Under The Dome – Book Comment
By: Stephen King
Publisher: Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY
Cover: by Erich Hobbing
Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes
Summary: A small town, Chester’s Mill, is cut off from the rest of the world and we get to watch the citizens muddle through the maze of life created by the strong, the weak and the mentally deranged.
As opposed to the post-apocalyptic events of Stephen King’s, THE STAND (published in 1978, 1990), UNDER THE DOME is a mini-apocalyptic story about a town in which the weekly newspaper is called the Democrat and is owned and managed by a “Republican to the core”, Julia Shumway. The dissimulation in Chester’s Mill runs a lot deeper than just the masthead of the town newspaper. The dome descending upon the town, cutting it off from the rest of the world, is the ultimate dissimulation. But that’s jumping ahead. The story, all one thousand pages of it, is just as entertaining as THE STAND, devoid of the overt lines drawn between good and evil.
UNDER THE DOME is Stephen King at his best. I stopped reading King’s novels pretty much after CUJO (1981), never finding any of his storylines matching his first novel, CARRIE, or his later novels such as THE SHINING, THE STAND or THE DEAD ZONE. Once you reach the point of being able to predict where an author is going with a story, there really is no need to take the journey. With King, it became the “wise kid” showing adults the way. The only redeeming feature of the “wise kid” and “his dog” is that it is not “zombies taking over the world”, or “misunderstood” vampires simply trying to make it in the world of daylight. UNDER THE DOME has the “wise kid”—three of them in fact, and they do move the story toward its ending. But they are not the primary focus.
The hero of the story is Dale Barbara (aka, Barbie) and the heroine is the aforementioned Julia Shumway. Barbie, an ex-military man working his way across country from job to job, is in the act of leaving Chester’s Mill when the Dome comes down. The reason he is leaving town and his job at the Sweetbriar Rose restaurant, where he was the cook, is of infinitely more interest than where he might be going. Going on his way, Barbie gets caught by the appearance of a non-appearing wall blocking his way. He witnesses a plane crash, a truck crash and, most memorably, a wood chuck on the opposite side of the road suddenly sliced in half. It is the lowering of the Dome.
After getting over the trauma of the wood cuck incident, you keep reading this story because you know someone, most likely Barbie, will eventually figure out what the Dome really is. One the way to the answer, you get caught up in the lives of the characters. The characters, including Barbie and editor Shumway, become a tad bit more interesting than the Dome.
It is a great story. Not as imaginative as some, but by tons more entertaining than zombies and vampires.