journey.

I don't really mean to read so much King. It just sort of happens, usually because I find copies of his books on sale and go "why not". Besides, if I ever want a book that's going to suck me in, King is a good way to go. And he's written roughly 2 bazillion novels so there is a LOT to choose from. And Laura was kind enough to put together a list of King books I should read based on his other stuff that I like.

The plot itself is very simple: one day a dome of some sort closes off the Maine (of course) town of Chester Mill from the rest of the world. No one knows what the dome is or where it came from but you can't get out and nothing can get in. And IMMEDIATELY shit starts to go wrong. Sort of Lord of the Flies mixed with a little An Inconvenient Truth.

There are a TON of characters to keep track of. I really should have made a chart. Except the chart would have to have been constantly revised. But there weren't so many characters that I couldn't follow or didn't enjoy it. I liked having so many characters to watch and it really made sense when you consider it was an entire town of around 2,000 people trapped together. Some are more directly involved with the action but everyone in town is affected in some way.

Big Jim Rennie is one of the best villains I can think of. He's intelligence, conniving, power-obsessed, narcissistic asshole. Every time he's around you know something bad is going to happen and the way he is able to manipulate people is disgusting and a bit impressive. The hero characters (Dale "Barbie" Barbara, Julia Shumway, Eric "Rusty" Everett) are all good and interesting people but it's not the same. There isn't really a lot of grey area with the characters. Sure, not all of them are as evil as big Jim, but for the most part all of the characters fall into one camp or the other. Which is fine and works with this story.

I said the story is long and stressful, and it is. It's 1,092 pages, at least according to Goodreads. I read the thing on my Kindle so I'm not exactly sure how long it is, other than I'm really glad I was reading a digital copy instead of a physical one. And it's stressful because OMG there is so much that happens to our poor characters. And just when you think nothing else awful can happen to them you realize you have nother 500 pages to go and your heart sinks a little because you know things are just going to get worse before they can (hopefully? maybe? please?) start to get better.

Here's my only problem with Under the Dome. I love the premise that there's this town completely cut off from everything but this dome. I love watching how the citizens react and how things start going downhill real fast. What I was less interested in was the dome itself and why it's there. And that's the problem. You can't just plunk down this dome and then have no explanation for it. That sucks. But if you DO explain it, then you spend time with the characters dealing with that instead of the craziness going on with the other people, and then I start to lose interest. I can't think of a way that this could have been remedied and still keep the dome so whomp.

TL;DR? Good, but not GREAT King with excellent build up but a bit of a let down ending.

There is apparently to be a TV mini-series adaptation of the book coming out this summer (so sayeth Wikipedia). If so I'll need to make sure to catch it. I know King adaptations can go very badly, but I still like to give them a try. Plus I liked the mini-series adaptation of The Shining so maybe that's the way to go with his stuff.

Title quote from location 3440

King, Stephen. Under the Dome. Scribner, 2009. Kindle edition.