” The whole world had turned sideways and slipped into a Twilight Zone episode while she was asleep. That had to be it, no other explanation made even marginal sense. They’d hear the Rod Serling voice-over anytime now. ” (Missile Strike Imminent, Section 1)
On a beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, horror strikes. A plane piloted by the town Selectman’s wife crashes. A gardener’s hand is severed. Cars explode on impact. Birds drop dead from the sky and woodchucks found neatly split. What seems to be isolated incidents at first quickly becomes a crisis with a mutual but inexplicable cause: An enormous transparent dome, not breachable by bullet, laser beam, or cruise missile, has suddenly and unaccountably descended, like an invisible guillotine blade, over the town. Its provenance is uncertain—government conspiracy? North Korea? Terrorists? Aliens?
Later she would say, It was the moment when this town finally realized what was happening. There was probably truth in the idea, but it didn’t satisfy her. All she could say with complete certainty (and she said it only to herself) was that she watched her town lose its mind, and afterward she would never be the same person. (Feeling It, Section 9)
As speculation runs wild about the cause of the Dome, the town-people realize the the incontrovertible effect and its consequence. Chester’s Mill is sealed off from the rest of the world. While air can permeates, the town becomes inevitably polluted. Former Iraq vet Dale “Barbie” Barbara, now a short-cook, is elevated to the rank of colonel by the President as the conduit to the outside world. Barbie finds himself teamed up with the newspaper owner, a physician’s assistant, a select-woman, an emporium tycoon, a diner owner and a few brave kids to resolve the Dome crisis. But in their way, equally threatening as the Dome itself, is the tyrant-in-waiting Big Jim Rennie and his pet goon squad. On top of his meth factory, the misappropriation of town funds and property, he now takes control of the police department, recruiting from the local pool of jocks and bully boys. His heavily-armed wizard, known as the Chef, commanders the town’s Christian radio station.
Whatever they had, those kids deepened it, she thought. And the Dome too. Living under the Dome intensified everything. Already it seemed to Linda that they had been under it not for days but for years. The outside world was fading like a dream when you woke up. (Ants, Section 8)
At whooping 900 pages, Under the Dome has a very simple premise. The town leader seizes the opportunity to seal his power, even at the expense of violence, murder, and lives of his town-people. To preserve the tome’s staying power, so much is sinister, so much plotted with grand intentions and lucid resolution. King’s description is graphic but can be excessive at times, otherwise it is a fast read. The rapes, the shootings, the riot—all leap off the page to keep you aware of the apocalyptic vision. The underlying message after all is that whether the Dome comes down or not, these people who are left to fend for themselves need one another. There is also paranoia, blame and violations in the name of “security”, and it’s not hard to see the satire on Bush’s America, especially when the main route on the “safe” side of Chester’s Mill is the 119.
880 pp. Hodder & Stoughton UK Edition. Paper. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]