• Under the Dome by Stephen King
• Hardcover: 1072 p
• Publisher: Scribner, 2009
• ISBN: 1439148503
• Genre: Horror; Science Fiction; Dystopia
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys end-of-the-world dystopian fiction; anyone who enjoys classic episodes of The Twilight Zone
 
 
Quick Review: A dystopian novel with classic Stephen King wit and characterization.
 
 

How I Got HereMy mom recommended it highly. She is a huge fan of Stephen King but, has been rather disappointed in King’s work for the last 10-15 years. So, when she gave high marks to Under the Dome, I had to check it out. Plus, I noticed that it had a map and a list of characters, which I always find encouraging and fun in a book. Finally, this book satisfies a task for the  Fall Reading Challenge, as well as the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) challenge.

The Book: Goodreads’ synopsis:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

My Analysis and Critique: I’m a big fan of The Twilight Zone, and this book had Twilight Zone written all over it. An impenetrable, transparent dome drops down over a small town in Maine and chaos reigns supreme. Paranoia, corrupt cops, martial law, fires, suicide, murder…all occur in the span of a week under the dome. It’s the perfect social experiment: shut a town off from the world, no entry, no exit, and watch them destroy themselves. Classic!

The characters are very engaging: the evil politician/used car salesman Jim Rennie, his sadistic, necrophiliac son Junior, the heroic diner cook/decorated soldier Barbie, the persistent local newswoman Julia, the kid genius Joe, the religious zealot/meth head Chef, and the physician’s assistant turned head doctor Rusty. These are only a few of the many characters, but no worries, King provides a character list (as well as a Town Map) at the beginning of the book. Many readers complain that King went overboard with characters and was sparse in development–I disagree. King is a master of characterization and this book is no exception. At points, major characters are imprisoned or die, and then are done. Then, King works with another character. Honestly, in a book like this, it’s not about rounding out characters. In fact, King might have rounded them off more than necessary. This story’s protagonist is the town of Chester’s Mill–all of the individual character stories serve to round out this main, overall character. The antagonist is also Chester’s Mill. It’s a town fighting itself.

My only complaint is that the end felt sudden and almost anticlimactic. Yet, I still really enjoyed this novel as the real story is simply watching the town destroy itself. Once it has done its worst, there really isn’t much more fun to be had. I’m not sure how the ending could have been any better. Actually, I do. If King went ahead and ripped off Rod Serling and ended it as beautifully as Serling did at the end of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” it would have been perfect. But, Serling already did it. Serling did it!

Anyone interested in end-of-the-world dystopian fiction would enjoy this novel. It’s really not about the dome and why it is there, but about the awful things people will do when there is no threat of consequence. There are a lot of frightening peeks at mob mentality in this novel. An interesting social commentary and a fascinating read!

Links:

  1. Goodreads reviews
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