Category Archives: Book Review

Ashley Bell & The Revival of Dean Koontz

Ashley-Bell-CoverDean Koontz was dead to me. After a lackluster 77 Shadow Street, a pedestrian Innocence, and a virtually unreadable The City, I began to wonder if the maestro had lost his touch. To me Koontz always meant the supernatural, but nothing hokey or unrealized, but two out of the three books mentioned above were just that — hokey, and unrealized. I could see kernels of possibility and creativity in all three, but they seemed more like first drafts than final copies. In fact, I didn’t even finish The City because of the plethora of cliches and rampant jump-the-shark moments. And for the casual Dean Koontz reader, you’re probably wondering what I expected from him in the first place.

Yes, he’s the same guy who wrote Dragon Tears, Odd Thomas, and Mr. Murder, three novels that took dark and unexpected turns into the occult and dark matters of the twisted heart, but those novels had characters who were believable. They weren’t about dark, twisted souls for the sake of being about dark, twisted souls. I actually CARED about the protagonists of those books, and for good reason. Dean Koontz obviously cared about the protagonists of those books, whereas these recent main characters are mere acquaintances, and not ones I would want to spend too much time around for fear of getting dirty.

He’s my favorite author, so it was with much difficulty that I put down The City, never to return to it. It was the first Koontz book I started that I didn’t finish, and it was not for lack of trying. I spent so much time dredging through each page, each line, every single word, looking for something, anything that made me feel like I was reading a Dean Koontz book and not some schlock by a lesser author, and I could find nothing. There was nothing in that book that stirred something deep inside my soul, nothing but a surface so boring I fell asleep in the middle of the day while trying to focus on its vapid language.

I figured: “The man’s lost it.” After 77 Shadow Street and Innocence I had to at least entertain the sad idea that the man whose work I had fallen in love with in the ’90s just didn’t have it anymore, that he had burned out like so many before him. In fact, I was in mourning, so I went back and read Sole Survivor again to calm my jangled nerves. It did the trick. So when my wife brought home his latest from the library — Ashley Bell — I was actually in a good enough place to give it a shot without worrying about The City and the dark specter it had cast over me at the time. I had “good Koontz” as a marker, and I went in it with great expectation.

The book has not disappointed so far. I am 265 pages in (about a hundred pages past where I had given up on The City), and the pace of the book is good. Really good. There’s just something about a Dean Koontz classic that doesn’t force the pace, that reveals just enough in its good time, but never too late, and Ashley Bell has that in spades. We aren’t even introduced to the titular title character until page 146, and by then the book was already firmly in my head, the protagonist already a friend of mine. That’s good reading in a way that I haven’t had in a while from a Dean Koontz thriller.

So I’m savoring it, this revival of my favorite author, because odds are it won’t last. Odds are this is a one-off, and I’m enjoying it too much to try and think ahead, to try and anticipate what’s coming next. I’m savoring it like that last piece of cheesecake, stretching it out to make it last me as long as it must until I’m forced to read the next one, and cross my fingers that this is a true revival and not something else. For now, though, I’m in heaven. Or as Dean Koontz would say, I’m One Door Away From Heaven. And that’s close enough for me.


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FALLEN | A Review

fallen-by-lauren-kate7Can love survive death?

In Fallen, by Lauren Kate, this question is answered many times over. Daniel and Luce have a connection since the beginning of time. The only problem is that she keeps dying. Oh yeah, and he’s an angel. The story of fallen angels is a varied one in literature, but Kate puts a new spin on it that is refreshing, the idea that one kiss can incinerate as well as recreate.

Before her eighteenth birthday in each of her reincarnated lives Luce meets Daniel, he kisses her, and she spontaneously combusts. It has happened over and over again through eons, but now that has all changed, and no one is sure. In this life Daniel kisses her but she doesn’t go up in flames, and they need to find out why, how that difference can put them all in danger. What at first seems like a miracle might doom them all for eternity.

In this battle between good and evil, there is murky ground, and the love between an angel and a reincarnated mortal is incredible to watch, and even more incredible to recreate time and again through the ages, but Kate does an amazing job of setting up this world and making it believable. From the fallen angels on both sides, to the human beings who are pawns in the game, to the undying commitment between the two protagonists, the world they inhabit is fully fleshed out and intriguing.

Luce is my favorite character because she constantly doubts her world. She isn’t a weak-willed woman who just lets things happen to her, at least not in this book, and she wants more than anything to figure out the reason she hasn’t caught internal fire. While she can’t remember her previous lives at first, it’s her connection to Daniel that survives and keeps her motivated. But she doubts even that love at first, moved as she is by another fallen angel, Cam, who is on the other side of the equation.

But this isn’t a simple love triangle, a la Jacob vs. Edward. It feels more real, more honest, because the fight between Daniel and Cam has gone on for more than a millennia, and the grit that has collected between the two is just as electric as the love between Daniel and Luce. It is this diametrical opposition that fuels the book, and indeed the series as a whole, almost as much as everlasting love does.

I enjoyed Fallen, and the rest of the series, because the prose flows smoothly and I get lost in the world that the characters inhabit. I enjoyed it because it doesn’t stick to boring paradigms, preferring instead to surprise the reader at every turn. It kept me interested from start to finish, which is the best I can say for any book, and at the end I found myself identifying with positions and characters I never thought I would, in ways I never thought I would. That’s the mark of a good book.

I give the novel FIVE stars.


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jk-rowling-the-cuckoos-callingLet me start at the end and work my way backwards, which is pretty much what happens in a detective thriller, at least a classic one anyway. Someone is dead, and the detective is hired to trace the story back to its origin. Why is that person dead? What was the motive, be it suicide or homicide? Then, the story ends when the detective susses out the true cause of death, the motivation that would surely be the beginning if it were most other sub-genres of fiction. That’s what happens when the detective genre works well, which it does for J.K. Rowling (pseudonym Robert Galbraith), in the beginning of her new Cormoran Strike series.

First, I’ll admit that I knew it was Rowling when I first read the novel, and of course that changed the way I approached it had I thought it was simply a new writer named Robert Galbraith. That being said, I had recently tried reading Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and it was not the page turner I had expected from her, even without the famous Mr. Potter in the narrative. So, my recent history suggested that I should be more open-minded about this book, to not expect a Harry Potter, but also not to expect anything like Vacancy. Otherwise, why would she have chosen a pseudonym?

The story is simple enough. A supermodel’s adoptive brother hires private detective Cormoran Strike to figure out what really happened to his sister when she sailed to her death out of a high-rise window. The police had ruled it a suicide, but the tale just didn’t ring true to the brother, so he sees Strike. What I loved about the story from the beginning was its vivid descriptions that didn’t linger but that simply explained and then moved on. That’s what I’ve come to expect from Rowling, and she returns to form from the very start of this one.

Strike is in the mold of such rumpled detectives as TV’s Columbo, not stylish like Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and I think that suits him. He has a bright mind, and the rumpled facade causes others not to take him or his mind seriously, so he can really delve into the situation at hand, which in this case is a supermodel’s supposed suicide. Needless to say, he uncovers layers to the case that give him pause, in the end realizing a conspiracy of unfathomable depth. Of course this puts him in personal danger and he must figure out the true depth of things before anything befalls him or his associate/secretary Robin.

There’s of course a latent sexual tension between Strike and Robin, but it remains under the surface, unlike so many detective stories I’ve read where the P.I. is a rogueish ladies’ man who gets not only the secretary but any other woman who is even tangential to the case at hand. Oh yes, and Strike is missing a leg. While that is not really central to the story, it still affects it, however, because I sense his discomfort and embarrassment about the missing limb that keeps him somewhat humble throughout.

As for Robin, she is new to Strike’s office, but she proves herself more than adequate with her assistance. I sense the two of them will keep up their subtle tango as the series goes on, but I think the dance itself is enough to keep the energy charged without them ever becoming physical. Some of the best collaborations really exist because of that tension, and if it stretches too thin it will snap, and then their connection and the help they offer each other will be at an end.

What I love so much about The Cuckoo’s Calling is its sense of timing. It reads quickly without flying through important details. Rowling set up the pace well, and incorporates her reveals at just the right places for them. I forgot pretty fast while I was reading it that 1) it was written by the same woman who wrote Harry Potter, and 2) the characters weren’t real. That is the mark of good fiction, in my opinion, that you get so involved in the story as a reader that it blurs the line between reality and fiction.

I look forward with baited breath to the next book in the series (The Silkworm), coming this summer. I would recommend this book and series to anyone who enjoys the classic detective genre. I would leave Harry Potter expectations at the door, too, because this is a completely different kind of animal.

I give this novel FIVE stars.

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U2 BY U2 | A Review

PIC8It’s 1989, the final year of a decade in which you took the world by storm, going from absolutely nothing to the biggest rock ‘n roll band in the world by challenging yourselves to always be different. And you’ve achieved that lofty status with one of the best selling albums of all time, an album that doesn’t sound like anything anyone else put out in the 1980s. But you’re not satisfied to rest on those acclaimed laurels. You’re restless, and you want to create something even greater. So you head to Berlin in early 1990 and you record an even more seminal album that is as different from anything you’ve ever done as it is from anything else others are releasing at the time. Or any time, for that matter.

One of the most fascinating aspects of U2 is their adaptability, their absolute willingness to change while others are content to stagnate. It’s what makes them so unique as individuals, as a band, and as a revolution. What makes U2 By U2 so special is that it tells the story from the perspective of the band members (and of their manager, Paul McGuinness), from their earliest individual memories, to the formation of the band, through 2006. It captures the madness of trying desperately to land a record deal, the glory of their first number one record, to the fears that they would fall completely apart while trying to create what would eventually become Achtung Baby.

It’s the story of Adam Clayton, the band’s bassist, who was born in England but who moved to Ireland as a young boy and eventually embraced his new country, an outcast who looked cool enough to be a bassist and so became one. The narrative also includes Larry Mullen, Jr., the quiet drummer who never quite understood why Bono had to leap off the stage on occasion. Then there’s The Edge, an accidental master of odd guitar effects that have characterized U2 from the start. And at the center of it all is the wordsmith, Bono, who only wanted to be a guitar player. Who still wants to be a guitar player.

c735ea39e40d55ec6e4a1c6f5ababfd7The book alternates between the perspectives of the members of U2 through the different creative phases of the band, in chronological order, so after introducing the family backgrounds it moves forward to how they met, the now famous note on the board at Mt. Temple, posted by Larry Mullen, Jr., and doesn’t finish until after the release of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. It is incredible to hear about the poor initial concerts, the scramble to put an entire album together, the random nature of The Joshua Tree, and how the band broke America.

What makes it work is that the pictures and the words are so perfect together. There are the horrible haircuts of the October period, the crazy muscle suits of Pop, and the airplane hangar in the Beautiful Day video shoot. Then as a reader you can understand from the perspective of U2 what they were thinking when those photographs were taken, and how they honestly felt that they had the worst possible fashion sense at each stage of the journey. You know, except for Bono’s fly shades during the ZooTV period.

INTERSCOPE RECORDS U2It’s 1999, and after mixed reviews and the less than expected sales of your latest album, it’s time to dream it all up again. So you do, going back into the studio and making your most intimate record in years. It’s a record about loss, about goodbyes, and about looking back on your life, but also about looking forward to something new, to something different. And it resonates, like so much of your music has done over the years, creating a connection with your fans that cannot be denied. Then you write down that feeling, even though it cannot be contained in mere words.

What I love the most about U2 By U2 is its honesty, its soul-stripped-bare brutal honesty, even when that honesty reveals a humanity that most bands like to leave behind, even when it is the band at their most vulnerable. Because that’s when U2 is at its best, in its music, and in its creativity that encompasses so much more than just its music. It’s what makes the book compelling as more than just a companion piece to the phenomenal albums the band has produced.

I give the book FIVE stars.

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a7780e2565cfd33608b9919330180bf9Usually I try to stay away from heart-wrenching tales that will pull on the precarious thread of my emotions, but every once in a while I go into a situation knowing full well its ramifications and still do it. That’s how it was for me with Look Again, by Lisa Scottoline. She has morphed from being all about the legal drama to writing stories that have heartstrings attached to them. Save Me was probably as intense as any book I read from that perspective, and this one follows suit.

The premise is a simple one to grasp, but one that still made me gasp. Ellen Gleeson adopted a boy, and he is the light of her life. But then she sees a missing children’s flyer in her mail with a picture of a boy on it who looks remarkably similar to her son. The emotion in the book lies in the incredibly difficult decision she is then forced to make, because if the boys are indeed one and the same, if she pulls at that thread it could all come unraveled and she could lose her son. But is he really hers anyway? Could she possibly just ignore it and make it go away?

I love how Scottoline forces her heroine to honestly think about what the right thing is to do, that she doesn’t automatically just say the truth needs to be out there. She loves her son so much that she doesn’t want to lose him, and it’s a powerful pull that weighs on her. But it is a weight, and it does prove too heavy for her to measure alone. Ellen is nothing if not intent on finding the truth. It’s how she is hard-wired, so she goes on the search, knowing the dire consequences that could happen if she gets the answers she seeks. And as readers, we go on the search as well.

At times I was convinced of both scenarios, that the boys were the same, and that the boys were different. I thought that I knew which decisions would be made, but I was wrong. I thought I knew the inner workings of the people involved, but again I was mistaken. It’s curious to me that in this day and age something like this could and does realistically happen, and Scottoline does a great job of weaving a tale that gives and takes at the same time.

In the end we are left with this very raw emotional connection to the characters and a very intense understanding of their motivations and decisions, even if we don’t necessarily agree with all of them. And as has become all too familiar in Scottoline’s books of late, the answers only give us more questions. But that’s a good thing here because it forces us, just as it did to Ellen, to dig deep into our own psyches and motivations. Would we follow the same path. Why? Why not? The answers might just scare us, but they make us think like not too many books these days do.

I would recommend this book to anyone willing to challenge themselves and delve into their own fears. It is not for the faint of heart, but it’s well worth the time you will take reading it. And the ending might just surprise you.

I give the novel FIVE stars.

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18079527For me high school was a mix of excitement and fear: excitement because of the unknown, and fear because of the same. It was four years of trying to figure out where I fit in while trying not to fit in, preparing to be something more than I was while doing my best to be less than I was. The best part of high school was when every once in a while someone noticed me for doing something positive instead of judging me for the things I couldn’t help.

What I have always loved about the best of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books is that she captures the zeitgeist of the high school experience like no other author I know. Ever since I first read Speak, and later Twisted, and Prom, I realized that a woman who probably had a pretty normal high school experience understood me, and her main characters were always flawed in some elemental way. It was those flaws that really tied them to me, and to their experience in ways that I had never seen before from young adult fiction.

That’s what also stands out about her most recent novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. It’s her portrayal of her primary characters as deeply troubled and in need of redemption and/or counseling that draws me in and makes me want to read further. In this novel it’s all about Hayley and her father, two wandering souls who have seen too much and who have been through things neither of them wants to remember. So they repress those memories and live lives that aren’t fulfilling, then they wonder why they aren’t fulfilled.

Hayley doesn’t fit into her school environment, picking fights with other students, antagonizing her teachers, and not doing her homework. She calls the other students “zombies,” and says that they don’t DO anything. Yet, when we see her she too is avoiding every opportunity she’s given, until she meets a boy named Finn, a character who is also deeply flawed, and I like to think they save each other. Or they would if Hayley would just let herself feel. The plot twists and turns with the turns (mostly bad) that her father takes, and the responsibility she feels toward him and his issues that stem from what happened to him in war.

This knife of memory truly is impossible, and Halse Anderson does a great job of showing in the narrative (and through flashbacks) exactly how sharp it can be when it presses against their minds in dreams and forces them to remember. Can anyone truly get through to them, or are they stuck in this perpetual merry-go-round of emotions, and the subsequent dulling of those emotions, in order to exist? Those are the overarching questions Halse Anderson makes her readers ask as the plot unfolds and takes us with it.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the novel it’s that the characters apart from Hayley, her dad, and Finn seem under-realized, even if it seems like their part in the story is important. For example, Hayley’s best friend Gracie has some addiction problems that are delved into for about half a chapter, but nothing comes of it, almost like it was a separate story that needs its own book. It’s almost like the author decided she only had enough space to hint at some of these other issues without either resolving them or bringing them to some kind of conclusion, positive or negative.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the book immensely, particularly the parts where Hayley is introspective instead of just letting herself be a zombie and going with her own self-imposed flow that gets her absolutely nowhere, and the ending will floor you. That’s another thing I can count on from Halse Anderson, an ending worthy of the term.

I give this novel FOUR AND A HALF stars.

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city_of_bonesWhat are the Mortal Instruments? Why, they are fantastic implements that become necessary to the existence of the world populated by Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and Mundanes. Wow, and you thought Muggles were interesting enough. Welcome to the sordid world of Clary Fray and Jace Wayland, the two erstwhile lovers who can’t seem to get together while also battling demons and others who wish to take over the world.

Cassandra Clare delves into that and much more in the first book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones. It can be confusing at times because as a reader you have to learn a completely new lexicon and the people who embody each part of the code. There’s the bad guy — Valentine — the damsel in distress — Jocelyn — the boy caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time — Simon — and the warlock who just can’t help getting mixed up in it all, for the sake of love — Magnus. These characters are polarizing, every single one, which makes for a fantastic reading experience.

You know the types of books that make you talk back to the characters as if they’re the children and you’re the parent who knows best for them? This is one of those books, and indeed the entire series can be defined in this way. Each character is given an extensive back story, and then left to his/her own devices, and the interactions between them makes for high drams, particularly when there are misunderstandings (and there are quite a few along the way).

For starters, Shadowhunters have magic that they utilize though steles (instruments that draw runes on their skin). They can be invisible, get more powerful, and heal themselves, along with a host of other amazing possibilities. Clary has lived her whole life ignorant of this whole other world, but things are starting to clarify themselves to her one night at a club when she sees the hidden world for the first time. The rest of the book is basically one revelation after another, not the least of which is who her true parents were, and why she’s been hidden from this world for so long.

Oh yes, and the quest for the Mortal Cup, a dangerous but significant artifact in the Shadowhunter world. The evil Valentine wants it, so the good Shadowhunters must get their hands on it before he does, and save Jocelyn from his clutches as well. But things don’t go as planned and they have to adjust their mission more than once along the way. It all sets up for a showdown at the end of the book that you don’t want to miss.

If there’s any negatives about the book for me it’s the length. Clocking in at a whopping 503 pages, quite a bit of it is going in-depth in many avenues that simply aren’t necessary to understand the plot. I’ve read every single book in the series, and even after reading those I still don’t see the need for most of the filler in this book. That’s not to say that those parts aren’t well-written (they are). They just don’t add anything to the plot, and can generally be skipped by all but the hardiest of fans. That being said, the book shines through its interactions.

And the City of Bones is an enchanting place, even if it is cold and impersonal. It drew me in during the very small amount of time we actually spend there with the characters. If I had something I would change, it would be the time spent in this place. After all, it is the title of the book. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys alternate realities, and creatures like vampires, werewolves, and other magical sorts. It won’t disappoint.

I give the novel FOUR AND A HALF stars.


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littlebeeMany books can get quite heavy-handed when it comes to immigration and issues in third-world countries, preferring to preach about injustice and inequality at every turn, when the subtle approach can work much better. I honestly had no idea what to expect from a book that was told from the dual perspectives of a member of one of those third-world countries and of a working mother from England who has an intimate connection with the girl based on horrible events that happened prior to the novel.

What Chris Cleave does right in Little Bee is to let the narrative speak for itself. It flows smoothly between the two protagonists, weaving a tale that is impossible to deny, and yet fantastic in its complexity at the same time. Little Bee has been in a detention center on the outskirts of London for two years after stowing away in a boat that originated in Nigeria. She has a horrible tale to tell, but she tells it in her own time over a series of chapters, a tale that includes the white woman she is trying to locate in the London suburbs, the woman who tells the other half of that tale.

The women are linked, it’s true, by events that reshaped both of their lives, but they have no clue how to deal with the aftermath of those events even two years later. What’s intriguing about the narrative is its dogged determination to tell the story in its entirety, the actions and reactions that grievously wounded both women, physically and emotionally. And the decisions they make as a result of these wounds are serious ones with serious consequences.

What I love most about Little Bee is the subtle nuance that could be missed if you blinked. It happens on both sides, too, maintaining the balance that is struck at the very beginning of the novel all the way through. Little Bee is a sympathetic character to a fault, while Sarah (the white woman inextricably linked to her) is ultimately not. But as a reader I find myself attracted to the spirit of both at times, a dynamic testament to the author and to his portrayal of both as three-dimensional characters living in a two-dimensional black-and-white world.

But it’s not even black-and-white. It’s masquerading as clearcut when the choices and the decisions are anything, and the world the characters inhabit is anything but. That’s what’s so fascinating about the tale itself, and about the way it is told. I give Cleave all kinds of respect for having the ability to tell this story the way it was supposed to be told. Believe me, at the end you too will be invested in both women, in the history that both binds and separates them, and in what must happen next.

I give this novel FIVE stars.

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thImagine a world where the TV game shows are real, and if you don’t win, you die. It’s a world of subterfuge, where every contestant is in it for themselves, and where the best strategy is either brains or brawn, but never both. And the arena of the game is merely a microcosm of the divisive society as a whole, a stunning mirror image of devastation and reluctance. A reluctance to stand up for each other in the face of leaders who have only their self-interests in mind.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.” This is one of the seminal lines from Suzanne Collins’ extraordinary novel, The Hunger Games. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to be a guinea pig in the 74th Hunger Games, she realizes she has absolutely no chance to be the sole survivor of the contest, but she promises her sister, Prim, that she will try her best. The novel takes its readers from the sad surroundings of the Seam, to the Capitol, then finally to the arena where it’s kill or be killed, and Katniss does indeed try her best, against tributes from all the other districts, and even against the other tribute from her district, District 12.

The epic nature of the novel sets the table for the other two books in the series by introducing us to this dystopian universe that could conceivably happen. That’s the true dark nature of the tale, its roots set firmly in the selfish nature of our present magnified a thousand fold and set in a world not too distant from our own. And Katniss is a heroine we long to root for, coming from such humble surroundings to become reknown in her society. We want her to win, even if at the same time we don’t want the others to die, because we appreciate the stakes, and we inevitably buy into the assumption that only one can win.

But this is in the end a tragic love story along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, isn’t it? Two young men both throw their hats in the ring for Katniss’ favor, but can either one survive long enough to actually win her hand? Underneath the spectacle and horror of the arena and of the Games, the possibility and despair both call out to readers as we cheer on Katniss to not only win the competition but to fall in love with one or the other of her suitors. It’s gut-wrenching as the book continues towards its only possible ending, whether or not we fully comprehend it when it comes.

The Hunger Games is a non-stop journey, hurtling quickly towards a destination that begs many questions of its readers, a perfect beginning to a trilogy that recognizes the battle as well as the war. I enjoyed its fleshed out characters — particularly Katniss — and its plethora of surprises along the way. It amped up the suspense as well as kept me guessing, something I enjoy from all books worth their salt. I recommend it heartily to anyone looking for a reflection of today’s popular culture, and who isn’t afraid to dream and wish impossible things.

I give this novel FIVE stars.

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thIf there’s one thing Stephen King is known for besides the supernaturally horrific overtones to his books, it’s their page lengths. Many readers agree that if you take out the filler in any King book you would end up with a 200-page novel at most. If you remember that most of his books clock in at 1000 pages you can understand the consternation. Rarely do you find any work of fiction that large that actually works as is with no skimming necessary or wanted. Under the Dome is that book.

The town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is just like any other. There are corrupt politicians, people fighting to survive, a small clinic, and a place where everyone goes to hear and to repeat gossip. But on one cloudy day the impossible happens: an invisible dome drops down over the town, entirely cutting it off from the rest of the world. Now, perhaps you’ve seen the television series of the same name. Forget about that here. While the concept remains the same, the story is a different — and more formidable — one in the novel.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the plethora of protagonists in the sealed-off town. I will  be the first to admit that initially it can be difficult to keep everyone straight. You’ll more than likely get the “light vs. dark” characters from the start, and you’ll support one side against the other. However, just as in real life, the sides aren’t always clearly delineated, because people aren’t always one way or the other. That’s where King excels, fleshing out his characters so that they appear in 3D instead of as flat people with straight agendas or unwavering stoicism.

Dale Barbara (Barbie) has secrets, and he’s not a native to the town, so the seeds of distrust are sown when he’s trapped in Chester’s Mill on that dark day and somehow gets woven into the fabric of the plan to get rid of the dome. “Big Jim” Rennie is the epitome of the seedy politicians who has hoodwinked many into thinking he has their best interests at heart. Both of them would probably draw attention to themselves anyway, but being trapped under the dome reveals them more clearly than anything ever could, pitting them against each other in a war of wills that could ultimately destroy the town.

Where the book truly excels, however, is in its pacing. Revelations and suspense are interchangeable as the plot moves swiftly in and out of issues, dreams, and the supernatural. Nefarious plans that would have never come to light without the dome’s presence suddenly lead to mortal consequences, and it truly is a race against time and ignorance to try and save the dying town from itself, much less from the overarching invisible dome.

I hadn’t been intrigued by any King book in a long time before I picked up Under the Dome at the library on a whim soon after it was published. Previously I had tried to get into Cell but it wasn’t speaking to me like classic King used to do back in the early ’80s. But the cover and the idea of the novel intrigued me, despite its 897 pages, so I went with it. And I read it in seven days from start to finish.

It’s easy to get into the characters, to choose a side, and to be aghast at the nature of good and evil in the microcosmic environment of Under the Dome. The ending is also ultimately satisfying, showing that King can still craft an intricate work with a purpose and a destination. I would recommend it to anyone who loves suspense and isn’t put off by the graphic nature of many things that go on in the town, like violence at its severest.

I give the novel FIVE stars.

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