Thoughts on Stephen King's Under the Dome
Under the Dome is not ripped off from "The Simpsons Movie". Those of you ignoramus maximi who are saying that on every Internet forum I have seen on the subject of this novel or the upcoming television series on CBS need to stop immediately. You are embarrassing yourselves. Good. Now then...
I love this book. The size of it was intimidating, but I calculated that I would need to read just thirty-six pages per day from the day I started reading the book on May 25 to finish before the premiere of the television series on June 24. For a Stephen King novel, thirty-six pages is manageable as his novels tend to be page-turners, quick reads, hard to put down. I averaged almost twice that and finished well ahead of schedule. I was in from the first chapter. This is one of King's high population novels like The Stand or The Regulators (R.I.P. Richard Bachman) with lots of interesting characters who get themselves in all kinds of trouble. And like The Stand, there are good guys and bad guys. I hesitate to use the word "evil" as much of the evil done in the book is a product of either illness (mental or otherwise), physical and emotional stress, peer pressure, environment, or opportunity. Indeed, this last point is one of the main themes of the novel. What would happen if consequence were eliminated and people were free to do as they pleased? Read Philip G. Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil for a chilling tale of a real-world experiment that explores how good people can break bad given the right set of circumstances.
I found myself cheering for some characters and loving to hate others. King does a fantastic job of creating a huge cast of characters, all of whom are distinct, most of whom are sympathetic (even those who do bad things), and all completely believable. Not once did I scoff and think that no human being would behave in such a manner in such a situation. Anyone with a modicum of adult life experience will know that some people are capable of just about any behavior at any time if they think they can get away with it. In most cases, I dread the television or film adaptation of a beloved novel, but in the case of Under the Dome, I look forward to seeing these characters on screen and watching how the actors choose to portray them.
My only gripe is that I did not care for the ending, the cause of The Dome, but I so completely loved every moment that lead to it that I cannot allow the ending to cloud my enjoyment of the rest of the story. I felt the ending was too out there, too ridiculous. It speaks to Stephen King's ability to make outrageous situations feel so real (I mean, a gigantic DOME that traps an entire town... c'mon) and believable that I bought in to the entire story, over one-thousand pages before I said "waaait a minute". I had no trouble believing that the dome was there and I was horrified at the immediate impact (pun intended, maybe) that it had on the people of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine. That is some impressive story-crafting.
I am looking forward to the television series based on this novel. For one, Stephen King is an Executive Producer and has input on any changes that are made. Second, the series is created by one of my favorite comic book authors, Brian K. Vaughan. Check out his Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad for examples of his brilliance.