Have you ever eaten one of those 100 calorie bags of sweet treats. The treats are generally things like little chocolate chip cookies. There are plenty of little cookies in a single bag, but once you’re finished, you feel disappointed. It tasted… well enough while you chewed through the little wafers. But, ultimately, the whole exercise felt… slight.
That’s sort of how I felt reading Under the Dome by Stephen King. 1,000 pages of okay story and plot that left me hungry and empty at the end.
The first episode of the miniseries aired last night. No doubt many of you watched it. It sits on my DVR, as I have high hopes that the telecast will address some of the issues I had with the book.
Let’s start with the bad (and frankly, a lot of these are common issues in more recent King novels). The characters, while interesting, are cardboard constructs from broadly defined caricatures of modern “good” and “bad” guys. We have the ex-military good guy. He’s a vagabond, under-appreciated by the country he served so ably. The antagonist is a fat, scheming, Christian, abusive, used-car salesman. King makes his usual attempts to involve the fairer sex in his story. This time he gives our ex-military hero a fairly vanilla, unmemorable girlfriend who functions to give the hero some softer moments. There is a stereotypical bookish type who runs the local newspaper that shows us how noble the practitioners of journalism can be.
The plot dances in expected rhythms. Nothing in 1,000 pages occurs that should surprise you.
Despite all this… despite it all, this is a perfectly enjoyable and consumable brick of a book. King’s prose has never been more streamlined and straightforward. Obviously, a book this large with the byline of Stephen King will have bloat, but much of what happens is relevant.
It doesn’t surprise me Under the Dome got the miniseries treatment. Due to his cut and paste characters and interesting concept (though not wholly original… see The Simpsons Movie, ferchrissakes), this might be one of his most commercially accessible titles. If I can motivate myself, maybe I’ll write a review of the miniseries when it is completed.
His other brick book are challenging, thoughtful reads (particularly The Stand). Under the Dome is just a lengthy tome of 100 calorie cookies. If you like King or you like moderately thrilling reads, then this one is for you.