UNDER THE DOME (Book Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on November 30,2009

Stephen King’s latest novel, UNDER THE DOME, captivates his constant readers with a mesmerizing tale about a group of people in a small town trapped by a claustrophobic dome. The citizens in Chester’s Mill live off of hope that they will eventually escape even though the reality is their communication has been disconnected from the rest of the world.

The story begins from different perspectives of the citizens in Chester’s Mill as they all watch the dome suddenly fall down upon them. They witness several graphic decapitations, fiery explosions, and tragic accidents as the dome sinks through the pavement. Landlines have been cut off and calls from cell phones are being blocked by the surrounding dome. As each day passes, food supply becomes scarce and generators are running low on propane tanks. The citizens of this small town have to band together as a maniacal killer is on the loose inside.

Many filmgoers have seen this premise of a confined community under a dome in THE SIMPSONS movie but this plot is not being played out for comedic overtones. Stephen King originally wrote seventy pages in the 1970s and went back to finish the story in 2007. The narrative unfolds with the men and women of the small town battling each other over egos and secret agendas. The worst in human nature comes out when town officials begin to take advantage of the situation for their own benefits.

Ex-Captain Dale Barbara exiled himself to Chester’s Mill after returning from the war in Iraq. Now he is being recruited once more to save the residents. As he searches for the cause of the dome, the entire town riots after an angry mob vandalizes a local supermarket. With no help from the outside world, the small police force has turned to excessive brutality to enforce the law. The violence escalates to a point where Dale Barbara doubts if he can prevail against Big Jim Rennie and his vicious troops.

Whereas King’s previous work, CELL, alluded to the attacks on Sept 11th, his current novel is a biting commentary towards the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. The town’s own police officers refer to themselves as Christian soldiers while they break into and burglarize people’s homes. The police force even tortures a hand-cuffed suspect in their jail cell. The citizens of Chester’s Mill lose faith as they feel like they have been abandoned by their government, which echo painful memories of Hurricane Katrina.

Stephen King’s UNDER THE DOME is grand in epic but not near as perfect as his masterpiece, THE STAND. The recent novel is an exciting, allegorical narrative about a trapped community dealing with a small apocalypse.     

The novel is available through the author’s official website: www.stephenking.com. King also becomes a FANGORIA Contributor for issues 289 and 290, in which he tells us what scares him in an exclusive two-part essay.