Under the Dome by Stephen King


Paranormal MysteryScience Fiction

Under the Dome Under the DomeStephen King; Scribner 2009WorldCatChester’s Mill, Maine, is a typical American small town. It has a newspaper run by the same family for three generations. It has one grocery store as well as a couple convenience stores and a gas station. There’s one hospital with one doctor, a few nurses, and a physician’s assistant who does most of the work. There is one “big wheel” who is the power of the town, although he’s smart enough to always take the second spot and let someone else be his front man. There are two churches, one Congressional and one Holy Roller type evangelical. It has its night club, its town drunk, its librarian, its small police force, and its hoodlums. It’s a normal small town.

Dale Barbara, Barbie, had wandered into town a few months earlier and took the job as a short order cook in the town’s downtown restaurant where folks hang out. But Junior Renner, the son of the town’s “Big Wheel”, Jim Renner, took a disliking to Barbie. He and some friends jumped Barbie in the parking lot. Fortunately the chief of police saw what happened and saved his from a beating that could have put him in the hospital. Now Barbie is hitching his way out of Chester’s Mill. But as he approaches the town’s border, something strange happens. An invisible wall suddenly surrounds the town. Nothing solid can get through, and air and water are diffused to mist as they come through. Chester’s Mill is cut off from the rest of the world.

I always felt I was lucky that I never had to read Lord of the Flies when I was in school. I’ve never wanted to read it since, either. Steven King’s Under the Dome is a new, technological version of Lord of the Flies. The physical book itself is daunting, almost 1100 pages long. But the print is larger and there’s plenty of white space, so it’s not as bad as it seems.

The book opens with a map of Chester’s Mill and a list of characters. It takes a while to keep all the players straight, so that list can be helpful. The story itself starts with a bang – a small plane flying into the invisible wall and a small animal getting cut in half by the same wall as it descends.

It’s Saturday, and many of the Chester’s Mills residents are in neighboring towns, so cut off outside, away from their families. But visitors like Barbie are stuck inside town with its small town politics. Also, the only radio station anyone can pick up is the high wattage Christian station run by the evangelical church. The wall goes well underground as well as high into the air, and appears to have a top. And the wall is shaped exactly to the town’s limits, the shape of a boot.

Under the Dome is one of those books I don’t like but couldn’t quit reading. I don’t like it because it digs right into the soul and doesn’t let go. It’s not horror (I’ll never read Carrie or The Shining, thank you) but it chilling and edgy. It has the complex feel of The Stand. Stephen King has done his job with this book, entertaining the reader with good prose, giving unexpected twists and turns, and keeping the reader (or at least me) sucked in.

As in Lord of the Flies the people of the town break into factions. Anarchy reigns. The bullies take over. There’s injustice. There are people fighting back. And people die as well as survive. Some die quickly when the Dome first goes up. But many more will before the end of the book – and it could be all of them…

Notice:  Graphic violence, Strong indecent language

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