I listened to Under the Dome by Stephen King and remembered that sometimes, I kinda hate him. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means he is doing his job very well. I like character driven stories. Don’t get me wrong, all stories need a good plot, but I have to connect to characters to stay interested…
I think that’s why I don’t enjoy reading Dean Koontz or Jim Butcher. I can listen to their work in audio format, but I can’t stay interested when I have to read it. I have always wondered why I can listen, but not read them and listening to Under the Dome finally gave me the answer.
I like Harry Dresden, but I like him the same way I like the characters of a TV show. I’m not truly vested in what happens to him when I read. Unlike an audiobook where a narrator gives him a voice and ta-da, I stay vested in his character. Same applies to every character of Dean Koontz. I really liked the Odd Thomas series, but I couldn’t get through the first 100 pages of the book, had no problems with the audiobook though.
This is where Stephen King and Clive Barker appeal to me… When they want me to hate a character, I really hate them. Listening to the rape scene of Sammy Bushey in Under the Dome made me think “If these characters do not die, painfully, I will never pick up another book by King again.”
I’m happy to report, Under the Dome did not disappoint. I didn’t like the TV show. Made it through two episodes, but sometimes a book just doesn’t translate to TV or movie. Considering all the dark themes that flowed through Under the Dome, I can’t imagine the show was much like the book and what would have been forced onto the cutting room floor are the parts that make King’s work scary. For instance, I read The Shining about a decade before I watched the Kubrick version of it. One of the things that scared the crap out of me from the book was the topiary. It sounds absurd, but that damn topiary was like the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who… yet for the sake of making the film shorter, Kubrick cut most of the topiary scenes from the movie… Totally sad. It is one of the big reasons I prefer the Stephen Webber TV miniseries version of The Shining instead.
I admit there were times in Under the Dome that I was actually a little annoyed that the characters that needed to get what they had coming weren’t. Like the main bad guy… all that crap about his arm hurting, the doctor having a heart attack, I could have sworn it was foreshadowing and then it didn’t. He didn’t get away with it, but much like Anna Karenina, if he’d just died the first time his arm started to hurt, some of the frustration could have been avoided… But then the plot of the book would have also disappeared to some degree, so I get it, but I was still a little ticked about it.
At which point, it was perfectly okay for me to hate Stephen King just a little bit. He did his job and did it well once again reminding me why I consider him a masterful writer.
*Clive Barker can make me love a character that I’m not supposed to, which takes a whole different set of skills. For instance, in Mister B Gone, the reader knows up front that the narrator is a demon who has done some evil things, yet the reader likes him anyway. And it isn’t just the tongue in cheek way that Mister B approaches his imprisonment.