Under the Dome, Stephen King
Scribner Hardcover, 2009
In 1978, King wrote the 823-page The Stand, an epic tale of Good versus Evil. Jump ahead thirty- one years to 2009. Feed Steve a large helping of mental methamphetamine, and the result is Under the Dome, an epic tale of Good versus Evil where, for 1,073 pages, the action never stops.
Other than the theme, The Stand and Under the Dome have little in common. The former was post-apocalyptic, while the latter takes place in the now. In the former, King was still honing his writing skills (he re-worked it in 1990); in the latter, he pulls out his full bag of tricks and uses them profusely. Steve has ramped up the profanity, the gore, and he almost writes his first-ever coitus scene—backing off to the usual authorly cliche, “Afterwards . . .”
The story takes place in Chester’s Mill, a picture-postcard town of 2,000 in where-else-but-Maine. On a lovely autumn morning, an inexplicable and impenetrable dome literally falls over the town, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the world. The dome is transparent and a curiosity to the residents—until, that is, they witness the carnage wrought on the humans and wildlife attempting to enter town from the other side. Fear sets in quickly. Is it aliens? Is it a secret sect of sick scientists? Even worse (and the most night- marish), is it a government experiment?
It might be all or none of these things, but the dome has effectively set up Chester’s Mill as a captive laboratory for observing human nature. Let the games begin, the Great Battle of Good versus Evil.
Since this huge book takes place over just seven days, the action is frenetic. With the dome as catalyst, the bad guys use it to their advantage to take control of the town; the good guys, meanwhile, have to stop a takeover from hap- pening and solve the dome problem as well. At any point in the book there are a dozen things going on, going wrong, or in the midst of going. Add King’s frequent foreshadowing of dire events yet to come and the reader is hard-pressed to get off the rollercoaster.
Unlike many reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere, I refuse to write anything specific about the dome or the characters. Under the Dome should be as fresh and surprising to you as it was to me. I can make some general comments, however.
Is this classic Stephen King? For the most part, yes. He writes to entertain, and Dome is pure entertainment. As always, his characterizations are superb. For fun, he drops in references to Seventies and Eighties culture and some of his other books, many of which younger readers will miss. What is not classic is his over-the-top gore factor and his use of book-as-soapbox: he takes several swipes at Bush, Palin, and whoever else angers him at the moment. For those so inclined, be warned that he treats Christianity very badly throughout the book.
I liked this book and give it a thumbs up. I recommend it to diehard King fans only; it is definitely not a Stephen King primer.
[Please remember that this review is my opinion only—your results may vary.]