Under the Dome by Stephen King
Published: November 10th 2009 by Scribner
Format/Source: Bought hardcover
Genre: Science fiction, dystopia, thriller
Pages: 1074 pages
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.
The town of Chester’s Mill is just like every small town in America; filled with local businesses, tight-knit families, politicians, and plenty of skeletons in the closet. All this comes to a boil when the town is unexpectedly cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious force field, known only as “the Dome.” With freedom not in the foreseeable future, many of the residents settle in for the long haul. But this sleepy spot on the map quickly turns into a nightmare as shadowy plots are threatned with exposure.
I had received this novel as a gift a few years ago but, daunted by its size, put it aside until now. Due to the recent television incarnation, I was inspired to finally attack the book.
As someone who has lived in several small towns, Chester’s Mill is remarkably realistic. Between the shady nature of small town politics and the average person’s reaction to the Dome and the consequences thereof, the only fantastical element is the Dome itself. I thoroughly enjoyed that each chapter focused on a different person, rather than chosing a single narrator. Each character was three dimensional: the ‘heroes’ were tortured and the ‘villians’ saw themselves as saviors. I loved every minute I spent with this book.
However enjoyable to read, I definitely had some issues with the way the plot resolved. Though the ending was very blatantly forshadowed throughout the novel, it still had a distinct flavor of being rushed and invoking the dreaded deus ex machina. I understand the message King attempted to create with the final chapters, but he jumped so quickly from a heartwrenching observation of human behavior in times of crisis to outlandish science fiction that I was left unsatisfied. The book built such a vivid representation of the human condition and man’s inhumanity towards man, but abruptly abandons that at the end. King shows his genius with character development, building tension, crafting intricate plots, and representing small town America, but the one area where he failed was the resolution. This book desperately needed an epilogue.
All together, I would definitely recommend Under the Dome, despite its flaws.
My rating: 4/5