Like a lot of people, I first heard about Under the Dome, Stephen King’s latest novel, because of its door-stop size, a staggering 1,074 pages. However, what sold me on the novel early on was the cover.
With Just After Sunset, King had moved away from terrible illustrated covers like he had for Cell and Duma Key. Originally, King had wanted the Under the Dome cover to have no text on it at all, but even with his name and the title on the front and the spine, the image is suitably epic for a book of this scope (though Whitworth, being the contrarian Hater that he is, wasn’t impressed when I showed it to him).
Under the Dome‘s Chester’s Mill is a Maine town put under a bubble. A barrier drops down over the town, cutting it off from the rest of the U.S.A. The immediate effects are calamatous – a plane explodes against the barrier, cars crash into it, and body parts severed.
In the wake, “Big” Jim Rennie, the town’s second selectman, starts making moves to consolidate his power. At the same time, Dale Barbara, sometimes-drifter, Iraq-war vet, and the hero of the novel, is tapped by the military to try and keep things under control while the Dome is still up.
Of course, things are never under control. This is a Stephen King novel, after all.
The human reaction to this mysterious confinement is the focus of King’s novel. There’s nothing supernatural to the real horrors of this book. Ignorance rules and drives people to turn against those who were once their friends through self-centeredness or mob mentality.
A lot of seemingly-awful characters are fleshed out and made more sympathetic as the novel goes on. Rennie, however, is mostly a constant. He’s the only one who approaches big-E Evil over the course of the book. A lot of the terrible events following the graphic set-up of the Dome is due to the monster of Rennie’s ambition. If you wanted to find a critique in this book, it would be in the ignorant, exclusionary, and power-hungry desires of Big Jim.