“Under the Dome: A Novel”
by Stephen King
Published 2009 by Scribner

When it comes to horror Stephen King is the master, but he doesn’t always write about horror, sometimes Stephen King writes about the human condition and how human beings treat other human beings, and when looked at under the Stephen King magnifying glass that can be pretty horrific.

When I first picked up this huge book, I thought, “When am I going to find the time to read a 1,500+ page book?”  Well, I did find the time and am I glad I did.  During the reading of this book I felt as though I were hovering above the microcosm of the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine and observing the trapped insects within.  Stephen King has taken the faithful reader on many adventures which are epic sagas, for example;  “The Stand,” The Dark Tower series, “The Shining,” “It,” and others.  These books not only tell a story but they tell a story on a grand scale that would astonish Tolkien or Herbert.  “Under the Dome” definitely falls into this grand scale, not only because of the length of 1,500+ pages, but because of the depth the reader gets to know the characters involved.

The premise of the story is pretty much, “What would happen if all of a sudden a town was covered in a dome?”  The answer to that is, “It depends on who lives in that town.”  That’s what happens to the small town of Chester’s Mill.  A dome of unknown material and origin surrounds and covers the town all of a sudden on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  Being a typical Stephen King novel the initial affects are pretty gruesome; a woodchuck gets sliced in half with one side on the dome and one on the other, a plane flying in the dome hits the dome itself, crashes, and sends body parts flying, a woman gardening at the edge of where the dome materializes gets her hands cut off, and many birds flying nonchalantly smash into the dome and die.  All of this within the first 50 pages!

What happens next is where the true epoch begins.  The U.S. government tries to bust the dome from the outside with missiles and learns the strange phenomenon is impermeable.  Inside the dome is a former soldier, Dale Barbara, who after Afghanistan wants to simply blend in and not be noticed.  But the President jumps him up to Colonel and says he’s in charge until the threat is gone.

The problem with that is a greedy politician and religious zealot, “Big Jim” Renfield.  Rennie, to his friends, is the second selectman in this town and uses the dome to try and become a dictator.  The issue with Big Jim is that he has also used the town, his church and the local Christian radio station to become the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of meth-amphetamine.  He was under investigation by the state’s attorney general and the local sheriff but since the dome happened he sees himself as exonerated and in charge.

Rennie soon starts recruiting the town’s bullies as police officers and declares his own form of Marshall law.  He closes down the grocery stores, ceases all sales of liquor and even starts a food riot to show how he knows best. Rennie sees Barbara as a threat to his power and soon pins 4 murders (which were committed by Rennie and his son) on now Colonel Barbara and arrests him.  Rennie then begins to brainwash the public into thinking the government sent Barbara into the town to create the dome and conduct an experiment on the little town.

This book takes the reader in depth into the struggle for power and shows just how corruptible people can be.  I will admit that the explanation of the dome’s creation lacks a little umph but that is not really the main ideal behind the story so I’ll let that one slide, although it did seem a bit of a juvenile way to end the book.  No matter how it ends, the total consumption of this book is a great adventure.

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