Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Under the Dome - Stephen King (audio)



I cut my youthful literary teeth on Stephen King. I believe The Stand to be his greatest feat, an epic beyond epics. (Surprisingly, the made-for-TV-movie is pretty compelling. We own it and watch it every couple of years.) I had heard Under the Dome was reminiscent of the good old King, far from his newer endeavors of The Cell and Lisey's Story, which I couldn't even bring myself to read. When I started to listen to this 30-disc monster, I chuckled to myself. I could pick his prose out of dozens. It is sooooo vintage King. Almost too vintage. But I will get to that in a minute.

So here is the drill. Small Maine town (shocker I know), where the townspeople are rudely jolted out of their daily drudgery by the appearance of a very large, transparent dome that has encased the town proper. By disc two, there was a sizable body count resulting from cars and an airplane colliding with the dome, people being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having arms/legs/heads cut off. Hmmm. Curious. You can take it all from here. The army, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer are on the scene, on the outside looking in. No power. Limited supply of food, firemen/police/doctors, propane. Greenhouse effect = hot. Polluted air. But those are just the physical problems.

Then there are the people, the real heart of every King tome. There are the unsung heroes...a Gulf war veteran cum short order cook, a nosey journalist, a whiz kid, a physician's assistant, a town drunk, a college professor...who bubble to the surface throughout the entire story. Frailties are present, but intent is pure. Everyman, if you will.

And oh, the evil ones! King has a brilliant gift for making my stomach burn from the loathing of the lecherous. A newly-formed police force that resembles the Hitler youth, a money-grubbing dentist, the homicidal son of the town's unofficial leader. A leader who is so despicable, he is a stereotype. A bible-thumper, he refuses to curse, but doesn't blink an eye if he must bash someone's head in as a means to the end. A profiteer at the core, who sees this whole dome business as an opportunity.

There is also the splinter cell. Bad guys that march to the beat of their own drum, and are a threat to everyone, including their bad guy brothers. Explosions are involved.

Where am I going with all of this? My prevailing thought throughout this HIGHLY entertaining book was that it is The Stand Redux. That doesn't mean I didn't like it. I wallowed in it. But I knew, in the back of my mind, how it was all going to turn out. It is in the journey that pleasure is derived. And the message. In this case, be kind and have empathy for everyone and everything, including the ants. They have lives too.

There is an enormous cast of characters. Dozens and dozens of names and personalities, so much that it could overwhelm you if you let it. My advice would be to hitch up your skirts (or trousers) and wade through it. Don't sweat it. The important people will find their place in the forefront of your brain eventually.

I had a moment of total fangirl glee somewhere in the middle of the story. I know for a fact, through King's editorial column in EW, that he enjoys Lee Child's Jack Reacher crime thriller series (a personal obsession of mine). He tips his hat to the anti-hero Reacher not once, but twice, with a passing use of Reacher's name in context. I giggled. I loved it. I needed to tell someone, but who do I know that loves King AND Reacher? I told my husband, who gave me a blank stare, then went back to his tirade about the stock market "fat finger" debacle.

I also know that King loves audio books, so I had fairly high expectations of this particular narrator. And he WAS pretty close to awesome. His depiction of the head baddie, Big Jim Rinney, was perfection. Worthy of your darkest, ugliest thoughts.

I've asked myself the question...if this book had been written first, before The Stand, would I love it more? Probably. But that didn't happen, and instead it stands as a paler bridesmaid next to the blushing bride. She is attractive in her own right of course, but is still in her shadow, nevertheless.

4 out of 5 stars

23 comments:

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I haven't read anything by Stephen King before (I'm scared of his horror!) but this one does sound appealing to me. Your review has almost persuaded me to read The Stand though...Now I can't decide what to do :-)

Melody said...

I've heard so much good things about The Stand, but I'm still scared of picking it up due to the thickness of the book (and the same applies to Under the Dome). I hope I'll change my mind about that one day soon!

JoAnn said...

It has been years (like 20!) since I read King. Had heard this was like his early stuff... maybe I should listen for old times sake?

Craftymoose Crafts said...

I was a hardcore King fan and loved all his early books. Even went to a book signing & met him. I stopped reading him when his style changed & he went more for the "gross out" instead of pure terror. If this is reminiscent of his earlier work, I'd love it!

detweilermom said...

I listened to Under the Dome earlier this year. I agreed with everything you said. King just has a way to bring horror from the everyday things.

Andreea said...

I think I only read one short story by this author. But my best friend is a huge fan of King and maybe I will read one of his books in the future.

Thanks for your review!

Zibilee said...

You know, I think I have only read one book by King. I think it was his fantasy book, The Eyes of the Dragon. I have heard that his books are really wonderful reads and that he is a master storyteller, so I don't know why I have been avoiding him!! This book sounds great and like something that I would probably really like, so I will be taking a closer look at it. Great review, Sandy!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sounds like it will make a great movie! And I do like both Kind and Child!

OutnumberedMama said...

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Susan said...

Oh boy! I haven't read a King book in a looonnng time! I loved The Stand...it was one of those books that Ididn't want to end. This sounds really good, so I may take it on.

Very eerie veri word: kagical...as in magical King?

Literary Feline said...

I haven't yet read The Stand but I do want to. I've read two of King's books and one I liked quite a bit (Misery) and the other I found utterly hilarious (and not in a good way--that being The Cell). I am glad you enjoyed this one, Sandy.

Iliana said...

I really liked older King books but after The Tommyknockers I stopped reading him. I've been curious to try some of his newer books and it looks like this one would be the one to go to. Great review, Sandy!

Jenners said...

Excellent review!!! Makes me want to give it a go ... I think I know what book will be downloaded to my Kindle yet! You told me all I need to know.

Nymeth said...

I absolutely need to read The Stand! I've had it on my tbr pile for far too long. The size scares me, but everyone keeps telling me it's actually a pretty quick read because I'll be unable to put it down.

caite said...

ya know, I have never read a book by King. and I would consider this one since you liked it so much but I saw it in the library and it is Soooooo big. ;-)

Julie P. said...

Loved THE STAND so I might give this a try. I'm just very intimidated by the size!

Ti said...

I still think The Stand holds its own, but the return to vintage King was a real pleasure.

Now, read The Passage and tell me what you think. It's very similar in greatness to The Stand.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

It's been sitting in my TBR pile ever since it came out, I really need to read it! It sounds good. I haven't read The Stand completely, and I barely remember it, so I wonder how different my experience of it will be.

Robin Whitten said...

Stephen King's audiobooks are amazing--and a bunch of older titles have just been released as audiobooks. IT, CHRISTINE, THE TOMMYKNOCKERS.
Audiobook fans check out the new AudiobookCommunity.com and add something to the King discussion
http://www.audiobookcommunity.com/group/authors/forum/topics/stephen-king-on-audio

Kathleen said...

I really need to reread the Stand and I have this one on my list too!

Alice Teh said...

For some odd reason, I still haven't read anything by Stephen King... But I like the sound of this one. You make his books sound soooo good!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

We cut our literary teeth on the same author, Sandy. I can remember classics like Christine and It like it was yesterday. I still have a healthy fear of clowns and St. Bernards thanks to that man. I don't recall when I stopped reading his work. I know that I never made it to the Stand, but I'm aware that it's been called his best. In fact, it's the only King book on my shelf right now, just waiting for me.

Teacher/Learner said...

Thanks for the great review. I'm not one for audio books, but I would love to listen to King tell his own story. In interviews, his voice is cracked, yet sagelike. I checked the page count--nearly 1000--Yikes! I'm on Bill Clinton's My Life now (nearly 1000, too), so it may be some time before I get to it.