King has always produced at pulp speed. "Nov. 22, 2007 - March 14, 2009" proclaims the final page of Under the Dome: that's 1,100 pages in 480 days. We shouldn't be too squeamish about the odd half-baked simile or lapse into B-movie dialogue, is my point. Writing flat-out keeps him close to his story, close to his source. It seems to magnetize his imagination: by the final third of this novel King is effortlessly drawing in T. S. Eliot and the Book of Revelation, the patient etherized upon a table and the Star Wormwood.
The New York Times Book Review
Under the Dome gravely threatens Stephen King's status as a mere chart-busting pop cultural phenomenon. It has the scope and flavor of literary Americana, even if Mr. King's particular patch of American turf is located smack in the middle of the Twilight Zone. It dispenses with his usual scatology and trippy fantasy to deliver a spectrum of credible people with real family ties, health crises, self-destructive habits and political passions. Even its broad caricatures prompt real emotion, if only via the damage they can inflict on others. Though the book's broad conspiratorial strokes become farfetched, its ordinary souls become ever more able to break hearts. This book has the heft of a brick…Hard as this thing is to hoist, it's even harder to put down.
The New York Times
King's return to supernatural horror is uncomfortably bulky, formidably complex and irresistibly compelling. When the smalltown of Chester's Mill, Maine, is surrounded by an invisible force field, the people inside must exert themselves to survive. The situation deteriorates rapidly due to the dome's ecological effects and the machinations of Big Jim Rennie, an obscenely sanctimonious local politician and drug lord who likes the idea of having an isolated populace to dominate. Opposing him are footloose Iraq veteran Dale “Barbie” Barbara, newspaper editor Julia Shumway, a gaggle of teen skateboarders and others who want to solve the riddle of the dome. King handles the huge cast of characters masterfully but ruthlessly, forcing them to live (or not) with the consequences of hasty decisions. Readers will recognize themes and images from King's earlier fiction, and while this novel doesn't have the moral weight of, say, The Stand, nevertheless, it's a nonstop thrill ride as well as a disturbing, moving meditation on our capacity for good and evil. (Nov.)
The frequent accusation that King writes too long is sometimes deserved. However, when he works in an epic mode, depicting dozens of characters and all their interrelationships, he can produce great work. He did it with The Stand and with It, and he has done it again here. A small Maine town is enclosed one October morning by an impermeable bell jar of unknown origin. Within this pressure cooker, the petty differences and power struggles of village life are magnified and accelerated. Opposing camps develop, one headed by Big Jim Rennie, the Second Selectman, and the other by Dale Barbara, a drifting Iraq vet who was nearly out of town when the Dome fell. The characters are well rounded and interesting while retaining the familiar appeal that has drawn and kept King fans for decades. VERDICT Regular King readers will rejoice at his return to his strengths. Some will balk at the page count, but a fast pace and compelling narrative make the reader's time fly. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/09.]—Karl G. Siewert, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib., OK
Maine. Check. Strange doings. Check. Alien/demon presence. Check. Unlikely heroes. Check. An early scene in King's latest (Just After Sunset, 2008, etc.) takes us past Shawshank Prison, if only in the mind of a character-and there are dozens of characters, large and small, whose minds we enter. One of them, a leading citizen in the quiet town of Chester's Mill, is crooked, conniving wheeler-dealer Big Jim Rennie, whose son, a specialist in taking wrong forks in the road, is the local terror but has apparently surrendered his power to awe to larger forces-in this case, the ones who have very gradually sealed off Chester's Mill from the rest of the world. Why? It's the kind of hamlet where a big night of fun involves driving with a six-pack and a shotgun, hardly the sort of place where the overlords seem likely to land. But these overlords, they're a strange bunch: They walk among us, and they might even be us. King runs riot with players, including a newshound who numbers among his ordinary worries "the inexplicable decay of the town's sewer system and waste treatment plant"; a curious chap named Sea Dogs; some weekend warriors; and the lyrically named Romeo Burpee, who "survived a childhood of merciless taunts . . . to become the richest man in town." Evil is omnipresent here, but organized religion is suspect, useful only for those who would bleat, "The Dome is God's will." The woods are full of malevolent possibilities. Civic and military leaders are usually incompetent. And it's the brave loner who has bothered to do a little research who saves everyone's bacon. Or not. It hardly matters that, after 1,000-plus pages, the yarn doesn't quite add up. It's vintage King: wonderfullywritten, good, creepy, old-school fun.
From the Publisher
"Propulsively intriguing... Staggeringly addictive." -- USA Today
"Tight and energetic from start to finish... Hard as this thing is to hoist, it's even harder to put down." -- New York Times
"The work of a master storyteller having a whole lot of fun." -- Los Angeles Times
"King returns to his glory days of The Stand." -- New York Daily News
"A wildly entertaining trip." -- People (3.5 stars)
"Under the Dome moves so fast and grips the reader so tightly that it's practically incapacitating." -- Newsday
"Stephen King's Under the Dome was one of my favourite books of the year so far." -- Neil Gaiman
"Dome is classic King, sure to please any fan." -- Baltimore Sun
"Spellbinding." -- ABCnews.com
Read an Excerpt
“Chuck, I think I see two boys beside the Peace Bridge! Fishing!” Her very
delight made her laugh. The flying lessons were courtesy of her husband, who
was the town’s First Selectman. Although of the opinion that if God had wanted
man to fly, He would have given him wings, Andy was an extremely coaxable
man, and eventually Claudette had gotten her way. She had enjoyed the
experience from the first. But this wasn’t mere enjoyment; it was exhilaration.
Today was the first time she had really understood what made flying great.
What made it cool.
Chuck Thompson, her instructor, touched the control yoke gently, then
pointed at the instrument panel. “I’m sure,” he said, “but let’s keep the shiny
side up, Claudie, okay?”
“Not at all.” He had been teaching people to do this for years, and he
liked students like Claudie, the ones who were eager to learn something new.
She might cost Andy Sanders some real money before long; she loved the
Seneca, and had expressed a desire to have one just like it, only new. That
would run somewhere in the neighborhood of a million dollars. Although not
exactly spoiled, Claudie Sanders had undeniably expensive tastes which, lucky
man, Andy seemed to have no trouble satisfying.
Chuck also liked days like this: unlimited visibility, no wind, perfect
teaching conditions. Nevertheless, the Seneca rocked slightly as she over-corrected.
“You’re losing your happy thoughts. Don’t do that. Come to one-twenty.
Let’s go out Route 119. And drop on down to nine hundred.”
She did, the Seneca’s trim once more perfect. Chuck relaxed.
They passed above Jim Rennie’s Used Cars, and then the town was
behind them. There were fields on either side of 119, and trees burning with
color. The Seneca’s cruciform shadow fled up the blacktop, one dark wing
briefly brushing over an ant-man with a pack on his back. The ant-man looked
up and waved. Chuck waved back, although he knew the guy couldn’t see him.
“Beautiful goddam day!” Claudie exclaimed. Chuck laughed.
Their lives had another forty seconds to run.
The woodchuck came bumbling along the shoulder of Route 119, headed
in the direction of Chester’s Mill, although the town was still a mile and a half
away and even Jim Rennie’s Used Cars was only a series of twinkling
sunflashes arranged in rows at the place where the highway curved to the left.
The chuck planned (so far as a woodchuck can be said to plan anything) to
head back into the woods long before he got that far. But for now, the shoulder
was fine. He’d come farther from his burrow than he meant to, but the sun had
been warm on his back and the smells were crisp in his nose, forming
rudimentary images—not quite pictures—in his brain.
He stopped and rose on his back paws for an instant. His eyes weren’t as
good as they used to be, but good enough to make out a human up there,
walking in his direction on the other shoulder.
The chuck decided he’d go a little farther anyway. Humans sometimes
left behind good things to eat.
He was an old fellow, and a fat fellow. He had raided many garbage cans
in his time, and knew the way to the Chester’s Mill landfill as well as he knew
the three tunnels of his own burrow; always good things to eat at the landfill.
He waddled a complacent old fellow’s waddle, watching the human walking on
the other side of the road.
The man stopped. The chuck realized he had been spotted. To his right
and just ahead was a fallen birch. He would hide under there, wait for the man
to go by, then investigate for any tasty—
The chuck got that far in his thoughts—and another three waddling
steps—although he had been cut in two. Then he fell apart on the edge of the road. Blood squirted and pumped; guts tumbled into the dirt; his rear legs
kicked rapidly twice, then stopped.
His last thought before the darkness that comes to us all, chucks and
humans alike: What happened?
All the needles on the control panel dropped dead.
“What the hell?” Claudie Sanders said. She turned to Chuck. Her eyes
were wide, but there was no panic in them, only bewilderment. There was no
time for panic.
Chuck never saw the control panel. He saw the Seneca’s nose crumple
toward him. Then he saw both propellers disintegrate.
There was no time to see more. No time for anything. The Seneca
exploded over Route 119 and rained fire on the countryside. It also rained body
parts. A smoking forearm—Claudette’s—landed with a thump beside the neatly
It was October twenty-first.
From two thousand feet, where Claudette Sanders was taking a flying
lesson, the town of Chester’s Mill gleamed in the morning light like something
freshly made and just set down. Cars trundled along Main Street, flashing up
winks of sun. The steeple of the Congo Church looked sharp enough to pierce
the unblemished sky. The sun raced along the surface of Prestile Stream as the
Seneca V overflew it, both plane and water cutting the town on the same
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"Propulsively intriguing... Staggeringly addictive." USA Today
"Tight and energetic from start to finish... Hard as this thing is to hoist, it's even harder to put down." New York Times
"The work of a master storyteller having a whole lot of fun." Los Angeles Times
"King returns to his glory days of The Stand." New York Daily News
"A wildly entertaining trip." People (3.5 stars)
"Under the Dome moves so fast and grips the reader so tightly that it's practically incapacitating." Newsday
"Stephen King's Under the Dome was one of my favourite books of the year so far." Neil Gaiman
"Dome is classic King, sure to please any fan." Baltimore Sun