Under the Dome, By Stephen King
Reviewed by Rima Walker
What is there to say about King-of-the-Horror-Genre’s latest novel? Creepy, yes. Insightful as to the ways of a mob when disaster strikes and our worst fears and nightmares come true, yes. Creative, spine-tingling, and weirdly imaginative, yes. But it gets off to a very T-E-D-I-O-U-S start, and there is more tedium sprinkled throughout the novel. King’s poor editor, to whom he gives a great deal of credit, clearly gave up cutting somewhere along the line after editing out King’s many, many pages to a mere 1,072.
King’s style is, as usual, breezy, highly readable (except where it gets tedious when he overdoes a situation), and very up-to-date on the latest slang expressions and technology. His characters, even the best and worst of them, are not deep or well-rounded, and some are downright stereotypes, but we love them or hate them accordingly. The key to the book is that the reader really wants to find out how our hero, Barbie, gets the town of Chester Mills and its people out from under an immense, impermeable, clear-as-glass dome that suddenly appears, encompassing the town and slamming into the ground, taking people, birds, animals, and airplanes to their final rest and leaving the town entombed.
The most interesting parts of this novel describe what happens when a place and its people are cut off entirely from the rest of the world (think food, fuel, medical supplies, for instance, that can’t be delivered). Some pay a high price and others gather into unruly destructive mobs and turn on each other. Some of the good guys do all they can to solve the dilemma and help those hurt as a result of it, while the evil ones find ways to profit from the horrors and hopefully escape the worst of them.
Good vs. evil, King’s primary theme throughout most of his best works, is here with a vengeance in the goodness of Barbie, the town chef turned Colonel at the President’s behest; in Julia, the town newspaperwoman; and in a greedy, power-hungry selectman and his sadistic and very, very sick son. As we have come to expect from others of King’s novels, the good don’t always escape and triumph but join the gory body pileup as the novel ensues. King is very democratic about what happens to human nature in this respect which, perhaps, is why he interests his fans so much. It’s so much more realistic than having the good guys triumph and the bad guys punished.
But where are the spine-tinglers of yesteryear that grabbed you from page one and left you sleepless at night as you read on, heavy-lidded, novels like Cujo, Salem’s Lot, Dolores Claiborne, Gerald’s Game, to name a few, and most of all that most brilliantly executed (pardon the pun) The Shining. In this latest novel there is plenty of blood and guts spilled, strange colors and lights in the sky, and children who have seizures and prophesy in riddles —King’s forte—and if you are a fan, you’ll read it to the very last page. It may take you awhile unless you quit your job to read all day. But despite the nit-picking criticisms, fans will devour the multitudinous pages to the bitter end to find out where the doom-dome came from (Outer space? The mind of a mad scientist?) and to discover how the bad guys get their comeuppances, but also to bless Stephen King for adding this weighty tome to his oeuvre of horror peppered with the good, the bad, and the ugly. An old non-fiction book by King called Danse Macabre explains how he sees the world of horror and the ordinary people who shine through or destroy. He is particularly good when it comes to the way children see things, see in the actual sense of the word and see in the supernatural world of the spirits. ~