“ Author: Stephen King / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 08 July 2010 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division / Title: Under the Dome / ISBN 13: 9780340992586 / ISBN 10: 0340992586 / Alternative EAN: 9780340992562 „
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Under the Dome by Stephen King
Why read this?
I like King's style of writing, I particularly go for his suspense novels and the premise of this one intrigued me. It's a tome at 877 pages but I knew it wouldn't feel like it, I've read a few large offerings by King and none have felt padded out or bored me.
Dale Barbara (ex-military) is leaving town. Chester's Mill, Maine, isn't big enough for him and Big Jim Rennie (Town Selectman). As Barbara (Barbie) heads out to the border a freak accident happens, a plane falls from the sky, for no apparent reason - when more bizarre crashes happen Barbie realises that an invisible barrier has cut the town off and now holds all residents prisoner. This is bad, isn't it? It should be, but for Big Jim Rennie this is his opportunity to rule the town - a dream long held could now be his reality. America's law is obsolete now, Big Jim is the law.
Ants beneath a magnifying glass:
As ever, I'm comfortable with the writing style of the master storyteller, Stephen King. The first sentence led me in and the prose picked up pace pretty quick as catastrophe's occurred and the town folk came together. I soon became aware that this story was going to focus on the behaviour of human beings when they are placed in fear. Of course there are opportunists in these situations and Big Jim Rennie fills the role perfectly, his son Jr Rennie (Junior) is something else - he doesn't know it but he has a brain tumour and his irrational and pain filled behaviour was captivating, King doesn't just hint at conditions such as this - he researches and portrays with realism.
Barbie is the good guy, he doesn't want this role as he wanted to get out of the town, make a new start - he comes across as a drifter, no place where he belongs - he just tries to blend in as best he can. I soon came to like and gain insight into this man, he has memories of his military past and I was intrigued by how an ex-army officer struggled to become a civilian, it must be so difficult to have such a change of circumstances after what you have experienced, been part of and witnessed. King leaves me with no doubt that Barbara could do serious harm to any attacker, even if outnumbered - that is why he needed to leave the small town.
Junior Rennie bears a rather large grudge after being humiliated by Barbara's skilled defence. Juniors' hatred and paranoia for just about anyone who crosses his path is close to crazy, his mind doesn't make sense anymore and he is a dangerous boy to be around. When his father deems him perfect to join the police force the book becomes all the more interesting.
If a glass of huge proportions was placed over an area, a town as in this case, what will happen when pollution increases and has no place to go? The dome is slightly permeable but nothing worth shouting about - serious stuff is going on here and the town folk begin to change quickly.
King develops a micro world with in the space of three days, that is all it took for power to change hands, brutality increased and sides develop. The outside world see's scientists and military interaction, the world watches, via media and attempts to break the dome begin.
I wasn't aware of the plot weaving and twisting as King has written the tale with seamless precision, looking back after reading the tome I am impressed. At 877 pages you may think that a fair amount of padding or over description is included - this is not the case at all. At no time did I think of putting the book down due to boredom or tedium, the opposite is true. At every opportunity I had to have that book in my hands. It wasn't even because I wanted to know that Barbie and his allies where safe (Julia Shumway being an important character that I wanted to carry on, she is a journalist) it was to see how things were changing. How much fuel generators where left, where was the food going to come from, what was the atmosphere like, was the dome being penetrated successfully and when were the town folk (sheep) going to see Big Jim Rennie for what he actually was - a paternalistic dictator who was absolutely power mad.
I enjoyed getting to know the characters that played major roles, I gained insight into the weak minded men who were easily manipulated by Big Jim, flesh was on their bones and insecurities evident. I knew who Junior Rennie was; he was a young man under the influence of his tumour that lay within his head - erratic, unpredictable and utterly paranoid. King did a fantastic job with Jr Rennie but an even better achievement in developing the larger than life Big Jim.
There was always an element of good versus evil within the prose and it was all too easy to focus on that and be carried along with the turn of events that were orchestrated by the latter. Look at the bigger picture and you puzzle over who, or what, placed Chester's Mill under a glass dome. Was it an experiment by the government? Was a crazy scientist to blame or was it a natural phenomenon that the muse within the author had created. With so many events happening, at what felt like lightning speed, you don't get a chance to ponder the page count - at the same time I never felt like there was too much to take in and could easily follow the tale without confusion.
This prose is a massive achievement by an impressive author, to take on such a major project must have been overwhelming. So much would need intense research to make the prose have a sense of believability and realism. As I neared the heated climax, after an incredible fast paced finale, where so much happens to so many, I paused to ponder how King could possibly make the ending one that leaves a reader feeling satisfied, after all the reader has invested much time into reading the page packed monster of a book. I'm not telling you anything about the outcome, not even a hint - it would spoil the journey for you. What I will say is that I felt entirely sated with the ending and enjoyed the book as a whole.
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This book, at 877 pages, is a tome and may well overwhelm a prospective reader - I can tell you that this book is outstanding and very readable. King has outdone himself, in my opinion, with his observation of human nature; I found it intriguing, compelling and captivating. The pace is always good and there are plenty of places within the tale (especially towards the end) when the pace is appropriately hastened. Pages turned quickly because I was immersed in a micro world where law and order had gone mad. Jim Rennie (Big Jim) fills the role of villain with perfection; his bulk wades through the pages with determined ease. The hero of the prose, Dale Barbara, is very likeable but also has depth of character, he is a man capable of doing damage - in a big way, he is a dangerous man, has been a dangerous man and he needs to be eliminated before the sheep (town folk) see that he is the perfect leader. But that would be too easy, King does a damn fine job of holding down Barbie, at times I disliked him for it but he had to place obstacles in his path. It's a great read, by a master storyteller. Highly recommended and one I will read again.
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I decided to read the Dome in large part because it was very cheap (£2.81 for a used copy including postage - please ignore the ridiculous price accompanying the Amazon link above - this ranges from £2.81 for a used copy in hardback or paperback to £6.99 for a new paperback copy. Only brand new 1st editions are selling for massive amounts of money). It also 866 pages which I thought might keep me going for awhile. Finally there are 3 excellent reviews on this site ( Thank You Swst, Pmcds and Darren55) all recommending this book.
The premise for this story is terribly far fetched. The small New England Town of Chester Mills Main suddenly finds itself enclosed in a huge force field perfectly matching the town's boundaries. It can not be seen, but virtually nothing can get through. Small amounts of air and water trickle in, but very little. There is no way to send in supplies or help and those on the outside can only watch helplessly as the situation inside the Dome deteriorates. Things start badly with a number of deaths as the Dome comes down, but the worst of tragedies are those the townspeople inflict upon themselves, and in this I found the book so realistic at times it was stomach turning. I'm afraid I could find many parallels between the Dome and the small and at times insular community in which I live - far too many for comfort. I for one never really expected many townspeople to confront the evil in their mist. I've seen too much of how this works I real life. Steven King has perfectly captured human nature in this book, at least in regards to the abuse of power and the tendency of otherwise decent people to look the other way and try to keep their own families safe.
The villain of the story is Big Rennie, a wealthy but corrupt used car salesman who runs Chester's Mill with an iron grip, his son Junior, bad to begin with but obviously not well and extremely unbalanced and Junior's thuggish friends whom Big Rennie quickly drafts into the police force using young thugs to enforce his rule ( again some very strong parallels to Northern Ireland at its worst). But Rennie isn't the only villain of this book. Stephen King holds up the motives of every member of the town who looked the other way as this man took control. Every citizen must bear some of the guilt, and every one will pay the price.
The people of the town have one hope, in the form of a drifter who has just been forced out of town. His own misfortune will be that he doesn't get out of town quite quickly enough, and finds himself trapped inside the Dome. His bad luck is the town's good luck though as the man they know only as Dale Barabara, short order cook is a veteran of Iraq, with plenty of common sense, and despite his flaws, the ability to put the welfare of others above his own. He is the type of person this sort of community usually gets rid of as quickly as possible, but I this case they are stuck with him, and he offers the good people of the town a source of inspiration and a figure to rally around.
This is a huge book with a massive line up characters, far too many to go into detail on each. Some are very well developed, others less so. I think King creates adults better than children, and perhaps he could have added more depth to the young people. I'm not entirely sure if he overestimates the effects of drugs as well, but then just as I think they couldn't have that much effect I think of a few people I have known who have completely lost it with less powerful chemical combinations, including one who thought he was Jesus as the result of prescribed anti depressants, so maybe my knowledge of these things is lacking. But these small issues aside, King has created brilliantly crafted characters who perfectly mirror both the best and worst in all of us. This story will cause the reader to examine their own conscience and wonder how much responsibility each of us bears for the creation of monsters. Because the real monsters are not the supernatural ones - but humans just like ourselves.
This book has often been touted as Stephen King's best book since The Stand. I put off reading it for so long because my first thoughts on hearing the plot summary was that Stephen King had perhaps watched The Simpson's Movie too many times. If we are to believe King though, this book has been 25 years in the making- so it is not a take off on the Simpsons ---- I still have my doubts though. Despite this, I will agree with the best book since The Stand line. This is not as good as the Stand in my opinion. The Stand remains my favourite Stephen King book by far. However, the basic plot is no more far fetched than the Stand, and many of the same issues are dealt with. If you liked the Stand, I would certainly recommend this. It hasn't got quite the same magic as The Stand, but if anything it has a better portrayal of human nature.
I'll close this review with a quote worth thinking about after you read this book by Martin Niemöller.
Then ask yourself this: Have you ever spoken out?
"First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."
Under the dome is a 2009 thriller written by American author and is set solely in a small town in New England in modern times (I can say solely in a small town with a certainty in this case), the book tells the story of a small town in America which is unaccountably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous dome. The book starts with the dome coming down and tells the story of how the inhabitants cope with the seclusion from the rest of the world and how an insular society brings out the best and worst in the average citizen. This book continues Stephen King's continued exploration of small town America and asks the simple question of what would you do if you're on your own?
The books main character is a retired Army captain called Dale Barbara, he is tall, intelligent and resourceful and was just about to leave town when the dome descended. He observes the effect of the barrier when a plane and then a log truck strike the dome killing everyone on-board, Barbara was leaving town to get away from the troubles he'd inherited by sleeping with a young girl whose boyfriend and his friends had a coming together with Barbara behind the local bar. Barbara is called Barbie through-out the book and is firmly cast as the hero of the story, one of the men he fought with behind the bar kills the girl in question on the day of the dome descending and also kills another young girl.
However, the main protagonist in the book is the killer's father, he is Jim Rennie a used car salesman and local representative, and he is the second townsman making him the second most powerful man in theory in the town. However, he uses the first selectman as a front and is in reality the power behind the throne, he is overweight, suffering from heart trouble and uses his influence to gain complete control over the town's police force.
There a host of other characters, this is a nearly 900 page book along with Barbara and Rennie there are corrupt cops, drug addled chefs, a Christian radio station which is doubling as a meths lab run by Jim Rennie, there is a brutal rape scene a third of the way through, a double homicide and Barbie is arrested for the murder of the two girls at the start and two who Jim Rennie kills along the way. This is a beast of book and leaves nothing behind in its depicting a town left alone, there are descriptions of the way food would be used, the use of kerosene as the only fuel available and how particles would interact with the dome. There are attempts to remove the dome and the only non-town character is Colonel Cox who is trying to remove the dome and has taken a disliking to Bid Jim Rennie.
This book was a rollercoaster of emotions as the story unfolds, there are plenty of quiet chapters but they tend to cover how a small town copes with stress. However, there are plenty of colourful moments such as the worst town meeting ever with blood and gore everywhere, a jumbo jet hits the dome and the meths lab is sent to the heavens by Phil the Chef and the town's first selectman. Throughout the main characters shine through we have the intelligence and pragmatism of Barbie with the megalomania and psychotic behaviour of Big Jim, all portrayed with the veneer of polite society. Big Jim has rapidly become my favourite character to dislike, clearly very intelligent but his only interest is making sure Big Jim comes out on top and with no regard for the rest of the populace.
It would be fair to say that I loved this book, it had it all, an engaging complex storyline and brilliantly described characters. It ends with apocalypse and redemption and leaves the reader wishing for a sequel. This is so far my book of 2013 and there will have to be a seriously brilliantly book to beat this one to top it for my book of the year!
Stephen King specializes in two things - epics and disasters, so I expected to love this novel as much as The Stand. Certainly the two books have their similarities, not least the huge cast of characters and the basic idea of good versus evil. For me, however, this novel didn't quite live up to King's earlier effort.
The story concerns a small town of Chester's Mill, Maine, and the strange, invisible, dome-like structure that suddenly encloses it one October day. The appearance of the dome immediately causes several accidents and fatalities, as drivers and helicopter pilots are, of course, unaware of the new barrier. Other deaths early in the book include that of Police Chief Howard Perkins, whose pacemaker malfunctions due to his close proximity to the dome. This allows for a power struggle in the town, or rather, allows for villain "Big Jim" to take control, with the help of his new police recruits. While the town (and the rest of the world) try to figure out what the dome is, and where it has come from, life in Chester's Mill quickly becomes more and more dangerous.
Despite a huge cast of characters (and their dogs), the story is enjoyable, and doesn't feel overpopulated. King clearly felt differently though, as the population of the dome is subject to quick decline! For much of the novel, we are on familiar territory with King, as he details the immediate aftermath of the dome appearing, the interactions of the town's inhabitants, and the eventual struggle between good and evil. Unfortunately, what I also found familiar was the disappointment of the ending. The story goes on a sudden supernatural tangent towards the end, and, for me, it doesn't quite work.
All in all I did enjoy the concept and execution of this story, and as with other works by Stephen King, I particularly enjoyed the interactions of ordinary characters an extraordinary situation.
The first Stephen King book I read was IT at the tender age of 14 and since that experience I put Stephen King aside as I felt he was far too descriptive. That was until I was told "Under The Dome" was a MUST READ.
So - did it live up to the recommendation? In the main yes - I have now started to read a lot of Stephen Kings work and realised you can't judge an author on one book!
The book starts with a huge Dome falling over a small town in America - naturally with a fair bit of blood and gore in the descriptions. The residents in the Dome and no-one outside knows what it is or how it has happened. Then follows the story of people trapped inside the dome and the outside reaction - survival, politics and general underhandedness. The concept of the book had me gripped from the off and I could not put it down. It's a long book and took me about 5 days to finish.
I enjoyed the bulk of the story but some of the political sides of it were a little long winded and I tended to skim some of the chapters. The good news is that I didn't skip to the end to check the outcome ...
BUT - if I had skipped to the end I may not have bothered to finish it. I felt a little empty at the end as though it was a get out of jail free card. I won't spoil it by saying what happens but it was unexpected and I didn't feel it followed the theme of the book. Don't get me wrong I'm not a writer and can't think how else it could have ended but obviously that is down to the author!!
It definately makes you think ... What would you do if that really happened?? It made my brain spring to how I'd cope and at the end of the day isn't a book wrote to build imagination?!
I would definately recommend it as a book for a "regular reader". If you're looking for something to read to start the bug again - the ending may put you off picking up another!
I must admit to complete procrastination in writing a review of Stephen King's Under The Dome. You see, I've come off the back of reading his epic magnum opus The Dark Tower, with its seven volumes and thousands of pages, and I felt like I needed a break from him, relax into an easier style of author before then returning. However, I found that no amount of gentle easing can prepare you for the depth he goes into his characterisation, and I felt that launching into a review would not have done the skill he has any amount of justice. For weeks now, I've been wondering where to start............
First and foremost, any reader of Stephen King will know that he is the master of the gallejade, the shaggy dog story, a tale that exists purely for the purpose of it being told rather than for any kind of closure at the end. I feel it's important to look at Under The Dome in this sense as well, as if you're looking for that rousing and roaring finale, well he's just not that type of author. Don't get me wrong, there's an ending, and there are shocks and twists, but just not in the conventional way an author would put things. King is a kind of realist when it comes to telling a story, no matter how unreal or imaginary the events or characters may turn out to be within it. Under The Dome takes a mid American community and thrusts them into isolation all of a sudden, and then King basically gives us a fly on the wall tale of those trapped within end up coping.
The first few pages and chapters deal with the 'dome actually coming into play. All of a sudden, and without warning, an invisible dome is placed over the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine. We don't know how it got there, who or what was responsible, or anything. It's as if King doesn't even know himself. What we know is that its instant arrival results in death and injury to a large number of people over the first few minutes and hours of the Dome's existence (there, see: I've started giving it a capital 'D' and everything!). King then explores the panic and reckoning of the people trapped under this Dome, as well as the reactions and efforts of those outside of it, and here is where the characters start being the focal point.
Really, King takes this opportunity to show human greed, selfishness, urges and panic, along with grit, determination, trust, reliability and justice, all in one relatively small community, without any kind of geographical escape route. We have heroes and we have villains, and over the course of the pages, King establishes who is on which side. Interestingly enough, and with a clear stab at the world's political state, King places the villains firmly on the side of the law, with the politicians, council and police being controlled by the author's uber villain, Big Jim Rennie. Rennie is an overweight, egotistical selfish man, one despised readily by all who would read this book, but who finds it easy to pull the wool over the inhabitants of Chester's Mill, manipulating them by promises, rousing speeches, clever yet snide strategy and his constant quoting of the Bible and repetition of him being the Good Lord's follower. His son Junior, perhaps twice as despicable and a sexual deviant with a lack of control over his own actions at times, acts as a lieutenant, and rounds up his fellow goons and thugs, and they form the law and order as the town panic increases.
On the other side, we have drifter and former soldier Dale 'Barbie' Barbra, a short order cook on his way out of town after an altercation with Junior and his boys that has left Barbie wronged but without an option but to leave. Sod's law: a few minutes later and he'd have been on the other side of the Dome. As it is, he's trapped along with everyone else, and after resorting to return to the town, finds himself the unlikely hero battling against the oppression of Rennie's blind selfish justice that would inevitably get people hurt - the newly assigned deputies going around beating people up for no reason and raping people kind of gives that away, but King tells it in a way that by the time things are found out, events have moved on enough that folks' attention is elsewhere. Barbie has medical assistant Rusty as his biggest ally, and it's almost as if these two powerless men are pitted against the control of the Rennies, a seemingly impossible uphill struggle, a David and Goliath contest, with right and good firmly on our heroes' side, the villains enjoying their control and a sort of martial law the rules for which they themselves have composed.
Throughout the whole book, as events happen, panic sets in, riots and fights, deaths, murders, rapes, action, adventure, sinister goings on, drugs, political stances, life saving, religion and pretty much everything else the community is exposed to, we have the constant wonder of what the hell is going on with the Dome. We have no idea, those inside the Dome have no idea, and those outside, including the military Colonel assigned to destroy the Dome and release the inhabitants, have no idea. In short, it's King and King alone who knows what's going on, and you just know he's not about to tell us anything until he's good and ready. He lets things play out, the tension building, and makes sure that every single character is treated equally by him as an author, irrelevant of whether he kills them off or not. Some bigger players just.........well, die........no fanfare or big buildup, often not even an explanation, and his ability to build these characters up is obviously not overtaken by his will to develop the tale and cloud over the reality and likelihood of the outcome. As living conditions become harder and more unbearable under the Dome, we see destruction and devastation following the greed and selfishness, with some violence and gruesome descriptions entering in to the proceedings, and it's riveting reading if I'm honest.
King has made no secret about being opposed to the war in Iraq, and he pits second Selectman Big Jim and first Selectman Andy Saunders as the comparative Bush and cheney administration, indicating that Andy (as the guy 'in charge') has his strings pulled by Big Jim who although second Selectman, definitely does not play second fiddle, controlling things and making it seem as if Andy is the one making all the decisions. Everyone knows it's really Big Jim calling the shots, but as long as everything's done officially then there's no way of knowing. King makes this a bit of a political statement and has been quite open about the fact that this is where he got the inspiration for the two town leaders, but as the story progresses, you kind of start liking Andy and feel a bit sorry for him.
Along with the political agenda is the ecological statement, using the Dome as a figurative for the Earth itself. The whole tale is trying to show us how we abuse the world we live in, and I guess if you expand to King's other writings, a lot of them fantasy based or having sci-fi route to them, then it's about looking to see whether we are actually alone in the universe. King firmly believes that we are, and we should deal with it, and seems to use the Dome to this extent. However, I try not to analyse this sort of thing too much in books, so I'll just rest for him saying that we should respect our surroundings a bit more.
So many times I'd find myself in bewilderment at my own mixed feelings. I'd be at the same time awed, gripped and incredibly annoyed and impatient. You just want things to move on with the bigger picture, even though the little subplots and mini battles going on, be it political, verbal or actual, are as interesting and intriguing as the main plot itself, and by the time the end comes, I was waiting for an anticlimax. Was I disappointed? Well, a little bit. I guess I knew the sort of way he'd end it, or at least the fashion in which the tale would peter out, even if I didn't know who'd end up living or dying, whether we'd actually find out the truth about the Dome or not, and whether it would end in a good way or a bad way, or somewhere in between. What I do know is that it's incredibly long, verging on 1000 words depending on which version you read (font size, page size, etc) and is really hard to put down. I have to take my time with his books, as glossing over seemingly minor details will land you in a whole heap of confusion later on. I learnt that with The Dark Tower, flicking back to catch up on something I had glossed over and almost ending up rereading the earlier books before I had finished them. I wasn't going to make the same mistake again, so i took my time, finishing it in around a month and breathing a huge sigh of relief, but with that tinge of uncertainty, wondering if somewhere there's a tale to come off the back of it, or whether he's linked it in to another of his books. Somewhere, there's a whole group of people who compile lists of characters, place names, events etc in King's books, as he often indulges in a bit of cross correlation. I imagine the same will be the case here, and I look forward to continuing my exploration of his work as I come across them. Wish me luck.
Do I recommend Under The Dome? Undoubtedly, but take it as it comes, read things slowly, allow yourself to become immersed in the story and his excellent characterisation skills, and don't be disappointed by any developments. He tries to give it to us in a realistic fashion, and this results in unfamiliar territory when it comes to plot development. That he pulls it off is a testament to his pen. Not perfect, but makes you want to read his work over and over again. Recommended.
I read fast and I love long books. The sort that enable you to really get involved in the world that the author has created, where you actually feel a sense of loss as you read the final word on the final page. My relationship with Stephen King is however a bit chequered, I loved his early work but then it seemed to become a formulaic before, in my eyes, being rescued by the Dark Tower series of book.
I therefore started this book with some trepidation. But, I'm glad to report, not for long. The book launches straight into the action with the appearance of the dome over the town of Chester's Mill, Maine and we are quickly introduced to a central cast of characters as the implications of the dome start to take hold.
Now one of the aspects of King's writing I have always liked is how he interweaves many story lines, some of which seem minor initially, into an overall thread that powers a book forward. He also paints with a myriad of characters, all fully formed, so that you can't say with any certainty on first meeting whether they will be a major player or just play a minor role within the book.
King does all of this within "Under The Dome" building back stories and developing characters that are realistic - in the way they handle their relationships and react when the town is cut off from the outside world.
Once the townsfolk realise what living under the dome means for them old enmities, transgressions and personal failings start to take hold and the town starts on a rollercoaster of events and emotions which can only result in............
And there unfortunately the book started to unravel for me. I believed the characters, totally bought into all the sub-plots and the indications that something terrible was going to happen but at the back of my mind the whole time was the dome. Where had it come from, how would King resolve the story? As I kept reading and getting closer to the end of the book I got more concerned, there didn't seem enough pages left to tie up the loose ends, to answer the questions that the book has raised.
When the resolution does come it feels anti-climactic (despite everything that happens) and doesn't feel as if it belongs in the book. I understand what King is trying to say but I don't think that it matches the story that's gone before - this is a story that deserves a better thought out ending. On reaching the end I was reminded of my old English teacher who finally snapped and shouted "If I get another story that's wrapped up with 'I woke up and it was all a dream' that person will be in detention!" Whilst King would never do anything as trite I still feel as if this book ends with a more complex version of the quick get out ending.
Stephen King already holds an iconic status in the world of writing but Under The Dome seems to me that King is now living off his legendary previous literary works. Don't get me wrong the plot of the story is generally quite good yet their is an extreme amount of editing needed to make this book perfect.
In a way I believe this book to be between five to six hundred words to long, this text would definitely have been better suited in the short story to novella form and not the huge book in fact is.
The technique I admired most would be the development of the characters Dale Barbara a nobody in the town who becomes the hero the portrayal of James Rennie another example of good character building King manages to present both hero and villain as just that although which makes this even more interesting is the divide of the town who at least initially support the villain Rennie, later recognising Barbara as the hero he is. This is a nice touch as we the reader already know the hero that Barbara is. Jims son is a character which readers can relate well with he is primarily portrayed as evil yet he has many good attributes to his character as shown when he looks out for the children they find yet he manages he treats the adults he also finds with violence the depiction of both situations works well in paralleling opposite reactions towards another character. This is a classic depiction of both good and evil in characters. The many characters I believe cause clashes in this book the plot becomes hard to follow with certain characters really needless as a reader it is hard to develop a good opinion of every character presented instead I find myself picking out my own choice of main characters and excluding some of Kings only in this way can build up some emotion towards certain characters. One problem with the characters although is the vast amount of characters as this leads dome characters appearing better developed than others.
This book has been worked on for many years yet somehow it feels as if its been written in a matter of days.
I view the book as an unnecessary waste of a good idea. King should do a re-edit of this book and re-release it and ill possibly consider a re-read. This certainly is a book which has put me of reading any of Kings recent works and ill definitely be sticking to his older works when his personal pride seems to shine through.
When Stephen King gets all apocalyptic, the results are generally good. The Stand is arguably the finest example of this - a stunning, ambitious tale of good and evil; whilst the more recent Cell felt very much like a companion piece.
Under the Dome, the example of King's "End of the World" style focuses (as with so many of King's books) on life in a small, Maine town, Chester's Mill. The town suddenly finds itself cut off from the rest of the world when a mysterious, invisible dome descends, preventing anyone from getting in or out. Inevitably, factions start to form and civilisation as we know it starts to collapse.
The book opens brilliantly in a way which instantly grabs you. You actually spend the first couple of pages wondering where on earth the book is heading, before King hits you with a sucker punch which reveals what has happened. It's an incredible opening which carefully manipulates the reader, hooks them in from the very start and never lets go.
Sure, the plot might boil down to little more than a traditional tale of "good versus evil" (where good is slow to recognise the danger posed by evil) and you could arguably say that it's a retelling of The Stand on a smaller scale and with fewer supernatural elements. Then again, that's not a bad recommendation, is it?! Besides, the relatively simple nature of the basic plot allows you to become engrossed in all the political intrigue and sub-plots that litter King's epic tale.
As well as the main plot, there's also an intelligent, environmental sub-text, but King doesn't overdo this. Many authors (wanting to look trendy) would have made the environmental side of things the main plot. King, after years of experience, resists this temptation and concentrates instead on the characters and how they react to their imprisonment. This makes the book far more interesting (simple stories featuring the rise and fall of evil always have an innate appeal). It also means that the book will date far better - if the environmental agenda stops being popular, Under the Dome will still stand on its own merits as a compelling novel.
It's also an incredibly tense book. King ratchets up the tension gradually, cunningly weaving all the various plot strands together so that they feed off each other, each new development exacerbating the situation for someone. There's a palpable feeling of tension pervading the whole book, and you buy into King's characters and plot so much, that this passes itself onto the reader. Moreover, he maintains this level of tension for over 800 pages - a genuinely impressive achievement.
True, there are a few occasions when King relies on unlikely co-incidences to drag his plot out further, or relies on convenient plot inventions to make things happen (a dog hearing the voice of dead people is the most far-fetched). To be honest, though, the rest of the plot is so strong, that you can forgive these odd slips.
If you still think that King is all about monsters and ghosts, then think again. This is book is very definitely about humans and human nature; about the way people treat each other, the way they use the misery of others to promote their own interests and the way people either pull together or fall apart in times of crisis. As such, Under the Dome is a very human book, which in some ways makes it far scarier than a tale featuring unlikely monsters. Here the monsters are all too real because they are all too human.
It's the characters that really make the book. Initially, it's a little daunting as there as so many that it can be a little tricky to keep track of them all and work out how they are related, or in what context you have heard their names previously. Indeed, King claims to have first had the idea for the novel about 20 years ago, but was scared off writing it because the challenge of writing about an entire town was too great.
Thankfully, it quickly becomes clear which are the main players that you need to concentrate on and which are supporting ones that you can afford to pay less attention to. The main characters are superbly rounded and behave in a hugely realistic way, whilst even the more minor characters have had a lot of attention lavished on them.
King has always excelled at creating real people in real places and Under the Dome is probably his finest hour. Here, he makes an entire town come to life, populating it with believable characters. All of them go about their business and try and get on with their everyday lives, despite the strange circumstances; each reacts as you would expect them to. You genuinely get the feeling that when you are not reading about them, these characters are still going about their own business, unobserved by you.
At almost 900 pages of fairly small text, Under the Dome will take you a while to get through, but it never feels like a chore to read. Rather, it was one of those books that I tried to steal a few pages of reading time whenever I could. It was also one where you desperately wanted to finish it so that you could see how it all panned out; yet when you did, you were desperately sad that the story had come to an end and these fascinating characters would form no further part of your life! Now that's the sign of a great book.
If you wanted to be really picky, you could argue that Under the Dome is little more than a small-town, non-supernatural version of The Stand, and there are certainly elements common to each. However, they are sufficiently different so that it never feels like "The Stand-Lite" and whilst some themes might be repeated, they are often handled in a very different way.
Since his accident, King has turned out some fantastic books, almost as though his brush with death has re-focussed his mind. Under the Dome is no exception. A hugely ambitious tale which could have seen the author fall flat on his face, instead it ranks right up there with my favourite Stephen King books. Despite its massive, doorstop size, this is one book I can see myself reading again and again!
Under the Dome
Hodder Paperbacks, 2010
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Oh, my heavens this novel is too long! Just too darn long! The idea is good, most of the book a really good read, but if the novel had been at least a hundred pages shorter, I would`ve been much more generous in my handing out stars, as this is just going to be three out of five bright shining stars for me!
There`s no question that Stephen King is one of the masters of his genre, he`s written classic after classic, some of them so insanely good that it`s not easy to keep them coming... With Under the Dome, a town called Chester`s Mill experiences a strange phenomenon, when a glass dome surrounds the small town and its inhabitants, and with no other choice than to accept their situation, these people go about living their lives, until the city itself pushes its own self destruct button... This is a book mainly about the human mind and how it works in both light and dark ways, and all though it makes for an entertaining read most of the way, it just ended up boring me towards the end, as I didn`t feel it was necessary to drag the plot out so very long... Yes, there`s humor, wit, drama, action and thrills, and with a science fiction theme somehow, this novel is not a bad read, but by far not the best novel by King either! The writing style and storytelling is good as always, but the length of the plot ruins for this book! A half hearted recommendation from me...
This book has a glowing reference on the front cover: 'His (Stephen King) finest epic since The Stand'.
You can see why the publishers and the marketeers would want to compare the book to The Stand, a classic of the genre, a fantastic fully developed novel and widely acknowledged as a top class story.
I love The Stand, it's one of my favourite books (see my review elsewhere on this website) and I really enjoy the way King writes - and so I was genuinely excited about reading Under The Dome.
I can see why the comparisons have arisen. Both books are monstrous beasts with lots of pages, lots of characters and an interwoven political and psychological study. The difference is that, in my opinion, The Stand has a drama that gives the book a pulse - an energy that sucks you into it, pulls you along the journey and leaves you desperate for more. That's not to say Under The Dome isn't edgy, exciting and engrossing, it just isn't.... The Stand. And I think it's a little unfair of the publishers to put it out there as a direct comparison.
In my view, it's a little like comparing Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings - just because they study similar fantasy topics and have some common themes, doesn't mean that it should be taken that they are like for like.
Some way into reading Under The Dome, I realised that it was incomparable to The Stand, so I tried to take it for what it was and really enjoyed it. I genuinely think a lot of the negative reviews this book has recieved have been borne from the comparisons to its older sibling.
So, for the rest of this review, I'll try and look at this as a stand alone book, as it should have been allowed to be viewed.
The premise of the book seems simple enough - a town is encapsulated by a mysterious dome which allows no way in or out. This simple premise leaves lots of 'what if's' and King attempts to cover all of them - from the grabs for power, to the social structure, the desperation and depression that would no doubt strangle many people stuck in a similar situation.
King says in his notes that he tried to write this book when he was younger, but that it was just far too big for him - and when you begin to think about all the points that would need to be considered to make it a believeable narrative, it is understandable that he needed to develop as a writer before he could articulate the story fully. In my opinion, only a writer as brilliant as King could produce a book about so simple a premise.
The book centers around two key characters, Jim Rennie - the town's second selectman and used car salesman, and Dale 'Barbie' Barbara, who is trying to leave town as the book begins, and turns out to be an army man. There is a whole plethora of secondary players (secondary in the loosest term as they are all main characters) who King introduces and juggles with extraordinary skill.
Rennie uses various underhand and political tactics - manipulating the people of Chester's Mill, where the book is set, with unnerving ease. I use the word unnerving because you can imagine his character perfectly, in fact you'll probably find yourself imagining him as someone you've met and didn't like at all. His lust for power and the way he moves people around like pawns is chilling because it could quite easily happen (and often does, when you consider some of the political figures throughout history.)
On the flip side, Barbie is the unassuming all American hero, who doesn't want to take the driving seat, but sometimes people have these things thrust upon them.
That's the beauty of this book. Although it's a far fetched premise, it is believable because the characters are believable. King realises that it is personalities and interactions that is the key to a good story, and he has a real talent for developing these relationships, rivalries and profiles. Each person is introduced with the minimum of fuss, and amazingly dip in and out of the story without reducing the affinity the reader feels for them. They are each unique and identifiable, and whereas in some books you end up sighing when a less interesting character reappears, here you find that they each add something to the storyline, or the development of the surrounding tension.
King seems to have a definite interest in political structures, as they are a reccurring theme in many of his novels (particularly The Stand) and he explores this area in this book, an aspect I really enjoyed. I found myself considering what would happen if a dome dropped over my home town, where I would find myself mixed up in it, who would go for power, who would be insignificant... It really gets you thinking!
I really enjoyed this book, and despite its size I felt like I zipped through it very quickly. The book is divided into sections, with each chapter given a name, and then numbered 'chunks' within this. Because of this, you end up thinking 'I'll just read one more little bit' and before you know it you've read a lot longer than you anticipated. But this way of breaking the book up allows the writer to bring in new characters and keep the pace going.
I guess that this will inevitably end up as a TV adaptation, and I can imagine it working really well in that format (possibly better than the book which I think is very unusual). The book is very visual, and I can imagine each of the characters, the actors who would play them, the suspense and the shocks - Under the Dome reads a little like you are watching a society develop under a dome in front of you, and so on screen this would be similar.
In summary, taken on face value, this is an excellent book. Each page adds something to the narrative (not easy over 900 odd pages) and each character is interesting. The story is very good, not fantastic, but there is more than enough to keep the reader's attention to the very last page.
It's not comparable to The Stand, but then very few books are. Judged on it's own merits it's definitely worth your time and money.
Stephen King has long had a habit of writing long novels with ensemble casts. Sometimes, such as in "The Stand, this is what the story demands and it works very well. At other times, such as in "Desperation", there doesn't seem to be quite enough story to go around and it all gets a little strained. Sadly, despite the cover blurb comparing it to "The Stand", King's latest novel "Under the Dome" falls into the "Desperation" category.
In "Under the Dome", the residents of the town of Chester's Mill have found themselves inside a huge dome, hence the title. For some, such as Dale Barbara, who is attempting to leave town and Claudette Sanders, who crashed her aeroplane into it, this is a very bad thing. For others, such as the town's power hungry Second Selectman Jim Rennie, it is a great opportunity to strengthen his control over the people of the town. The latter is bad news for everyone, as Rennie wants to be the head of a police state, not just the elected representative he already is.
Initially confident that the U. S. Army will be able to destroy the dome, the town's optimism and faith in the outside world fades when it becomes apparent this isn't the case. Apart from his inability to release the town from captivity, Rennie is controlling virtually every aspect of their lives, making them believe that he is the only way the town will survive this crisis. As food and power supplies run dangerously low and the police become more violent, a small group of rebels attempt to bring down the Dome from inside Chester's Mill. First, though, they have to spring Dale Barbara from prison, where Rennie and the police are holding him under false charges.
The story starts well, with the sudden appearance of the Dome and its effect on the people who first encounter it, some at high speed. King has always been good at introducing his characters and that much hasn't changed here. He puts a town in a strange situation and then brings in people who are largely so commonplace that their reactions to it seem somehow natural. In the early chapters, I felt for a while as if I could feel what was going on inside the head of someone with a brain tumour and King even succeeded in making me feel sorry for a poor little woodchuck.
Unfortunately, after the introduction of the characters, the story starts to fall away a little. The characters are very well drawn and they make up the constituent parts that you might find in any given community, but there simply isn't enough story for them all to have something to do. The major problem with the book is that King keeps trying to find things for them to do and the word count rises without anything interesting really happening. Once a town is shut off from the world, there is only so much that can be told and King tries to force too much into the story that really doesn't exist. The result, sadly, is something that takes far too long not getting anywhere.
That's not to say there is nothing to like about "Under the Dome". There are some fine ideas here, with the aforementioned woodchuck being the earliest of the nice touches. Andy Sanders descent into drug addiction and his teamwork with Chef Bushey was totally unbelievable and thoroughly entertaining and the coming together of Chief of Police Perkins, the Dome and his pacemaker was a disgusting, but imaginative piece. The events that transpired when the Police attempted to seize control of the WCIK radio station from Chef Bushey was impressive, too.
Sadly, knowing that King can still produce decent characters and interesting events only serves to make the rest of the book harder to bear. Whilst much of it is largely quite dull and the book as a whole is too long, the ending stands out for me as being the worst part of the novel. To call it weak and disappointing is to fall short of how poor it really was. It honestly felt as if King had gone as far as he could with the story, realised that it needed and ending and came up dry when he went looking for a way to finish. In retrospect, maybe it's just as well the rest of the book wasn't terribly good, as it would have made the ending seem even worse by comparison. Having stayed awake into the early hours of the morning to reach that ending made me feel like I'd been taken for a ride.
Many King fans will read the book simply because it's got his name on it, but never have I been so glad to have asked for something as a gift instead of buying it myself. Had I paid the £10.00 or so I've paid for previous King novels in hardback, I would have felt very hard done by. It says much that, after only 6 months, copies of this £20.00 hardback book are on eBay for £3.49 (including postage) or £3.75 at Green Metropolis. It is a rare King novel that I only read the once, but this is certainly one of those exceptions. Ignore the cover blurb which proclaims "Under the Dome" to be King's "...finest epic since 'The Stand'", as it's only his longest epic since then. If you're a King fan who has to read everything he's written, get this from a library, but don't buy it. If you're not already a King fan, don't bother at all, as you certainly won't be after this poor effort.
"MY WORD!!! This book is Heavy!" - A paraphrased recount of my reaction when I unwrapped this at Christmas and found myself staring at the cover of Stephen King's latest horror/fantasy epic.
In late October, in the small Maine town of Chester's Mill, a strange phenomenon occurs, cutting the inhabitants of the town off from the rest of the world. A strange, glass-like dome descends around the town boundary, causing devastation and carnage on a large scale.
Initially reluctant to take action, the town Selectmen and inhabitants continue with their lives despite the unspoken implications the presence of the dome inspires.
However, there are darker events on the horizon. The actions of the Second Selectman and his son lay the blame for several deaths on an innocent man - a man the President wants to take control of the worsening situation in the town.
As the town descends into self-destruction, the cause of the dome is uncovered, and the reality is stranger than anyone in the town could have predicted.
In "Under The Dome", Stephen King taps into the psyche of a normal town forced to fend for itself when all outside support is cut off. With his trademark detail and cultural references, King crafts a tale of societal decay and a town plunged into chaos through its own actions.
With a subtle link into his ever growing Dark Tower mythology, Stephen King has produced a huge chunk of fictional life for Constant Readers to sink their teeth into.
As usual, King vaires the pace of his narrative, providing subtle humour and sly references to his previous works. Unfortunately, the frenetic build up and the explosive finale are hampered by an unneccessarily bloated middle section, which by turns sprints along, only to pull a hamstring and stagger to a limp.
King still proves himself a capable writer, certainly one of the best storytellers and craftsmen of his trade. In this instance however, King has allowed his talent to get in the way of his audience.
This novel would have been better served being 200 pages shorter, although writers will argue that the story is as long as it needed to be to complete the journey King wanted to take us on.
Perhaps this is correct - but it may lose a lot of readers along the way.
One gloriously sunny October day, something strange happens in the Maine hamlet of Chester Mills. Dale Barbara, an ex-military man and Gulf War veteran (most recently working as a short order cook) is heading out of town following an unfortunate incident with the son of the powerful Second Selectman, though never quite makes it. He sees a woodchuck sliced right in half, and witnesses a plane crash into seemingly nothing. After further investigation, it appears an invisible dome has descended over the town, reaching 40,000 feet up and possibly as far down. It lets in air, and a bit of water, but no-one can get in, and no-one can get out.
Although Under the Dome is ostensibly about the mystery of what created the dome, why can it not be breached, and what can be done to remove it, the dome's purpose in the story is really to isolate the residents of Chester Mills, and watch what happens. Will people maintain stiff upper lips and all muck in, like residents of London are said to have during the Blitz? Or will confusion, anarchy and cruelty reign, as those inside realise they are not accountable to anyone outside? This is a Stephen King book - you can probably guess the answer to that. Things quickly deteriorate in the village, with powerful yet cruel people spreading fear and confusion in order to consolidate their own power.
This is a long book - the UK edition clocks in (including the afterword) at a hernia inducing 880 pages. There are many characters, from our hero Dale (and heroine Julia Shumway - editor of Chester Mills' newspaper "The Democrat," though we are told repeatedly she's staunchly Republican. She's not, as becomes increasingly apparent both to our hero and to the reader) and his supporters - the local medic Rusty, a smart, geeky lad 'Scarecrow' Joe, the Dome Widow of the police chief, and others. Then we have the bad guys - chief amongst them being Big Jim Rennie - used car salesman and Second Selectman (and meth baron on the side) and his hastily recruited police force of thugs (including his own son). There are many, many more characters, some of whom appear only briefly, and have more page time dead than alive, and some whom we grow to sympathise with, but may (or may not) survive to the 880th page.
And there's the rub. Stephen King is normally good at epic books with a cast of thousands. And this is true to an extent in this book. However, to me, one thing really lets this down. His characters are either very good - noble and kind and thoughtful (if sometimes slightly flawed) - or utterly evil - cruel, capricious, power-hungry murderers. Unlike in King's superior epic The Stand, there are no shades of grey - there is almost no-one, for example, who is essentially decent but joins the 'wrong' crowd for reasons that seem right at the time (Andy Sanders, the ineffectual First Selectman could be seen as performing that role, but he's too flawed, and has a spectacular fall from what little grace he had - a fall that happens too easily). The youths recruited by Big Jim are without exception thuggish, mostly stupid, happy to kill, beat, maim and rape whilst the dome remains. Are people, even nasty people, that likely to revert to savagery so quickly (the book takes place over the course of about a week - chaos descends almost at the same time the Dome does)?
The ending of Under the Dome is also deeply flawed. The resolution seems rushed, and doesn't really fit with the rest of the novel. It is true that really the point of the book isn't the dome itself, but the actions of the people within (and without) it, but even so, it is somewhat unsatisfying (though does rather allow for a sequel, should King ever be so inclined, though that's not really his style, unless you count the Dark Tower series)
Under the Dome is not a terrible book. I started it Christmas Day, and had finished it by the morning of the 27th. It is a page turner, and you do care for the 'good guys,' and boo and hiss at the bad guys. There is plenty of action, much of which is quite believable. Stephen King does have a way with words, and with dialogue in particular. His conversations flow easily and believably, and so by the end of the story, you do feel you know and are pleased for the survivors. We are also left wondering (as was I'm sure King's intention) how we'd behave under the same circumstances - would we follow the scared populace in accepting Big Jim as their leader? Or would we see sense and remain civilised with Dale Barbara (Barbie to his friends) and his cohort? Me, I'd like to think more of us would stay at least somewhat civilised (keeping in mind that the action takes place over a very short time), but King obviously disagrees with me.
The book is very well researched. King has clearly worked hard (and had help) to get things right - what the weather would be like not just under the titular dome, but also around the dome, keeping in mind that the dome is more-or-less air permeable, only slightly water permeable, but allows no particulates through. The dome gets dirty over time, and the stars and sunset change colour. These are lovely little touches that serve to remind both Chester Mill's residents and the reader of the dome's presence.
Under the Dome is worth reading. It is exciting and gripping - once you start this novel you will be very keen to finish it - to see who lives and who dies, and who keeps his humanity intact and who loses it. However, it doesn't approach the mastery of King's earlier epics such as The Stand and The Dark Tower series. Many of his characters are one dimensional (an unusual failing for King), and chaos descends too quickly. The ending feels rushed and a bit silly. It is a good book, but not a great one - not even for Stephen King. I'd say read it, but you might want to wait until it comes out in paperback (when you won't need a fork lift truck to carry it around).
When an invisible barrier mysteriously descends around a small American town in Maine, it brings about a trail of destruction that leads to the first of what will be several untimely deaths that will occur over the next few weeks! Myra Evans is gardening in her back yard when the barrier comes down around her perimeter severing her hand and part of her arm; Claudette Saunders is enjoying a flying lesson when the plane she is piloting collides with the invisible force-field, exploding in a ball of flame and bringing about near instantaneous death and there are several motor vehicle accidents down on the ground that also end fatally....
Ex Gulf War veteran, Dale Barbera, is on his way out of town after a recent conflict with some of the town's youths when The Dome shuts off Chester's Mill from the rest of the world and prevents his departure. Appointed as the Army's man-on-the-ground by his former Colonel, who has been put in charge of the current situation, Dale is given the unenviable task of taking leadership of the town and assisting the local Council during the course of this crisis, however long it lasts. And therein lies the rub. For no one has any idea what The Dome is or where it has come from and getting past its impenetrable defences proves much more difficult than anybody might have thought! Meanwhile Chester's Mill's Third Selectman Jim Rennie, has his own agenda in mind. Having covertly held all the strings in town for a long, long time, Rennie is more than a little reluctant to have his grip usurped by a relative newcomer and has more than his fair share of secrets that he would like to prevent from being revealed. These include a highly profitable Crystal Meth factory he has been supervising for some time on the far reaches of town and which is currently being managed by a very unstable former resident.
As the enforced state of siege continues, several other issues come into play that include environmental concerns and the threat of stocks and supplies running low with no means to replenish them. Many of the town's children begin experiencing visions of something bad that they believe will soon come to pass and a Lord Of The Flies situation slowly starts to develop amongst the towns people as panic and fear begins to set in. A group of young school children, reminiscent of the kids in King's earlier novel, IT, begin searching for whatever is powering The Dome but can they find the source before it is too late? And just how far will Big Jim Rennie's obsessive thirst for power take him?
Described as a modern day answer to his former epic, The Stand, Under The Dome is arguably one of King's best books of late; encapsulating many of the ideas, concepts and characters that have helped make his many other novels before this such a success! Many of King's more recent publications of late have received, often unfairly in some cases, harsh criticism amongst the huge army of fans that have devoutly followed his extensive career. As for myself, I quite enjoyed both Cell and Lisey's Story though there is no question that this latest book is a strong return to form for a writer often accused in recent years of somewhat losing his way.
Dome is by no means perfect and has its faults but it is true that for the majority of its read, it is a gripping and emotionally driven tale. I disagree with the former reviewer in that I was not keen on the ending and felt myself as though King had kind of painted his way into a corner and was not sure how to get out of it (the last fifty or so pages, I found a tad disappointing) but this is a minor niggle when compared to the rest of the novel which is very cleverly written and conceived and does bring back fond memories of King's strongest work! Another thing I was unsure about was its being set in the very near future; on or around the year 2012 in fact! This in itself would not be a problem except King never explicitly comes out and says it is set in the future but instead leaves the reader to piece it together themselves from clues in the text! This seems to me to be a bizarre way of doing things and its setting a few years ahead appears to bear no relevance to the rest of the plot, story or novel as a whole. Seeing as how most of King's novels are set in the time that they are written, this is a quirky touch that stood out for me as something more than just a little bit random! It's not as though I minded, I just failed to understand the point!
The explanation for The Dome, when it finally comes, seems a little bit of an anti-climax but it is true that this is never what the book is truly about. King seems to be attempting to write about the frailty of human nature and focuses on the more manipulative traits of those in positions of power. King himself admits this was not an easy book to write, he has been putting this together in bits and stages for most of his career on and off if he is to be believed, but certainly it has been worth the wait. Despite a few flaws, I can certainly say it is one of his best books in ages and will be a real treat for many of his fans!