Earlier on this year we went to a ‘bring and buy sale’ at someone’s house in Makrigialos. I purchased various plants whilst Caroline picked up a copy of Stephen King’s Duma Key for 50 cents. A couple of weeks ago I picked up that book and started reading, wondering how long it would be before I put it aside again. King has been a disappointment in recent years; his books steadily suffering from an increasing case of bloat. The last I struggled through was Dreamcatcher, which I finished in the sure knowledge that a Peter Lavery pencil would have excised about a third of it. Yet I remember my enjoyment of those earlier books, like The Dead Zone, and how, in my opinion, some of his short stories are the best I’ve ever read.
It is a shame when writers think they have outgrown their editors, when writers start to think they know more than people who are effectively professional readers. It is also a shame when a publisher gives in to a writer who has grown in power or, alternatively, decides what the hell, the name will sell the book so who gives a toss about editing? We’ve all seen the products of these processes, and felt the disappointment.
Duma Key grabbed me and held on, right to the end. Apart from a bit of unclearly visualized monster silliness I enjoyed it very much and felt that King had returned to doing well the stuff he does. The book had that creepy feel with its ‘heart in the mouth’ moments, its ‘laugh out loud’ moments and its moments of ‘now that would make me cry if I wasn’t so macho – sniffle’. After I’d finished it I therefore picked up a book Caroline had bought on the strength of a recommendation from Amazon, and because she hadn’t read something from him in a while. I had been tending to avoid it, seeing as it was the size of a breeze block.
Under the Dome started well and I liked the idea behind it of a small town being cut off from the rest of the world by a force-field. I was also quite surprised when reading the the high praise from various critics to find only one ‘serious ecological undertow’ comment and nary a reference to global warming. Quite refreshing. I then roared through the first hundred or so pages hoping for a stonking good story like The Stand, which this had been compared to, but started to lose headway through the next hundred pages. Reading the hundred pages after that I began to get that ‘oh get on with it’ feeling, and these pages took me only a third of the way in. Another six hundred pages of this to go.
I began to skip bits. Did I really need to know all those details about that person’s life? Yeah, we’ve established that those guys are nasty, can we move on? Erm, where’s the thread of this story gone? Now entering the last three hundred pages I still want to know what will happen and find that reading about one sentence per page keeps my finger on the sluggish pulse. Another bloater. If Dreamcatcher had been cut by a third that would have been no loss, in fact, a considerable gain. Half of Under the Dome needed big black pencil lines through it, whole sections outlined and scribbled over and a warren of bunny rabbits sketched in the margins.