(Using the Czech cover because I think it gives a better sense of what the book’s about than the others I’ve seen.)
The town of Chester’s Mill is cut off from the rest of the world one day by an invisible and almost impenetrable barrier. The military’s efforts to breach the barrier have no effect and, as the days go by, fuel supplies run low and concern over food stocks mounts. The river runs dry and the atmosphere grows stagnant, warm and increasingly polluted.
Big Jim Rennie, for long the real power in Chester’s Mill, sets out to solidify his power base, turning the police force into his own private army and ruthlessly eliminating all threats. Only Captain Dale Barbara (retired) and a diminishing handful of other increasingly desperate inhabitants stand in his way as they seek to solve the riddle of the barrier before it is too late.
At nearly 900 pages, Stephen King’s Under The Dome, published 2009, may be the thickest single-volume epic I have read. As a teenager, back in the eighties, I remember devouring many Stephen King novels and short stories, most memorably It and The Stand, both of which I have re-read subsequently, and the latter is still one of my all-time favourite books.
In recent years I haven’t read so much. The first half of The Tommyknockers was chilling and disturbing. From A Buick 8 was intriguing. Dreamcatcher was confusing and icky – I think I prefer the film.
I stumbled across Under The Dome at a second-hand book stall recently and bought it for holiday reading. I have a vague recollection of watching the pilot for the TV series at some point, but from all accounts the series and book are very different.
Like most of Stephen King’s stories, The Stand being an obvious exception, Under The Dome is set in a small town in Maine, and features a carefully crafted cast of characters. The narrative shifts from one person to another, the plot never shying away from man’s potential for cruelty, whether out of ambition, insanity or just-because. The tension is further maintained with outright narrative trickery: deliberate (and unnecessary) foretelling, characters having visions of impending catastrophe, and shifting to third-person omniscient, often in the present tense – a device used to great effect by Thomas Harris in Hannibal as we creep carefully, so carefully, inside the mind of that magnificent monster.
So many stories are woven intricately together, the book grips from start to finish.