June 5th, 2011

Book 13 - 2011

Book 13: Under the Dome by Stephen King – 877 pages

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From an amateur to a master, that is the sentiment that comes to me when I think about going from reading Meyer’s book to a King novel. Now on the onset I must say that up til now, I have read very little of King’s work. I’m not a big fan of horror and I’ve always just walked along with the assumption that that was all that King wrote. I had no reason to believe otherwise, as my most significant contact with King prior to Under the Dome was in high school, when I did an assignment in which I had to re-write the ending of a short story. My Dad described the plot of King’s Survivor Type to me (it features in King’s anthology Skeleton Crew, which I had a copy of until I lent it to a friend who never returned it – grrr!) and that was the story I chose, though at 30 pages, my teacher’s later told me that they didn’t consider the story ‘short’. Nonetheless, after cursory glances through others of the short stories in the book, I came to the conclusion that Stephen King was not for me. Then, I heard about Under the Dome. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big sci-fi fan, and a big alien fan, so this story was always going to appeal to me. The idea of being stuck under the dome was definitely a fascinating one to me, and if there is one thing that I love more than anything, its seeing how ordinary people cope in extraordinary situations (its precisely why I started writing, because extraordinary things just don’t happen in life enough!). From my own real-life experiences, people generally react in one of two ways in such situations. They either panic and look to someone else, anyone else, for guidance, or they take on the panic of everyone else and become leaders, able to resist panicking because everyone else is panicking for them. When I was in high-school, I got caught in a rip at the beach while swimming with a peer. I’ve grown up around water and am a fairly confident swimmer, purely from having spent so much time body surfing and wave riding. The girl I was swimming with, on the other hand, was a very inexperienced swimmer. She panicked. I didn’t. I can still remember the complete and utter calm that overcame me in the situation, the danger of which was exacerbated by my peer, who in her fear, nearly drowned me as she tried to use my body as a floatation device (nice, eh?). Needless to say, we both survived the situation, her probably because I kept her from being dragged out further until as such time as the lifesavers could get to us. Why am I telling you all this? Because that situation came back to me several times while reading Under the Dome watching as some of the characters panicked, looked to a leader – be them good or bad – and did things that they’d never have normally done, and while other characters took up those leadership roles. The main character (if one can say that with a cast as big as what is in this book), Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara reacts in the later manner, though his leadership role is essentially thrust upon him. I really liked Barbie as a character, and I really liked how King did not necessarily make him a 100% perfect. He’d done stupid things in his life, his internal dialogue was realistic, and he didn’t necessarily want to be a hero, though he ended up having to take up the role. I also really liked Julia, his eventual side-kick (and then some!). She was vivacious, tenacious, funny, smart and despite copping some pretty rough situations, she never really lamented the role she got assigned in the great scheme of things. She and Barbie made an epic team and I spent a lot of time towards the end of the book imagining their lives outside of the story. I also liked the fact that she was several years older than Barbie (thirteen) and yet that that didn’t really affect the dynamics of their relationship. Aside from Barbie and Julia, I also really liked Rusty and Linda (a couple, they had two daughters) who essentially acted in a 2IC role to Barbie and Julia and were willing despite significant personal hardship as a result. And then there was Joe, the thirteen year old who helps Barbie and Julia by mere virture of his impressive intelligence, his sidekicks of Norrie and Benny, and the remaining group of rebels who manage to see the light of day outside the Dome.
And then of course there are the bad guys. Big Jim Rennie and his son Junior are as malevolent as Barbie and Julia are good, and equally cunning, though in the wrong way. Rennie really gave me the shits, not just because he was a bad person, but because of the sheer contradictory nature of his prejudice. He calls himself a Christian and gets offended when people take God’s name in vain, but murder, drug-dealing and exerting control over other people through violent means are all totally acceptable. He uses the term ‘cotton-picker’ as an insult (it took me awhile to realize what that term actually meant – I’m Australian) because actual swear words were bad, but racism isn’t. He just amazed me – the scary reality being that there are actually people out there like that. His son was even worse – even if he had an excuse for it – a deranged lunatic, though at least not a hypocrite. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and would love to see it in mini-series form (as it undoubtedly will end up at some point). Moreover, it’s definitely inspired me to give some more of Stephen King’s material a go.

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

4988 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

Currently reading:
- Bare Bones
by Kathy Reichs – 417 pages
- The Iliad
by Homer – 408 pages
- Goddess of Light
by P.C. Cast – 329 pages

And coming up:
- The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
- The Other Queen
by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
- The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
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Dead Dog Cat

#41, 42

In the last couple of days, I finished reading a few things.

First was a small graphic novel, Delirium's Party: A Little Endless Storybook, using the material from Gaiman's Sandman works in a light and somewhat silly way.

Second, I finished reading an ebook, The Stranger by Camus. The protagonist was somewhat disturbing, and I couldn't quite agree with the philosophy he espouses.
  • cat63

Book 33 for 2011

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. 400 pages.

This is a sort of sequel to Charmed Life, which I read earlier in the year. It was written many years later but keeps the characters of that book nicely in character while benefiting from the intervening years by being rather better written.

The Pinhoes are a large extended family of witches, who, despite living very near Chrestomanci Castle, are keen to stay well under the radar and avoid the notice of the "Big Man" as they call him. But when Gammer Pinhoe has a dispute with another local witch family, things start to go wrong for them all, and things only get more complicated when Cat Chant gets involved...

Nothing too profound here, but a good, solid, fun read.