Under the Dome Review
by Stephen King
Published in 2009
My mother was a huge Stephen King and Dean Koontz fan as a child so whenever I have an opportunity to read Stephen King, I have to do it. Stephen King is often known as the King of Horror as he has written a mass collection of horror novels that are so terrifying, more than half have been turned into movies or shows. Under the Dome is no exception, with it being a show series on Fox from 2013 to 2015. Looking just from the cover alone, it seems so simple - a town covered by a Dome. But Stephen King didn’t become the King of Horror from “simple ideas”.
The book immediately begins with the dome just suddenly appearing over Chester Mills in Maine. Everyone is living their regular life, walking, gardening, driving when all of a sudden their fingers are cut off, birds are cut in half, or their car smashes into an unknown barrier. Chaos ensues as people on the outside try to help the injured, while those on the inside try to figure out what just happened. The Police Chief tries to identify the barrier, when his pacemaker explodes in his chest when he is too close to the dome. This allows Big Jim, the Second Selectman and sleazy car salesman, to take over the town within the Dome. He puts in place Peter as the new Police Chief along with several corrupted police officers, including his son Junior who, unbeknownst to him, was murdering two women when the dome appeared.
Outside of the dome, Colonel Cox contacts Julia, the editor of the town newspaper, to contact former Army Captain, Barbie in order to help get rid of the dome. Suspiciously, Big Jim is not happy about this and along with Junior continually tries discrediting Barbie. They even go so far as framing him and arresting him for four murders in the town: the two girls Junior killed in the beginning, Brenda who confronted Junior and was killed for sharing some incriminating evidence on his father, and Reverend Coggins who was killed by Big Jim for threatening to reveal his money laundering and meth operation. Yes, as if a giant dome is not enough, underneath this dome is a facility hiding a giant meth operation where “Chef” stays, strung out on drugs and protecting his supply. They are also harboring the majority of the town’s gas propane tanks.
Big Jim, Junior, and their gang of misfits continue abusing their power, beating and assaulting the terrified citizens of the town. The town begins to realize that Big Jim is hiding a lot from the town and breaks Barbie out of prison, knowing that it was likely Big Jim or Junior who committed the murders. Those not on the rescue mission discover an abandoned farm with a strange extraterrestrial object that they believe may be the power source for the dome, however they don’t know how to shut it down since they tend to experience weird visions whenever they are close.
Having been separated from the outside world for a week, they organize a “Visitor’s Day” where friends and family from both inside and outside the dome can meet at the barrier. Big Jim sends someone to the meth facility to get some of the tanks, when Chef receives it like a threat. Using assault rifles, he shows up outside the facility and immediately begins shooting into the crowds within the dome causing numerous fatalities and injuries as the helpless outside the dome watch in horror. As some try to fight back, a few bullets hit the propane tanks in the meth lab which causes a huge explosion killing even more and wiping out most of that area of the town. Radiation is in the air and begins slowly killing off the only survivors. Barbie and Julia make it back to the extraterrestrial object they found and Julia begins contacting the “leatherheads” (aka aliens) and asks to stop being treated like they are ants in an ant farm and let them live. Suddenly the dome disappears and fresh air comes in waves, finally letting the few people left to live and escape.
Final Rating; 7/10
Well let’s add “trapped under a dome” to my list of things to fear, as if it wasn’t already long enough. When I read novels like this, I can’t help but wonder where Stephen King could come up with an idea like this? He does an incredible job coming up with a captivating story where even though they are all trapped under a dome, it isn’t just about being trapped. It is about corruption and how crooks can take a situation like this into an opportunity to exercise whatever freedom they please. Big Jim was patiently waiting and once this opportunity presented himself, he acted quickly and efficiently. However, this is a story that shows even with corrupted influences, a community that works together can quickly piece together truth from lie and defend their own.
Stephen King has an incredible talent for delving into every single character and making them all different yet identifiable. This is both a blessing and a curse. For those that see this book, it is over 1,000 pages long, yet somehow the events in the book occur only within a span of a week. It feels like this is occurring over a series of months, but this is only because there are over 40 different characters in this book. Each character is engaging and unique and all have their own subplot and connection to the overall story, but it is still a lot to keep track of. It almost feels like I am reading several different stories and then the overall story of the book at the same time, which I think can be distracting. Stephen King as an author has always been an acquired taste, so for his hardcore fans this is one of their favorite features about him. However, I just feel like if he has such a good main plot of the book, only include details and information related to that main story.
I also didn’t completely understand the addition of the extraterrestrial portion of the book. This isn’t the first time Stephen King throws in influences from the extraterrestrial, as he has done so in his famous book, IT. However, in this book it feels so misplaced and random. He sets up the whole book to insinuate that the dome might be connected to Big Jim since he immediately seized upon the opportunity to take over the town. He is also the main person who doesn’t want the dome to go away which again seems like maybe he helped put it in place. Then all of a sudden it’s connected to aliens who just want to have their own personal ant farm? Like where did that even come from? All Julia had to do was share a sob story about how she wants to live and they release them, as if watching the crazy mass shooting and explosion and radiation poisoning wasn’t enough to tug on their heart strings to release the “poor humans”. It just didn’t make sense when added to the story and seemed like a sloppy explanation for the dome.
As an overall story, Under the Dome was a good book. It has the interesting situation of everyone being trapped under an impenetrable dome that even missiles can’t destroy. It has a villain in Big Jim and Junior that we love to hate. It has the heroes in Julia and Barbie who stand for justice and want to save the town. It also has a town that refuses to be naive sheep under Big Jim and his abusive group. From beginning to end, it has a story that is truly captivating and fun to reads… but it felt like pulling teeth forcing myself to read the entire book to get that full story. I had to take frequent breaks from reading because it just got tiresome keeping track of all the stories and characters. Overall, this book was like a meal. I had to eat my vegetables in order to get to the main course. I recommend this book to other Stephen King fans or those looking for a different kind of horror story.