Under the Dome is the story of a regular American town in Maine (favorite place for oddities to happen in all Stephen King books) that has an unusual barrier appear on its border. It’s invisible, infinite upwards and downwards and indestructible (they tried bombing it, pouring acid on it and would have even risked nuking it if it came to it). The cast of the story is made out of 2500+ citizens of this esteemed town and most of them are offered a short description, starting to the town drunk to the hardware store owner. The main characters, opposed in a struggle for dominance, are the tyrant mayor Rennie and his acolytes and colonel Dale Barbara who is put in charge by Presidential Order. Now, if you have a town isolated from the outside world, with no way to get in or out, would you believe the President’s order will have any value? No.
Big Jim Rennie sees the Dome as the opportunity of a life time – his chance to shine and be the head that guides the body, a voice to move all and remove any opposition without question. He starts by building a small “army” of his own, made by young and not-so-smart men – mostly rejects that befriended his psychotic son. This army will be used to enforce his rules and he does not mind when the police force is used in brutal attacks against the citizens it is supposed to protect. He lets off 4 rapists with a mere slap on the wrists and commits murders of his own for his struggle for power.
He is a strategist, he plans ahead, moving the thoughts of the flock from the entrapment thoughts to no thoughts at all – or his. He plans and masterfully executes a riot by closing down the only food store in town and then instigating to violence. When the spirits are calmed down, he enforces the rule that officers should carry fire-arms to avoid such incidents. He arrests Dale Barbara and frames him for the murders of himself and his son’s and when the local doctor tries to make him “abdicate” his throne, he puts him in jail too. It’s not enough to jail the opponents, he wants to publicly execute them by lying to the crowds and making the Dome seem one big conspiracy ordered by the government. He destroys the local news building and silences anyone that might oppose him.
His son, Junior, is suffering from terrible head aches and rages that indicate a brain tumor in its final stages. He kills Angie at the beginning of the book and then hides her in her pantry and then adds Doddee as his dead girlfriend. He likes to sleep with them as they make his headaches go away. He is a true psychopath, with no remorse whatsoever and with an inclination for torture. He gets shot down but not before he manages to take a few other people with him.
Carter Thibodeau is Rennie’s right hand, always ready to take notes and execute his boss’ wishes without questioning. He is aggressive, ruthless and would not hesitate raping a mother in front of her children to obtain information about her husband’s whereabouts.
He even dry humps her in her kitchen while her kids were outside! He is not afraid to hide behind the law in order to get his way.
This is one thing I’ve noticed in the book – the policemen (and women) get drunk with power rapidly. They feel that they have no obligation to report to anyone and any deed they do cannot be punished as they ARE the law. Under normal circumstances, martial law would be declared and any person misbehaving would be executed on the spot. But this is an army prerogative and the army is outside the dome trying to break it.
As the story progresses, we are introduced with the small group of good people, some of them will not make it to the end but they are mourned when they passed.
Dale Barbara (or Barbie) and Julia Shumway are the main characters of the story, determined to expose Rennie for the liar that he is, fighting as the leaders of the resistance, trying not to be killed at any step. They are attracted to each other and even if there is a significant age difference between them (Julia Shumway is about 12 years older than Barbie), they get together at the end of the book and the sex scene – while short – is one of the best I’ve read in a while.
What IS the Dome?
After 800+ pages, I was getting anxious to see if the visions that the children were having would turn true. If the pumpkins would burn, if the people would scream. And I was dead curious about what set the Dome in place and how it will be lifted. *SPOILER*
The DOME is a toy for aliens. Some alien children from another galaxy/universe went to their local store and bought “the Dome” with the contents of the Main City in it. They watched the people’s miserable lives end – either by crime or by suicides (and by the end of the first week, there were many) and laughed.
It’s no different than burning an ant hill. You don’t feel love or show mercy towards the ants. You take pity on them. Because they are so small and you are so big. When only 5-6 people are left and slowly dying in the toxic air, Julia has the brilliant idea to go to the emitter (there was a pulsing light on a hill, blinking every 15 seconds) and try to beg for their lives.
She telepathically transmits her biggest moment of shame, when in her childish arrogance she had attracted the wrath of her classmates by excelling at everything – causing her to be beaten up and undressed of her underwear in the bandstand. Her feelings plus Dale’s biggest regret of torturing naked Iraqi men(participating in the ball kicking) in a gym – they joined and the plea to spare their lives was great.
The alien child – the leatherface – tries to argue with Julia that she’s not real, she came from a store, she can’t be real. Julia convinces her and after a short hesitation, the child lifts the dome and lets the breeze come into the city and allows the few survivors to get out.
My grade is a mere 6/10. There were too many characters to reckon with and you can’t sympathize with any of them as they feel foreign to you. It’s not emotionally engaging in any way – it’s like watching the news about a fire halfway around the earth. The characters do not evolve (except for a brief two pages when Junior took in some orphans and then left them with another couple). The omniscient author remarks spoil the book. For example “- xxx went out the door. That was the last time they saw him”. – the xxx character gets killed two chapters on. I did not want to know that character xxx will die. Or that something will unfold before it did. I like to be surprised when reading a book and not expect an event to occur … it takes the fun away.
The Simpsons did it too! Even if Stephen King’s version was written well before the Simpson’s, the release date was too close to have a good impact. The story of a community sealed off from the world by an invisible force field was an idea King had picked up and abandoned a couple of times in a manuscript called The Cannibals which he’d gotten about 70 pages into in 1978—around the time he wrote The Stand—before dumping it, then picking it up again in 1982. He should have published it then, keeping most of the arguing fans happy.
What Stephen King did catch right is the degeneration of the human nature in stress conditions (as seen in Lord of the Files) and the rise to power of tyrants.
The book is not even close to “The Stand” which is my top 10 books will always be number 1.
FUNNY FACTS: (Best Review of Under The Dome found online)
Under the Dome is, like It and The Tommyknockers, a Stephen King story about aliens coming to earth and acting like jerks. In this case, they drop an impenetrable dome over the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine and let everyone go bananas and kill each other for a while. Eventually, a band of survivors contact the aliens responsible, help them overcome peer pressure, and use feelings to negotiate a lowering of the dome, but not before most of the town is roasted to death in a giant meth-fueled firestorm of epic proportions. It’s a fun book, but not a great one, more of a satisfying B-grade summer blockbuster than one of King’s deeper efforts. Still, it goes down easy and doesn’t leave you feeling like your time was wasted.