Under the Dome by Stephen King

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I had this big-as-all-outdoors sitting on my shelf to read for the better part of three years and picked it around mid-August.  I finished it last week and I kept thinking to myself while I was reading it, “Self, why in the hell didn’t you read this book when you bought it, you big munk head!”.  Most of King’s books start out with him describing every little detail of his characters lives down to what toothpaste they use and how much money they owe on their car payment, and these little details help flesh out the characters, and make them relateable, after a certain point it begins to be bit much.  Thankfully, King is like “to hell with that!”, drops a dome down on a small town in the opening page, and let’s us experience the aftermath.

Taking place in a small town in mid-October, Under the Dome, fills up it’s over 1,000 page story with town scandals, and the everyday folk caught up in a bad situation.  Our hero, Dale “Barbie” Barbara is a Iraqi war vet coasting along as a short order cook, is about to leave town right before the dome drops.  He had been in an altercation with town selectman’s son the night before that didn’t go well, and was trying to get the heck out of Dodge to avoid any more trouble.  The town selectman, “Big Jim” Rennie is a power hungry blow-hard who uses the dome to plot his own take over of the town with a Hitler youth like movement where he promotes his son and all his delinquent friends to the position of police officers.  He and his son also murder anyone who gets in their way and pin the killings on Barbie.

This situation puts Dale and his fellow town conspirators in the position of finding a way to discredit Jim Rennie, and also find a way to break out of the dome.  The US Government shoots a nuke at it that only blackens a side for a little bit.  They know Jim Rennie is bad news, but he’s in there, and their out there, and thus Jim considers himself a law unto himself.  This makes life hell for the townfolk with good sense and functional bullshit detectors.  Jim Rennie is one of the best villains King has ever written, and you will love to hate him and see what kind of crap plan he comes up with next.

King’s strong suit is small-town life.  I have a feeling he may secretly hate them because he’s fictionally destroyed so many, but he seems to enjoy writing about them, say ayuh.   Under the Dome is no exception to either of these things.  The diversity of the characters and the arcs they go through is what makes the story work.   Hacktivists, drug addicts, meth-makers, school teachers, hospital orderlies, and a small town newspaper all have big parts to play in the story.  He also has a way of making you feel for the characters, even if some of them are completely terrible people.

The only weak part of the novel to me is that there are quite a few plot threads that are dropped, but it comes as much as a surprise to the reader as it does to the characters themselves.  There are certain foreshadowing moments that lead you to believe the big confrontation is going to go down like in The Stand, but nope.

Of all the books I’ve read by King, I’ve enjoyed this one the most.  I can not recommend it enough.

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