UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King

Book Quote:

“Big Jim briefly visualized Anderea’s brain: fifteen percent favorite online shopping sites, eighty percent dope receptors, two percent memory, and three percent actual thought process. Still, it was what he had to work with. And, he reminded himself, the stupidity of one’s colleagues makes life simpler.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett (JUL 8, 2010)

What happens when you take an ordinary small town in rural Maine and put a lid on it? An invisible, tougher than Superman, nearly impermeable dome of a lid that extends into the sky nearly 50,000 feet?

At more than 1,000 pages, quite a lot. King’s latest is not so much a horror tale as a horrifying thriller – the dome is a mystifying fact; it’s the people under it that get really scary. In King’s vision, cutting a town off from the world – from accountability – leaves the bullies in charge. Perhaps a different town would have had a different result, but I suspect (on no evidence) that King thinks bullies are attracted to small-town authority.

There are good people in Chester’s Mills, plenty of them, but after a mishap with the Dome gets rid of the sheriff, the good people are no longer in charge. To Big Jim Rennie, selectman, self-appointed town bigwig, and businessman (used car salesman of course), the Dome is a godsend. Literally. Big Jim is a serious Christian. That is, he prays and he doesn’t swear or drink. And he makes sure that other peoples’ sacrifices are “for the good of the town.” The Dome is his chance to be a really big fish.

Then there’s Rennie’s son, Junior, whose nasty streak has been exacerbated by a brain tumor. There is temporary pain relief for his debilitating migraines though. Violence. Beating young women to death, specifically. Sitting with their decaying bodies afterwards is especially soothing.

Junior is the first person Big Jim deputizes, quickly followed by a squad of Junior’s closest friends, boys for whom power means the freedom to throw their weight around.

Opposing Big Jim are a handful of stalwart citizens and a drifter. The drifter – Dale Barbara, or Barbie, as he prefers to be known – is hitchhiking out of town on that fine October day when the Dome invisibly materializes just a few tantalizing steps ahead of him (doing in a small plane overhead and a woodchuck whose last thoughts are remarkably like those of a raccoon). Barbie’s stint as a short order cook at the town café had come to an abrupt end when Junior and his friends jumped him in the parking lot (for, at first, unknown reasons) and he was run out of town by Big Jim.

But Barbie isn’t going anywhere now, much to Big Jim’s chagrin. And it gets worse, as far as Big Jim is concerned. Barbie, it turns out, is not just any drifter. He’s ex-military, with a lot of smarts, training and special skills. He’s a lot like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in fact (Reacher gets a mention or two in the course of things). And the powers-that-be in the outside world – the military and the President – want to promote Barbie to colonel and put him in charge of “the situation.”

Barbie is the voice of reason and dissent, accompanied by the town’s gutsy hardworking newspaper owner, Julia Shumway, an old-style Republican. They soon begin to attract a few more folks resistant to the Big Jim version of order. Rusty Everett, the nurse practitioner who soon becomes the closest thing the town has to a doctor – or a coroner. His wife, Linda, a cop, and the sheriff’s widow, Brenda Perkins, as well as a trio of adolescent geeks as smart as they are brave, and a couple of lefty Massachusetts profs who rise to the occasion.

Big Jim gets apoplectic just thinking about any of these people, though Barbie brings out his real evil genius. Meanwhile children are having seizures and peculiar visions having to do with Halloween, which is just a week away. And life under the Dome gets a bit more uneasy every day in ways both predictable and strange.

King explores the effects of isolation from civilization in both physical and psychological ways, using these elements to flesh out the action. Lights and freezers wink out as generators run out of fuel. The air grows gradually hotter, more fetid. Pollutants begin to accumulate on the outside of the Dome, making the sky smeary and strange. Health care is minimal.

And everyone needs to choose a side.

King’s latest is longer than it needs to be, but compulsively readable, like all his books. The development of the Dome environment – the physical and mental mechanics of isolation from the world – is more compelling than the thuggish mind of Big Jim, but Big Jim provides the action, from arming the town’s delinquents to orchestrating a riot to, well, murder, and he’s just getting started.

Over a week of worsening air, frayed nerves, terror and tyranny, the building tension and accelerating action arise not only from the megalomania of Big Jim Rennie but also from the choices of ordinary people, elements of fate and whimsy, and irony. The long, breath-snatching conclusion is pure King.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 1,299 readers
PUBLISHER: Pocket; Reprint edition (July 6, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett


MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:


*1Takes place in Castle Rock, Maine
*2Takes place in Derry, Maine
*3 Takes place in Little Tall Island, Maine
*P These two books have one “pinhole” vision into each other

The Dark Tower Series

Originally written as Richard Bachman

Co-written with Peter Straub


And the Movies created from his books:

July 8, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: NE & New York, Speculative (Beyond Reality), y Award Winning Author

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