Maciek's Reviews > Under the Dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King
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Oct 16, 2010

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bookshelves: owned-books, own-in-hardcover, big-tomes, read-in-2010, reviewed
Read from October 24 to November 13, 2010

Many things can be said about Under The dome, but tedious is not one of them. This is clearly King's most fast paced novel since Cell. He even states in the afterword that he aimed at writing a book that "would keep the pedal consistently to the metal" and in that department he succeeded.

However, that was not to be without sacrifice. King is well known for his famous characters, always well drawn and memorable - even non-readers know about Carrie and Jack Torrance. Those who read the works will undoubtedly remember heroes and villains from many tomes that span King's ouevre: Stu Redman, Bill Denbrough, Randal Flagg, Annie Wilkes and Dolores Clairborne...

Not so with The Dome. The characters are cartoonish at best. Dale Barbara, aka "Barbie", the main "hero", seems more like an idea of a Vietnam veteran than an actual human being. He is a hero, though he has a backstory that's less than heroic, but that's pretty much it. The meat's there, but when you bite into it you realize that it's mostly stale.

Big Jim Reenie is King's most uninteresting villain ever. He literally needs a white suit and a cane to fit into an average comic book. The ultimate stereotype, overweight, hypcritical uber-Christian, who also happens to be a drug dealing psychopath for no apparent reason. And we're talking about the largest drug factory not only in the small town of Chester Mill, but in the USA. Big Jim seems to produce drugs and wreak havoc for no particular reason other than being a plot device.

The novel features a large cast of characters, but none of them are particularly memorable. Frankly, the whole town seems to be composed of people who are, uh, incompetent, even moronic. Only one kid who uses his grandfather's oxygen mask does something intelligent. The rest of people are tools, who give Jim Reenie a standing ovation when he gives them a crazy speech just after he turned the town into a police state. I also find it hard to believe that only one policeman would know about Reenie's illegal affairs. Aren't small town supposed to be gossip mills?
Can only criminally inclined kids serve as policemen? And who would follow Jim Reenie with all his religious blabber for 5 minutes in real life?
Actions undertook by citizens are just awesomely stupid when you think about them a bit. The oxygen passes through the dome, but at a much slower rate - yet everyone drives around in their cars and contributes to the polution!
Dale Barbara, the reclusive Vietnam vet, was planning to leave town at the beginning of the novel. But he left one detail behind him, a detail that would contribute to his subsequent incrimination. His DOG TAGS. I can understand clothing, even his wallet with personal documents, but dog tags? I can't imagine a soldier who would forget his dog tags - even if he wanted to part with his past he just wouldn't leave them in his socks!
The biggest problem comes when one woman discovers a protected file in her husband'study - her husband was a policeman who was investigating Jim Reenie, and compiled a file that could lead to his demise. Now, what would a sensible person do with such a file? Send it to everyone? Make multiple copies? Distribute it as broadly as possible?
Is this what happens? NO.
Also, where is the American spirit? People under the Dome either jump onto the bully bandwagon, or blindly and stupidly take blows from these bullies. They are even scared that the bullies will order them to give back their guns. Their guns! Not one person (including the protagonists) stands up and says "people, these in charge are mad. It can't go on any longer because they're kill us all. We have to think and do something about the problem. If it'll come to this, we'll have to fight them". No one even thinks like that under the Dome.
Frankly, the book redeems itself a bit with the ending. The mystery of the Dome kept me going on and wanting to see what will happen, and unlike many readers I found the conclusion to be satisfying and even thought-provoking. If only the rest of the book was like that...

There are passages in Uner The Dome that stand out above all rest.The airplane and the woodchuck. People observing the distorted sunset and the fall of pink stars. The frenetic ending sequences, with people gasping for air and a lone hand appearing on the dirty surface. But none of that matches the children of IT battling the bullies in The Apocalyptic Rockfight, Danny Torrance playing in the children's playground of Hotel Overlook, or his father looking back at the topiary animals. There is not a single moment of tension that would match Stu Redman's escape from the plague center or the children discovering the origins of IT.

Under The Dome had the potential to be a great epic about isolation, a community crumbling under extreme conditions, the scarcity of resource and people dealing with the pressure and infinite darkness of their own nature. Granted, there's plenty of darkness in the story. But none of it is convincing, let alone threatening (except maybe for the resolution). Unfortunately, too much of that went away to keep the pedal to the metal. King's other works dealing with these subjects are much more memorable and interesting - family enduring confinement in The Shining and people living after the plague in The Stand come to mind. Under The Dome is recommended to fans of the author. People new to his work will do better checking out his earlier, and better, titles.
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Reading Progress

10/24/2010 page 100
11.0% 17 comments
05/17/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-45 of 45) (45 new)

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message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike Puma Whoa! Three stars for an SK novel? Who are you and what have you done with the real Maciek?


Maciek Shhh. I'm his twin brother. We're so similar becaue we're twin brothers.


message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike Puma Is this the brother who does like McCarthy or is this the evil twin?


Maciek It's the first one. Under The Dome contained waaaaay too much punctuation. I mean, who would use a comma when you can just ignore it?


message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike Puma Damn! Both twins are evil; I shoulda seen it coming.


Maciek Punctuation is evil!


Bill Finally, someone who shares my opinion on this book!


Maciek Bill, I've just read your review and we share the same complaints about the novel. Guess you can't have a pace that fast without sacrifice.


message 9: by mark (new)

mark monday if you disliked it so much, why the 3 stars?
3 stars = you liked it.


Maciek I didn't dislike it; I was entertained, though it did not meet my expectations.


Dustin Crazy little brown owl Great review and good points. I'm nearly finished with the book now - hope the ending is awesome :-)


Maciek Thanks Dustin. For me, the best part was the whole concept of the Dome and the ending. I hope you'll like it too.


message 13: by Joe (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe Your review hits the nail on the head for me. I'm simply not buying the character's actions and reactions.

However, the fast pace and the mystery of the dome is definitely what keeps me reading. It moves along at the same nailbiting pace as Desperation but not half as good.


Maciek Thanks Joe. It's been a long time since King did such a poor Job with his characters. I liked the ending, though many people didn't - can't blame them when you had to read over a thousand pages of Big Jim.


Dustin Crazy little brown owl Maciek wrote: "I liked the ending, though many people didn't - can't blame them when you had to read over a thousand pages of Big Jim. "

You're right - I can't stand Big Jim - I didn't care for the ending, but loved the beginning :-)


Maciek I must be one of the few people who appreciate the concept. I never saw that coming.


Trudi "I was entertained, though it did not meet my expectations" --We are totally on the same page with this one Maciek ... King definitely sacrificed character for plot with this one, and that "pedal to the metal" style you speak of just wore me out in parts.


Maciek Thaks Trudi. I did like a lot about this novel, but the stupidity of the characters and their actions irritated me. Dale Barbara is supposed to be a Vietnam vet, right? And does he even swear? No, he washes the dishes in a bar and takes a beating like a good samaritan. Come on!


✿ Deni Great review! I just finished the book and I totally agree with most of it although for me, the end was the worse part of the book.

But my translator soul cried a bit when you said punctuation is evil... sniff, sniff ;o)


Maciek Thanks, Deni. It was just a joke. Surely no one would not use punctuation.


✿ Deni Phew!... I take it as if it was your evil twin, then ;o)


Maciek Well, of course!


Jared Barbie was an Iraq vet, not Vietnam. As a Soldier myself, I can tell you that dog tags are nothing sacred. Keeping them in a sock is no more unusual than actually wearing them, especially if you're a vet and not still in the military (like Barbie, until he is reactivated anyway).


Maciek Thanksfor the comment and the clarification, Jared. I did not mean that dog tags are sacred and should be carried at all times, even when not in the military. What I meant was that Barbie left them behind, the only piece of identification that could be used against him, especially in the light of his troubles. Such carelesness did not make any sense.


Tressa Great review!


Maciek Thank you! So how did you like it?


message 27: by Tressa (last edited Oct 06, 2011 03:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tressa I gave it three stars. Thought it was long-winded with a bunch of over-the-top stereotypes in it, but the mystery of the dome kept me reading till the end.

I actually liked the ending.


Maciek I agree with you. I liked the exact same thing about the ending. But could you please mark it as a spoiler? Our conversation pops in the updates of our friends and some of them haven't read it, and the mystery is what keeps the book going.


message 29: by James (last edited Oct 19, 2011 03:42PM) (new)

James I liked the book, until the ending. I thought the ending was the absolute hokiest (sp?) of any of his previous novels. So damned contrived and unimaginative. It almost seemed like he wrote the novel but then couldn't conceive of any coherent way to conclude it, so he just slapped some crap together just before hitting "send" (assuming he sent the text to his publisher via an attachment to email). I was VERY disappointed, to say the least. I know he claims it was a "message" novel to warn us of the dangers of pollution and all that rot, but still, THAT was the BEST he could come up with? Why did he even bother to write the thing?


message 30: by James (new)

James Surely he didn't need the money that badly?


message 31: by James (new)

James ✿ Deni wrote: "Great review! I just finished the book and I totally agree with most of it although for me, the end was the worse part of the book..."

I agree regarding the ending. 1000+ pages and then he slaps together that crappy ending? What a waste of paper. The ending leaves a very bad taste in the mouth regarding the entire book, when most of it is actually good.



Jason I totally agree about the ridiculous set of characters in this one. Very cartoonish indeed.


Maciek Thanks, Jason. It was like watching a Nickelodeon cartoon unfold - almost like a parody of King's earlier works.


message 34: by Bob (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bob Connell I thought Jim Renny character was done well; Julia was done well and maybe Rusty as well... I agree Dale B. was a bit less heroic.... great story though...


Maciek Glad you liked it, Bob! I prefer his earlier works.


message 36: by Monika (new) - added it

Monika I'm reading it now just because they decided to make a TV show based on that novel. After a few episodes it looks quite promising.


Maciek I hope you'll like it! It's good enough material for a TV series and can actually be better suited for the screen. Looking forward to reading your thoughts. :)


message 38: by Monika (new) - added it

Monika I've already noticed many changes and I only read a few chapters. Although, King is involved in that TV show, as well, so maybe that was just a better scenario for the show. Are you going to watch it? =)


Maciek I might give it a try if I'll see it on the web or television :)


message 40: by Ruth (last edited Dec 22, 2013 09:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ruth Yuup, you nailed it! It is what I would have said.


Maciek Thank you, Ruth! :)


message 42: by Olga (new) - rated it 3 stars

Olga Podobed everything you have said! Specialy about Renie! he as do annoying.


Maciek Sorry you didn't like him too, Olga! He sure did suck.


message 44: by Mark (new)

Mark Tallen As much as I like King (especially the Dark Tower books) this one has never really appealed to me. A good review of the book but I feel even less compelled to ever pick this one up.


Maciek Thanks you, Mark! You won't miss out on anything if you'll skip this book, so don't worry about not reading it.


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