I reviewed the book in Nov 2009:

“There are definitely demands made by King on the reader, the first being the 900 pages. You then have to surrender to the inevitable that lots of people are going to die and mostly for no other reason than those who are suppose to support us in a crisis have no idea how to do it and will in the end just save themselves.”

(Via: Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton) | Gav Reads)

And I can see it making 13 hours of gripping TV. I wonder what they’ll do with the end though? And if it’ll make it to the UK? 

I really enjoyed Storm of the Century so King can be done well on TV. Anyone else want to watch it?

THIS KING

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11/22/63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 – from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

It’s not out until November but apart from the new cover, which has a nice little SF vide going on, I noticed the page count, 928 of them! It’s going to a tome and half!

Under the Cosh, this may as well have been called, which is perhaps a little unfair, but you didn’t have to speed-read it inside a week. It’s not that this is a bad book. It is, in many ways, a good book: King’s take on the America of Bush and 9/11, a nation on the verge of environmental and moral collapse. But it is, in so many other ways, too much, too big, too long. And too Stephen King.

link: Under the Dome by Stephen King | Book review | Books | The Observer

I’m feeling a little pissed after reading this review in a paper that really should know better. It seems they (Euan Ferguson) read a book that they didn’t want to and because it was big they had more to hate but they had to speed read it and they hated that too.

Alright they hated the book, didn’t they? Though

The existential explanation for the dome is beautifully managed, warmed up and hinted and, yes, keeps the pages turning.

which is strange when

Even diehard fans of his peerless imagination, of whom there are justifiably many millions, will struggle with the sheer heft of the thing: it’s like carrying around something which is simply wrongly weighted for a book, a hefty dead cormorant or some such, and after a little while it begins to feel like carrying around a grudge.

Oh and lets not forget

He had a grand idea, a long time ago, then hammered it out recently in a year and a half. He could have done it as skillfully in a month and saved us the hernias.

I get it it’s too big. But does the reviewer explain what threads aren’t needed? Who he doesn’t need to know so much about? Does he say how it could be chopped and changed? No.

This is such a worthless review. It’s a good book that’s too long but without saying why it’s meaningless.

So is it not worth the effort because it’s a genre book? Or it it not worth the effort because it’s Stephen King?

I wonder this because another Ferguson review, this time of And Another Thing says,

But these quibbles were a struggle to find and even the sainted Adams wasn’t above the occasional infuriatingly indulgent longueur, such as basing the whole of his least good book on an extended metaphor involving cricket. Colfer has given us a delight, and an eye-opener, and hope, and, close as this book does on the line “The end of one of the middles”, the near-promise of more to come.

So why am I getting annoyed. Millions of people love Stephen King and he’ll sell regardless of a review. But as I said to the editor (yep I’m that annoyed):

I truly fail to see any merit in this review. I do feel annoyed though that Euan Ferguson was given a platform to have a whinge.

If you’re going to slag off a book back it up if you can. Don’t spend nine paragraphs saying that same thing. And if you can’t think of anything why bother writing it.

There is limited space in a newspaper, space that is rapidly shrinking, (even though we spent 1,924m on adult books in the UK in 2008) so why not celebrate reading or spend time giving proper criticism instead of this junk?

And I’m not saying my reviews are perfect but if I had a platform such as a national newspaper I doubt I’d be saying ‘poor me this is a big book and I’ve got a week to read it. Don’t you feel sorry for me?’

But coming back to the point if it wasn’t a ‘genre’ book or if it wasn’t Stephen King would it get such treatment?

It didn’t happen to 2666 by Roberto Bolano and that’s 912 pages and Wolf Hall at 672 is hardly light. I don’t think I’ve seen any of their reviewers complaining of having to carry such a book. They got on with talking about the contents.

I’m a little sensitive on the subject of Stephen King not because he’s perfect, he’s sometimes poor, and sometimes average but when he hits the mark he’s amazing and to see him being dismissed by the Lit Fic crowd makes my blood boil and is bloody disrespectful.

End rant.

underthedome

Under the Dome is a big book in both pages and in terms of scope but one that takes place in one town, Chester’s Mill. And it’s probably true to say that that King is going to be testing himself to the limit with this book.

The title of Under the Dome describes the events that happen in Chester’s Mill perfectly as the town is literally cut off from the outside world when the dome drops down. This barrier is see-thru and during the opening scenes a lot of people, birds and animals die finding out about its appearance.

This is the first strength of King’s writing. He doesn’t just kill them. He gives them flesh and bone first so that you can feel their bodies breaking and their personalities dying as they impact the barrier.

Now I don’t usually go in for character lists at the start of books mostly because the cast is usually small enough to remember and if the writer is good enough then he places them for me when he they appear.

King does give his characters the breath of life but when you’re dealing with 2000 potential residents to focus on seeing some of the key townsfolk and their connections and roles in the front to refer to is quite handy.

And King is dealing with all those trapped in the dome though we don’t follow all of them. Who we do focus in on are those key people that are involved in a ‘them’ versus ‘us’ struggle that is slowly revealed as it becomes clearer that this town is on its own. And it isn’t turning into a place where some of them are welcome.

And to paraphrase Julie Shumway, Owner/Editor of the Local Newspaper, ‘If I thought the’d be an actual crisis I’d never had voted for Town Official Jim Rennie, Second Selectman.

But the town did vote for him and Jim Rennie is a man that likes to be in control and a crisis just like this is just what he needs to show the town how much they need him. The US Government throws a spanner into Rennie’s plans for power by asking Dale Barbara, cook at Sweetbriar Rose to be their man on the inside.

But this more about power. It’s about people under pressure, how they react and how easily we can be manipulated.

The reason that it’s so long as a novel is that not only is King dealing with a rather large cast but also he’s spending time with lots of them building up their stories layer by layer. Detail by Detail. Until they all start coming together.

If there is one thing that signifies King and his writing it’s details. There is a lot of information here. But it’s not overwhelming. I’m sure he could have cut some of it but I wouldn’t know where to start. And some of those seemingly minor points have great significance further on.

And it all comes down to significant little moments that snowball out of everyones control but Jims’s and no matter how illogical some of connections are. The populous take it in. They believe so easily. And that’s what scared me the most. How easily we can fall into chaos. How tentative our values are and how when we feel desperate to survive we make selfish choices.

There are some clever ideas explored here as well like what if a town was cut off by a permeable barrier that only let some but air through trapping what was left inside. What would happen as that air was being used and polluted? What would happen to power and food? What would people do to cope?  How many would take their own lives when it becomes clear that they might not escape? Would we be thinking about what is good for everyone or just ourselves? How would the people at the top control us? Who would they recruit in their own private army?

The reason that this took me so long to read is the sense of reality slipping that comes from reading it. There are probable with it. There is an outside influence to the existence of the Dome. And that influence fits with Kings previous works. And he probably could have played that up more as they control events on the inside.

But that lightness of external influence probably helps because of the brutality and honesty of what King describes. It’s not often that books makes me question my fellow humans or worms its way in that I’m distracted and can’t think of much else.

There is definitely demands made by King on the reader, the first being the 900 pages. You then have to surrender to the inevitable. That lots of people are going to die and mostly for no other reason than given the choice most of those who are suppose to support us in a crisis have no idea how to do it and will in the end just save themselves.

And for all those reasons Under the Dome might be my read of the year.

Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Edition: Hardback
Publication: Out Now
Review Copy

under the dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Published Today by Hodder

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as ‘the dome’ comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. Dale Barbara, Iraq vet, teams up with a few intrepid citizens against the town’s corrupt politician. But time, under the dome, is running out….

One of the great things about book reviewing is that you get to read books early and I’ve been desperately trying to read this one in time for today. But as I’ve said before that I don’t read like a maniac just for a review. I wish I could read like a maniac and as an aside I’ve just downloaded and QuickReader to try and do just that. I read for enjoyment but I’ll try not to leave it too long before getting a review up.

So I’ve been lucky enough to be reading Under the Dome early. I’m definitely a King fan though there are probably more than a few gaps in my reading. One of my all-time favourite books is Dolores Claiborne, though no horror, shows King at what he does best, creating amazing realistic characters.

And that’s what I’m finding with Under the Dome, and probably why it’s going to take me a while (not to mention the 900 pages), is that he’s spending time building up the town, concentrating on the townsfolk and their relationships and building lots and lots of tension.

I was surprised by the nature of the dome but that realisation is going to open up more possibilities than the other sort of origin I was imagining though it’s all speculation at this point. There are dribs and drabs of clues but that’s probably misinformation.

The thing that is going to disturb me most while reading it is wondering how far are we away from turning from civilised to Lord of the Flies and how Mr King is going to make that feel as realistic and as uncomfortable as possible, whilst scary me half to death.

Finally, there is a new trend or book trailers. This is the US trailer but it’s pretty cool I think: