Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Under the Dome by Stephen King

I've been a fan of King for many years. I've read dozens of his books over the years, my favorites being The Gunslinger Series, The Stand, and of course It.

The story of Under the Dome is pretty simple; Chester's Mill, a small town in Maine, is suddenly and inexplicably encased in an invisible, unbreakable, impermeable dome. As the small town adjusts to its new isolated existence, things quickly begin to unravel for the citizens of Chester's Mill. And within a week, things unravel completely.

I loved the characters in this book, they are incredibly distinct and memorable. This book has a LARGE cast of characters, and King manages to make them each feel real. There is also a very sharp line between the good characters and the bad characters. Typically I would find this polarization to be a little off-putting. I like moral ambiguity in books, and characters that are hard to figure out. But the distinct good/bad characters in Under the Dome are a delight to read about. The good guys are likable and brave, and they do the right thing even when it's the hard choice, and the bad guys are just downright evil, and in this book, it just works.

The town itself is arguably the lead character in this book, and this works very well as a storytelling technique, you really feel for the little town, when something bad happens to the town, as a reader, you really empathize with the town. This was also a very appealing part of the book.

The only issue I take with this book is the payoff at the end. The lead-up to the final section of the book is exquisite, but the actual end left me feeling a little let down. I don't know what I expected, and I feel that expectations are often a curse to have when reading a book. But the ending of this book was not King's best work.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It's a really fun read, and it moves at a breakneck speed, right from the very beginning. Even though I wasn't crazy about the end, I really connected with the characters, and I felt real sorrow and loss when the book ended. As my aunt said to me: I'll really miss my friends from Chester's Mill.

NOTE: I purchased the Audiobook version of this book for a road-trip I took to Kentucky, and I have to gush about the Narrator; Raul Esparza rivals Neil Gaiman as my top audiobook narrators. He manages to do many distinct voices (both male and female), without coming off too cheesy. This is a hard thing to do, and he does a great job with it. I don't listen to Audiobooks all that often, but I know how critical a good narrator is, and this particular book doesn't disappoint.

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