This review was originally posted over at Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF on the 11th of November 2009.
It’s officially Dome Day! And here’s the review I (enthusiastically) posted last month.
So I’m finally done, and I feel kind of drained. I’m not relieved -to the contrary, I wish it could have gone on longer- but I am glad that I’ve finished Under the Dome. This is a book I’ll be celebrating as long as books and storytelling exist, a book that I’ll always be happy to talk about.
I received (was very lucky, being one of 6 readers in South Africa) the 187th proof copy of Under the Dome from a very cool lady who runs this blog after I had found her on Twitter and sent an @ her way – Twitter is so damn awesome! And when I had the copy in my hands (it came with a plastic enclosing-sleeve, even), I was trembling. And this was after waiting 3 years for the book. And back when I heard about it, I never once thought that I would be lucky enough to be given a chance to read it before publication! But I did, and let me tell you, it was definitely worth the 25-year wait (that’s how long the King took to write the book)!
I dare every one of you out there, be you a fan of Stephen King or not, to read the first chapter of Under the Dome when it’s released. I dare you. Because I tell you what, you wont want to put it down. You might, I allow, but with just the first section (focusing on a plane and a little bird) Stephen hooks the reader and pulls, pulls until you tumble all the way in. The Dome literally closes around you, and if I could paraphrase Ray Bradbury’s opening line of Fahrenheit 451 I would, but I don’t want to, yet I think you understand what I’m getting at. Being pulled in was at once terrifying and exhilarating.
Getting further into the book, Stephen starts to showcase that amazing eye for characterization he is known for – the back of the proof states that Under the Dome features “more than 100 characters” and that’s no lie, trust me. The main character-group (those who get the most POVs) are headed by Dale Barbara on one side and Jim Rennie on the other, but there are so many other characters (including an awesome Corgi that had me wiping away tears at the end) representing so many different and conflicting points on view (conflicting, yes, but doesn’t everyone’s POV come into conflict with someone else’s?) that you not only are immersed in their lives, hearts and heads, but that the town of Chester’s Mills comes so vibrantly alive with them that so can actually convince yourself that you can see these places and people without any apparent effort. Match Stephen’s amazing characters to his incredible ability to build worlds, and it takes the breath away. You will hate some the people you will meet; you will love some, too. Many will surprise you, even with how deep they fall or rise, and all of them will speak to something within you. What are characters in novels, when it comes down to it? They are all echoes and explorations of what we could be, if the world was a bit different, and Stephen understands this. I’ve got those I love and those I hate fixed firmly in my mind’s eye, and once you’ve read the book, you’ll agree that some are very welcome, and some not so much.
Something that also kicks the book into high gear from page 1 is the structure of it; I’m sure you all know that Stephen King doesn’t really use chapters – instead, he breaks the narrative up into myriad sections, with each section consisting of around 20 parts, sometimes more or less, (sounds like such a terrible word to use but I can’t think of anything else at the moment) and he does the same here. But the thing that leapt out at me as soon as I hit the second section-chunk was that he was drawing our attention to a specific scene or event or character in that section, and once I understood that I had to check myself to avoid racing through the book; it really served to ramp up the pace, which each section delivering a gut-punch, repeated all the way to the end, until the final, incredible climax. Now, I’m sure that there’ll be an opinion different to mine on the climax of Under the Dome (and I welcome it), but just remember one thing; Stephen has been doing this for a long time now, and he is the master at it., but all I can say is I loved it, it was fitting and incredible, it’s still sinking in.
Under the Dome is, in all ways, an incredible novel, and Stephen an incredible storyteller (anyone who calls him a novelist should be smacked upside the head), and Under the Dome is another rampaging super bestseller, no doubt about it, but it’s also a book that you’ll want to re-read and re-live more than once; Stephen has a way of layering his work, a way of raising and lowering the blinds that’ll have you once again settling that book in front of you and being terrified to death and back. There was for me a moment set in a pantry that creeped me the hell out but hand me laughing myself sore, too; the only guy I know who can do that is the King, and the wonderful pleasure of books would never have been the same without him and his work!
I give this book a very strong, fist-pumping-in-the-air 9 /10; you’ll enjoy being under the Dome, no doubt about it!
To check out the amazing cover in all its HD glory, click here!
I will also soon be posting an awesome Dome-related treasure-hunt (wish I could say it was my idea) soon, so keep an eye out for that.
To pre-order your copies, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and for those in SA, please use this link.
The official Under the Dome website is also up and running, and click here to go to Stephen King’s official site