The town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is just a quiet little place like any other New England berg. The mostly agricultural community boasts a population of about two-thousand residents when it is plunged into chaos. An unexplained barrier prevents anything from getting in or out of town. When a plane crashes into the invisible barrier, the townspeople quickly see its effects.
This is more or less the plot of Stephen King’s most recent endeavor Under the Dome. Obviously, it gets a lot more complicated. In a Daniel Dyer Nov. 2009 review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Under the Dome is described as “a massive cautionary novel”, referring to it as “busy, ambitious, overlong but addictively munchable, [and] fundamentally a novel about human cruelty, animated by our desires for power, pleasure and sex.”
The book contains 1,070 pages. It was originally 1,500 pages. If you do decide to read this book, make sure you have plenty of free time.
In true King-form, this book is loaded with an amazing cast of over 100 characters: each with their own unique personality and story. An omniscient narrator guides the reader through the struggles, triumphs, and tribulations focusing on specific character views and perspectives. The book has five or six main characters but occasionally King switches it up and shows everyone’s perspective on the situation, so you never get just one side of the story.
King often gives elaborate details about each person’s life, even when the character or the details may be insignificant to the story. For instance, the first chapter focuses on Claudette Sanders who is riding in a private airplane and immediately dies when it crashes into the dome. It is almost depressing to get a glimpse of someone’s life and then see them go so soon. King definitely shows why he is such a prolific storyteller.
The dialogue is usually good but at points plays out like a cheap B-movie. The characters often tell cheap jokes or bad puns, even in the face of danger. Things most people would not say in those situations.
Under the Dome is King’s attempt to write a political and ecological allegory. The main antagonists of the story are the town’s first and second selectmen, Andy Sanders and “Big” Jim Rennie. Although Sanders is technically the one who is supposed to be in charge, he is acting as a puppet for Rennie’s intentions. The partnership is supposed to represent the Bush-Cheney dynamic.
The longer the town stays under the dome, the more they have to deal with scarce resources and pollution. The air quickly becomes filled with smog from their cars and the generators giving them electricity. They also have to work together to solve their food and water crises.
When I first picked up the book, I did not think it was going to be as horrific book as most King novels. I was wrong. For the first two or three hundred pages it portrays the town as peaceful, but as it progresses, it gets bloodier and bloodier. If you have a weak stomach or typically do not like King, I would not recommend it. King never writes anything with the intent to scare, but at times will resort to horrific imagery and supernatural phenomena.
The book is definitely not my favorite. There was a lot I liked about it but there was also a lot not to like. It played out too much like a B-thriller movie with gruesome parts and supernatural events as the story unfolds. Although, I am sure many people enjoy that. I did enjoy the cast of characters, the human emotions, and the suspense. These things definitely made it enjoyable.