Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Rating: 5/5 stars
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)
In Stephen King's mesmerizing new novel, a Maine town is subject to the imposition of an impenetrable dome that isolates its citizens from the world.
"Wow," was more or less my singular thought as I read Stephen King's Under the Dome. I was concerned at first that such an ambitious novel (1074 pages!) was going to loose its steam either under the shear number of characters inhabiting it or just by its own bulk of story, but I was wrong on both counts. King navigates his characters through the ten days that the novel spans with both an ease and sense of purpose and urgency that makes the novel at the same time easy to follow and keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful!
King doesn't waste any time getting into the meat of his story; the Dome that traps Chester's Mill, a small town in Maine, falls into place about three pages into the story. Anyone unfortunate enough to be on the threshold of the Dome falls victim immediately (for instance, one woman was just reaching out far enough into her garden to lose a hand). Birds fly into the invisible barrier, cars drive into it, people walk into it; one minute the Chester's Mill is going along its day, minding its own small-town business, the next it is cut off, totally and entirely, from the outside world by an impenetrable, invisible barrier that defies all explanation. What follows is a story more of psychological exploration and exploitation than King's more "horror"-based stories.
I really don't want to give away anymore about the story, because I think that it's important for the story to unfold for the reader without much prior knowledge of what's going to happen. But believe me, the story will pick you up and carry you in its tide, sometimes barely leaving you a chance to catch your breath. A lot happens in this story, so there is little time for King to let you calm down before he's throwing the residents of the town and the reader into the next set of problems.
One of the things that did detract from the story for me was the reactions of some of the town's inhabitants. Some of their reactions just seemed so unbelievable (never mind the fact that the town is totally engulfed in an invisible Dome... apparently I have no trouble believing that aspect of the story). The reactions of both those inside and outside the Dome seemed just too extreme at times, but of course, I also think that's the point of the story; how far can people be pushed before they absolutely and totally snap from this reality? And of course, it's also Stephen King we're talking about here. Of course, he is going to take his readers on a wild and strange ride that is just this side of believability, making it just that little bit possible. It's what he does.
To be honest, the ending did leave me a little perplexed. It almost seems to me that King had written this amazing story, and then couldn't himself explain how it all happened. I'm not saying that the ending is a cop out, not at all. It just seemed a little abrupt and didn't really feel like it fit in with the overall presence of the rest of the book. However, it is so overshadowed by the shear grandness of the entire story leading up to it, including the moments leading directly up to the ending that practically left me breathless, that I am able to easily forgive it.
Under the Dome is big, there's no question about that. The story is big, the characters are big, their problem is big, the Dome is big; hell, the actual book is physically big! But don't let that dissuade you from reading it. King has created one hell of a story and once you get lost in Chester's Mill, much like the inhabitants that find themselves trapped under the Dome, you'll find that there isn't much hope of escaping until the very end.