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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Under the Dome: A Novel - Stephen King Both this book and The Stand have been looming over me since I started working on my grand library reread project. (The Stand has its own thing that I’ve been doing elsewhere; and yes, there will be a review here.) Mainly because they’re long. Not that I have an issue with very long books, but when I’m doing most of my reading on lunch breaks, dragging around a thousand page book all day is straining. And honestly, I’ve been hesitant about reading Under the Dome (and by extension, 11/22/63) because of its length. Not that I think “Omg this is going to be so long and boring” automatically…but there’s that chance. For as much as I love The Stand, there are parts I think “GET ON WITH IT!” That’s what I was dreading with Under the Dome: a book with a great set-up, boring middle bits and an explosive ending.So I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself completely drawn in by this book. If it weren’t for real life getting in the way of reading (which real life tends to do, sadly), I probably would have gotten through this a lot quicker than I did. That said though, this is a whole lotta book. It ought to be telling that there’s a dramatis personae at the start, because there’s a load of characters with a lot of interconnecting storylines. (Most of which die within said thousand pages. I think this is the biggest body count of named characters in King’s books, or at least the ones I’ve read.) But what makes the book work so well, and is definitely the main driving force of the entire novel, is the simplicity of the plot. Put two volatile forces in an enclosed area. What happens next?What I really like about Dale Barbara and his growing group of allies is that they’re flawed people running from the past in one way or another. For Barbie, it’s literal as he’s trying to escape his haunted service in Iraq. But you’ve also got Julia, who’s got her own personal demons she’s got hidden. Aside from the group of kids and the Everetts, I liked that we’re following around a group of flawed people who are just trying to do right by the situation. I like that they all understand what the situation is, and how bad things could potentially (and they do) get. I like that Barbie is not only viewed as an outsider, but as someone who could probably make Chester’s Mill his home if he’s willing to let his past go. Which comes to bite him in the ass so much.So with that, our villains. As the main villain, Jim Rennie…well. If I didn’t remember that this was written in 2007-2008ish, I would have pointedly looked at Mitt Romney a few times while reading this. King’s not very subtle with his viewpoint of Rennie’s particular brand of conservatism (which is why I think Julia’s Republican leanings tend to get mentioned repeatedly) and at times, Rennie feels more cartoonish than threatening. (In comparison, Greg Stillson from The Dark Zone, who I find more terrifying than whatever hellspawn King’s ever come up, and that includes Pennywise.) But I do like the fact that for all that he goes out of his way to discredit Barbie and company, there’s never a grand showdown between them and Rennie. I liked how he goes out; it’s relatively anti-climatic, but given all of his ‘Christian’ talk, it feels like God literally had to step in and take care of him. By contrast,Junior. Junior creeped me out way more than his father did, just for the sheer level that we get into his mind at several points and see how he justifies the world. And man, is it disturbing. Whenever he rescued the Appleton kids, I just wanted to reach in and slap Junior away from them.As I said, the biggest driving conflict of the novel is the premise alone. I really enjoyed seeing how the situation escalated from curiosity to “Welp, we’re boned.” (In a matter of speaking.) And as I also noted, this is brutal in regards to character death. The last hundred and fifty pages with the remaining survivors are incredibly tense, and not even that various characters are dying of open wounds; it’s all monoxide poisoning, and you honestly don’t know who’s going to survive the night. It’s not a case of “Sometimes, the good guys just die, but they go out fighting”; it’s “real world science is going to screw you all so hard.”If there’s one other thing I was immensely iffy on, it’s the reveal. Alien children essentially playing the Sims. Oh come on, you’ve done it if you played the game—lock all of your player characters into a house, remove the bathrooms and doors and see how fast they die. Partially, I don’t like it because of the way it’s resolved, with Julia showing the one alien child that humans can be horrible bastards, but we deserve to live our lives! It might just be me though.(Slightly tangenting, but uh, Stephen King? Did Lee Child agree to do the big cover quote if you made Jack Reacher a plot point? I’m all for shout-outs to other writers and their works, but the whole “Oh, Reacher recommended you” stretched my crossover meter as a bit too coincidental. Nitpicking, I know, but it took me out of the story.)I know I’ve glossed over about 40% of all of the big plotlines, and many of the many (many, many) characters here—I’m not kidding when I say this is a whole lotta book. I did really like the various kids of the Mill (OLLIE DINSMORE MY HEART); and Sammy Bushey’s storyline is so horrifying and heartbreaking that it would have been disturbing without the supernatural forces at play. But the main plot is the heart of the whole book, and it drives so much of what happens. And even though I wasn’t jumping all over the reveal and true climax, I do like that it’s not overtly complicated. Much like my initial hesitation toward reading Under the Dome, I’ve had a lot of my customers at the bookstore take one look at the book and tell me “Not doing it.” (To be entirely fair, I don’t blame them because of the weight.) However, I will definitely be recommending that they give it a chance at some point, because despite the length, the story is incredibly engaging and moves quickly. Which, at a thousand-plus pages, that’s a really good thing.