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Under the Dome: A Novel Review

Under the Dome

You’ll be Surprised how Quickly Things Fall Apart

Dale “Barbie” Barbera was on his way out of Chesters Mill when he witnessed two horrifying events. A woodchuck was cut in half by an invisible blade and a plane exploded against an invisible wall. Minutes later, the whole world would be watching Chesters Mill, a small town in Maine that was unfortunately selected to be encased under an invisible barrier. The following five days under the dome show what happens when normal people are cut off from law and civilization. 

Under the Dome stands with It and The Stand as one of Stephen King’s great epics. At a staggering 1074 pages, the story follows a wide cast of characters as they attempt to navigate the growing chaos that engulfs their town. When the plot revolves around an immobile dome, the story becomes by default a character-driven narrative, and here we have over a dozen unique perspectives. Some are geared toward finding the source of the barrier, while others are forced to push back against the town’s fast-rising tyrant James “Big Jim” Rennie, who had his sinister hooks in Chesters Mill long before the town was trapped.

Chesters Mill is very much a character in its own right. It has the small-town feel and rhythm, which begins to crumble bit by bit for every second it’s trapped. It’s a peaceful place that the reader can almost see themselves living in, making the story all the more alarming when this peace is suddenly and horrifically disrupted. When all rhyme or reason is lost, the town becomes divided between Rennie’s rule, which sucks in power like a vacuum, and the side of reason, where Barbie resides, seeing the true evil and working to end it, all while the said corruption creeps around to the back door. In this way, perhaps Under the Dome has become more prevalent in modern American times when considering everything that’s happened in the last decade alone. 

This massive novel would be nothing without its characters, for which there are many. The most important being the main protagonist and antagonist. Big Jim is Stephen King’s representation of greed and power, doing anything he can to seize it under the golden opportunity before him. He has the prowess of a career politician, making him all the more dangerous. He can bend the town to his will with both words and misdeeds, using his son’s bullish friends as his personal police force to carry out crimes for his benefit. Rennie is an underrated villain in King’s pantheon of characters as he’s someone who in many ways exists today. 

Under the Dome

On the other side of the spectrum is Barbie, the humble drifter who was looking to escape the town before he found himself trapped in it. He’s an Iraq war veteran simply looking for a place to land but finds himself pulled back into action when he is named the commanding authority of Chesters Mill, something that immediately makes him Rennies top adversary. Barbie is a worthy hero in this novel, so much so that the other characters readily rally behind him to end the dome and Rennies reign. 

There are multiple other interesting and important characters as well. There’s a doctor and his police officer wife, a teen smarter beyond his years, Rennie’s son who was far from balanced even before the dome, and a reclusive drug dealer willing to do anything it takes to protect his stash. Each character brings something different to the story, but none of them take away from the overarching plot, despite some having personal agendas and goals. 

As far as the scare factor, things are much more subtle in Under the Dome compared to some of King’s other stories. Having such a huge length, the story takes its time building tension and is selective with things that would alarm readers. The scares throughout the story are on a human level, showing what happens when people realize they can do whatever they want.

Some of the more horrifying things are done by the town’s police, while others occur in the chaos that takes place over a week. The chaos that readers have also seen in today’s social climate with the riots over police brutality. If the things seen on the news are scary, then this book will deliver that fear again. Everything that happens in the hundreds of pages culminates in a catastrophic scenario that changes the novel from a science fiction story to an apocalyptic one. What happens in the final pages may be the most destructive thing King has ever written and possibly the bleakest. All preceded by a subtle ticking clock as the domes reign races to a stunning conclusion.

Under the Dome is a book that requires patience and commitment but is worth reading. For any Stephen King fans that made it through The Stand and It then this novel should be simple. The CBS series of the same name was unable to hit as hard and failed to live up to King’s work, as there was all the potential for a proper TV series within the pages. If only it had remained loyal to its source material. Do not take the series into account when going into this novel as the two are vastly different. If the size is too great for some, the book was recently re-released as two novels which may make reading easier. 

Under the Dome

Under the Dome (2013) Official CBS Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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