First published back in November of 2009, US author Stephen King’s epic novel ‘Under The Dome’ was the final version of a story King originally started penning back in 1976 (and then again in 1982) until he finally took on the story once-and-for-all in 2007.  The book received a tremendous reception and in June of 2013 the first episode of Brian K Vaughan’s twenty-two episode adaptation of the story was broadcast.

DLS Synopsis:
Just before midday on the 21st October, whilst the residents of Chester’s Mill in Maine went about their normal business like any other day, from out of nowhere an invisible dome suddenly appeared over and around the entire town; completely cutting it off from the rest of civilisation.

Invisible to the naked eye and topping out at forty-seven thousand feet, the sudden appearance of the dome caused carnage to the residents and the local wildlife – with cars ploughing into the strange force field and animals and birds alike coming to an untimely end as they crashed into the seemingly indestructible wall completely encircling the town.

For Dale Barbara, the timing couldn’t have been worse.  At the very moment that the dome appeared, he had been making his way out of Chester’s Mill along Route 119.  He had good reason to be leaving the town behind.  Not only had he come out the worse from a brawl with a bunch of the local boys the night before, but one of them happened to be the son of the town’s Second Selectman – Big Jim Rennie.

However, his departure from Chester’s Mill was brought to an abrupt halt when he suddenly came into contact with the invisible dome wall.  Elsewhere other residents came off a great deal worse when the dome slammed down.  Amputations and a cacophony of collisions drew a circular line around the exact borders of Chester’s Mill.  Chuck Thompson’s small Seneca V plane burst into a ball of fire and hurtled to the ground when it hit the dome wall.  The few authorities that were available in the town that day were suddenly receiving calls from everywhere.  No one knew what was happening.  It just didn’t make any sense.

Slowly but surely the residents of Chester’s Mill began to realise the predicament the whole town was suddenly faced with.  Apprehensively, once you got close to the dome, some kind of interference, not harmful to most people, could be felt.  It felt like nothing more than a low-level electric shock.  And then the solid wall of the dome was there.  Unmoveable.  Impenetrable.  Indestructible.

That day would later become known to all as ‘Dome Day’.  The outside world looked on as the residents of Chester’s Mill struggled to come to terms with the prison they were suddenly within.  The Chief of Police, sixty-seven year old Howard Perkins, was one of the first victims of the Dome.  His pacemaker exploding in his chest when he first approached the invisible barrier.  The town’s officials reacted with knee-jerk urgency.  And with the ‘Duke’ no longer heading-up the police force, Peter Randolph was quickly voted into the position, along with a number of new ‘Special Deputies’.

However, such drastic reactions adopted by the town’s supposed leaders were not seen by all as in the town’s best interest.  Indeed, the Special Deputies that were handpicked by Jim Rennie were the very same thugs who had caused Dale Barbara to decide to leave the town.

Things were turning decidedly sour in the suddenly confined space of Chester’s Mill.  And those outside could do nothing but look on as it just kept getting worse…

DLS Review:
Stephen King’s certainly no stranger to a hefty page count.  Indeed, if we glance back to his earlier novel ‘The Stand’ (1978), in its complete and uncut format, it battled on for a hefty 144o pages.  In comparison, ‘Under The Dome’ is considerably shorter.  However, the true ‘epicness’ (if you allow such a term to be coined) within the story is equally as present as its more substantial godfather.

By now we’re all more than familiar with King’s style, his colourful and poetically-verbose prose, his gradual knitting together of lovingly created characters, and his all-American ‘small-town-in-Maine’ charm.  And as soon as you set off with ‘Under The Dome’ from your very first steps along Route 119 you’re once again flung headfirst into a typical Stephen King universe.

The backdrop is so utterly textbook Stephen King in absolutely every single aspect that it’s almost painful.  Quaint rubs shoulders with spit-and-dirt-hard-graft rubs shoulders with those power-hungry big fishes in little ponds.  It’s got it all.  If you could write a paint-by-numbers Stephen King backdrop, Chester’s Mill would be the end result.  And you’ve just got to love it.

For a Stephen King novel it doesn’t take too long to get into the swing of what’s going on.  In fact, within the first handful of pages the Dome’s slammed down into place and it’s causing all sorts of havoc.  Okay, so King rally gets his money’s worth with the chaos that the sudden arrival of this invisible barrier causes.  From almost every aspect we get to see what such a colossal unmoveable wall could cause.  Page after page after page follows of more tightly-localised mayhem, and we just read on with the weirdness and the baffled reaction from Chester’s Mills’ finest as they lay down an instantly addictive read.

As the pages fly by, King gradually introduces the many characters he will call upon to create his epic science-fiction drama (with a whole heap of social commentary flung in for good measure).  And we’re not just talking a good handful or two of characters here.  In ‘Under The Dome’ there’s a heck of a lot of characters, many with strong dominating roles within the tale, others who play their (often quite important) parts but are nevertheless much more secondary and almost in the background.  Indeed, due to the sheer size of the cast, the book actually begins with quite a comprehensive (but not exhaustive) list of the characters with their respective positions in the community upon ‘Dome Day’ and the proceeding days that follow.

By far and away one of the most entertaining characters is Big Jim Rennie, second-hand car sales man and the town’s Second Selectman.  He’s brutish, brash, arrogant and an ignorant power-hungry bully.  He also pretty much controls the whole town, with the First Selectman, Andy Sanders, his timid puppet in the elaborate political games he dances to.  Throw in Rennie’s no-good thug of a son, twenty-one-year-old Junior Rennie (who has one hell of a chip on his shoulder with principal protagonist Dale Barbara), and you’ve already got a rich cocktail of interestingly conflicting characters at heads with the rest.

As always, King throws in his token freaky nut-job, this time in the form of Phil Bushey.  Where ‘The Stand’ (1978) has the Trashcan Man, ‘Under The Dome’ has Chef Bushey.  Mix a big-old shovel full of class a drugs with some grin-inducing warped Christianity, and you’ve got the Chef’s code of life.  He’s a paranoid shadow of a man that lives out his days in a haze of blissful chemical dependency.  And like good old Trashcan Man, he’s got his own critical part to play in the whole story.

Indeed, there’s so much that resonates of a close similarity to ‘The Stand’ (1978).  Many of the basic structural elements within the two epic stories closely resemble each other.  The strange dreams that somehow foretell images from a nightmarish future.  The many ecological aspects brought about by such a dramatic change in the environment.  In all the small details that slowly reveal themselves.  The things we take for granted.  And the forced shift in the way the characters have to adapt, in their sudden need to come together and ultimately work together if they’re to get through this new world.

It’s possibly as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.  And trust me, it really is bloody entertaining from start to the eventual mind-blowingly dramatic finale.  There’s just so much in the story.  So many layers, tightly woven sub-stories, and conflicting characters.  Ultimately, it’s a voyeuristic masterpiece where we get to look into the vast Dome, one that from the inside feels so much smaller, and observe how we slowly beat ourselves and each other down, until we’re our own worst enemies.

A magnificent masterpiece of science fiction drama with a delightfully light brushing of a small scale apocalypse imbedded within it.

The novel runs for a total of 880 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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