Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I finished reading Under the Dome a few days ago. I usually read a book in two or three days, but it took me about a week to finish this one. At 1000+ pages, I guess that's to be expected. I still haven't given in to an e-reader, so after lugging it around all week, I weighed it. The paperback weighs over three pounds.

First things first, the short, traditional review:

One fine October day, an impenetrable dome falls over Chester's Mill, a small town in Maine. The town's residents (and there are many-- well over 50 named characters) struggle to survive together, while also searching for a way to lift the dome. New in town, former Army man Dale 'Barbie' Barbara butts heads with the town's big politician, used-car salesman Big Jim Rennie. Lots of people die. Honestly, a real summary would take about five pages, so I'll leave it at this. Think Lord of the Flies meets The Truman Show.

Did I like it? Yes. If you like King, especially if you're a fan of the less-gory works, you will like this book. Under the Dome is fast-paced, has believable characters, a satisfying conclusion, and plenty to say about society, politics, religion, the environment, etc., etc., etc.

Now, I've read probably ten books since I last reviewed one here. So why did I choose this one to write about? Because it has been a few days since I finished, and I'm still thinking about it. The weird thing is, I'm not thinking about it in the usual way I think about really poignant books. I was intrigued while I was reading, but once I was done, that was it. I'm glad I read it. But I didn't have an emotional connection. What I'm wondering is, why didn't I?

(Spoiler Alert-- I'm going to mention things that will ruin it for you while I ramble.)

Everything is done right. The descriptions bring vivid mental images. My favorite one-liner visual was something like 'Blood poppies bloomed on the white sheet.' That's not a direct quote, that's just how I remembered it. The characters are real and believable, and the point of view shifts seamlessly, and that is really difficult to do well. My favorite POV was the dog, Horace. It explores the many faces of human cruelty, from the teasing of a smart girl in grade school and catching ants on fire at the playground to torture in war times, power-fueled rape, murder for personal gain, and drug-induced carnage. So why isn't this the Great American Novel?

My husband suggested that it may be impossible for a sci-fi book to be the GAN, because it steps outside a realistic reflection of society. And so I pondered, what if you took that element out? (Big Spoiler Alert)
The dome is put in place by aliens, who laugh at the destruction their toy has caused. What if instead, the dome was placed by a writer? What if the novelist was the one putting the dome over the world he created, and the residents were begging him to let them 'live their little lives'? It would be interesting, but I'm still not sure that would make the difference. Maybe as a society and as individuals, we're just not ready to admit that this degree of violence and degradation is an accurate representation of us. Or maybe our preconceived notions of Mr. King just won't let us see it any other way than through blood-colored glasses.

I hope you are enjoying your new year! Until next time....

Music note of the day: I heard Hiphopopotamus today on the radio. Thanks for the laugh, Flight of the Concords!

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