Home > Book, Book Review, Horror, Reviews, Thriller > Book Review – Stephen King’s ‘Under the Dome: A Novel’

Book Review – Stephen King’s ‘Under the Dome: A Novel’

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Synopsis:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mills, 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 selectwoman, 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.

By gosh, Stephen King’s still got IT – the ability to write a good yarn, I mean, that will keep you compulsively turning the pages until it says The End. While Under the Dome: A Novel is far from being one of Stephen King’s best, it definitely still has the basic ingredients I need to keep me interested in a novel of the thriller variety – an intriguing kernel of a ‘What If’ idea, fast pacing, and an explosive bloodbath of a climax worthy of a good Hollywood disaster movie (yeah, my tastes run a bit blood-thirsty). I liked the touch of Sci-fi in this story instead of the supernatural elements / monsters Stephen King usually has. Also, there’s a touch of realism with how the Dome’s effects on the weather, the wildlife including the birds, the plants, the river and just the total ecology of the sealed-off town is dealt with. The amount of attention to imagery is particularly strong in this book, with many paragraphs devoted to something akin to a camera panning over the town and zooming in on interesting events. So, what indeed happens when a town in the US of A essentially becomes a goldfish-bowl prison? Well, people end up doing a whole lot of bad (and worse) things to each other, and a whole lot of people die. This is a Stephen King novel afterall.

It could have been so different though. Okay, I know I just said that this novel is filed under ‘thriller’, but I think that it could have been a pretty good introspective psychological profile on cabin-fever instead. How will normal human beings (without inserting psychotic mad-men into the story) cope and adapt to the situation of being cut-off indefinitely from the rest of the world? Stephen King sadly doesn’t go there, however, more’s the pity – instead, the plot devolves immediately into basically the same familiar King storyline – good people versus evil people and there’s no gray in the middle. In the first half of the novel, the ‘Dome’ actually becomes a subplot, with the tale of how Big bad Jim Rennie sets himself up as emperor and ruler for life of Chester’s Mills pretty much THE story. The bad guys (Rennie and his army of cronies and delinquents) are bad from the start and are laughably cartoonish i.e. totally psychotic or stupid and have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I wished that the ‘bad’ people had started off a bit morally-neutral, and then ‘became bad’ as the story went on. Would have been more interesting psychologically. Stephen King does better work with his ‘heroes’ who are better fleshed-out human beings. Dale Barbara and Julia Shumway make a good team, same with Rusty, Piper, Rommie and the other members of the rag-tag resistance movement. I particularly liked how he drew the children of Chester’s Mills (Scarecrow Joe and his pals), even minor characters (like the resourceful boy Ollie) became very real to me.

Another peeve of mine with this novel, I became really irritated with how Stephen King kept on turning on the foreshadowing – virtually telling you what happens before it actually happens – then he spends the next couple of chapters telling you exactly what happened. Confused? Me too, way to kill the suspense, buster! I didn’t need all that warning that certain character(s) will die or this or that horrifying event(s) will happen.

The novel picks up when the attention goes back to the ‘Dome’ and I wished that the Sci-fi elements were more fleshed out. I thought that the denouement was too rushed and the way it was resolved was disappointing, but to be honest, I was a bit unsatisfied with it only in the sense that I wanted more details. So, it’s actually a good thing.

Yes, this is a behemoth of a novel, with more characters than you can count, and it has its faults – but Stephen King does have the gift of keeping things interesting at more than 1000 pages. If you’re looking to be entertained by a ‘What If’ scenario for a couple of dozen hours (or days, depending on how fast you read) – picking this book up is a good bet. It’s also a good last-minute stocking-stuffer if you’re a bit lazy with the Christmas shopping.

Under the Dome: A Novel is available on Amazon as a Hardcover ($14.00, currently at 60% off, savings of $21.00), Kindle Edition ($9.99) or Audiobook ($26.39).

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