Heavy Reading – Stephen King, ‘Under the Dome’

I always keep a book with me when I am riding the train, in case the battery on my laptop dies, or I am uninspired that day, or I just need a break from writing.  Sometimes I have required reading for work, a tech magazine, or some new tome to do with software development.  These development books are rarely less than 400 pages, and usually closer to 800.  I make every effort to read them as quickly as possible so I don’t have to lug them back and forth to work.  I set a page count to read on each trip, and will usually stop writing all together while I am reading them, otherwise it’d take me months to get through them, and no one wants to lug that kind of weight around that long.  By the end of the book, I am usually page skimming, but that’s okay, I’m just trying to find the good stuff.

Rarely do I find a novel where I need to use the approach that I have to read it fast to get it out of my backpack.  I can honestly say I’ve never had a novel I refused to bring on the train with me at all.  That was until I got my secret Santa present at Christmas:  Stephen King’s latest, “Under The Dome”.  This behemoth ran 1074 pages.  By my count, at about 315 words per page, and 1050 of actual writing (there were a lot of section breaks) that’s about 330,000 words.  That’s 190,000 words longer than my first version of ‘Nowhere Home’ that was rejected because it was too long.

‘Under the Dome’ stayed at home, and I read it at night and on the weekends, and I got a different book (actually several different books) for reading on the train while I slowly worked my way through it.

So how  was it?  Good.  No buts about it.  It’s a damn good book.  I hated the antagonist, cheered on the protagonists, and empathized with the supporting characters.  There were times where I told my wife I just wanted to reach into the pages and strangle the antagonist.  That’s how a book should make you feel.

Did the size of the book detract from the enjoyment?  Maybe a little bit, but after reading King’s ‘Dark Tower’ Series, I’ve changed my approach to reading fiction.  I don’t read to get done.  I read to relax and to hear a good story.  And this is a great story.  It’s memorable, and perhaps the size actually made me enjoy it more, because I knew I was going to be invested in it, and I wasn’t going to read it all on a Sunday afternoon, and have forgotten about it by the next morning.

If you have the time, I recommend this book.  Turn the TV off, curl up by the fire, or out on the deck under a heavy blanket, and read for an hour.  Then repeat that for a couple of weeks.  But don’t treat it like a race.  Just enjoy it.

Part of me hopes that I can someday write a book like ‘Under The Dome’, with a huge cast of characters, great dialog, and a ‘faster and faster’ pace.  But part of me is utterly intimidated by it, and there are few writers who can do it.  King is one of them, and ‘Under The Dome’ is a great book, and not a bad workout as well.

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