Book: Under the Dome by Stephen King
Date Read: November 21, 2017 to January 20, 2018
Rating: 4 (of 5) stars
This book was a bit of an undertaking for me. I have read a few Stephen King books before, but this was the first lengthy novel that I have taken on in quite some time. Initially I was a bit concerned about the length of the book– I worried that I get bored with it and end up stretching it out even further than necessary. I was pleasantly surprised with the pacing of the story. While I would not necessarily say that there was “nonstop action,” the plot moved along well and was intricate enough that I wanted to pay attention to the details of what was happening without feeling overwhelmed by the complexity. I liked the set up of the novel, broken up into named “parts” with numbered chapters in each.
Overall, I did really enjoy the book. One piece that I feel a little torn about is the number of characters, and how they were so easily dispensed of. I suppose I should say this is a spoiler alert, but I also think this should be fairly obvious: there is a huge death toll in this book. Many characters are introduced and named only to be killed within a few pages. While I did not necessarily keep track, I would guess there were nearing 100 named characters in the course of the novel, and only a small number of these remaining at the end. I suppose some of this is to be expected. This is a novel by a noted author of horror. But at the same time, some of it felt excessive and unnecessary. There are tons of developing problems throughout the novel, several of which are simply dealt with by the death of one or more involved characters. I suppose this is at least efficient.
Finally, I feel it appropriate to address one of the top criticisms that I have heard in other reviews of this book: that the distinction between good and evil is too clearly made, making the characters too “black and white,” and perhaps a little flat. I will say I both agree and disagree with this. Yes, the main good guys vs. bad guys situation set up here is fairly straightforward, and this really does not have much to do with the presence of the dome. The bad guys have always been bad, and the good guys have, generally, been good (or at least reasonable and decent people). However, I think leaving it at that is an oversimplification. There are myriad other characters that do not strictly follow those lines. Sure, sides end up being drawn fairly easily, but I wouldn’t say that any of the “good” characters are presented as infallible. I also personally really enjoyed some of the characters who didn’t clearly fit in either of those categories: like Andy Sanders and Chef Bushey. By no means would either of them fit into the “good guy” category, but both also find themselves opposed to the “bad guys” at several points along the way. They are the wildcards, which I don’t think can be left out when considering the book as whole.
And as a truly final note, I did write down one quote to remember:
“When dawn was still long hours away, bad thoughts took on flesh and began to walk.”