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That, in a nutshell, tells you how into this book I was. "Couldn't put it down" applies. Sure, I'd pause to get a soda, or for a bathroom break (though I just popped a squat with the book on my lap. . .think of that next time you get a book from the library!). Before I get to my review, here's an encapsulation of what I first wrote:
[Compiled from original post, July 17, 2010]
Under the Dome (a 1074-page book) takes place in Maine (naturally), just up the road a piece from Castle Rock, a town you're intimately familiar with if you've read very much King. The small town of Chester's Mill finds itself suddenly trapped--right to the town's borders--by a transparent, seemingly indestructible barrier. This has a calamitous effect on anything actually at the border at the moment the dome came down, or for anything preparing to cross it at high speed.
If you've ever read a Stephen King novel, you know that he can be wordy, sometimes at the expense of the story. As much as I loved Misery, I found myself skipping the "Misery Chastain" romance novel portions of the book only partway in. At other times though, say with The Stand, King's wordiness can be rich and rewarding. One thing I think I can be relatively certain of is that it won't have a rushed conclusion!
This first part of the book is an outstanding, gripping, can't-put-the-book-down good time. If your idea of a good time is kinda gory. Mine is. Anyway, a large section of the book deals with the setup, introducing us to a broad section of Chester's Mill's citizenry and public servants. By the time we begin to gather some vague understanding as to what's going on--about a third of the way in--we'd have already been to the end of many books of this genre (Dean Koontz's included). I was a little leery of what the thick mid-section of this book was going to be like. For the sheer genius that was The Stand, another long King book, Duma Key while good, wasn't quite as satisfying. So far though, I'm still along for the ride. There are protagonists I'm rooting for, a couple of deaths--hey, this is King--that I've lamented, and a few deaths I'm looking forward to!
The middle portion of the book chronicles life under the dome, and what that sort of scenario would do to the populace of a small town. A slimy politician who already fancied himself king of the town, takes his role to grandly inflated places. Our protagonist, a former soldier with a heavy consience is appointed by the President to take charge as a Colonel, and our slimy politician doesn't take well to this news. Much of the midsection of the book is built upon this power play, and if that sounds boring, it isn't. King has done a masterful job of bringing an entire town to life, and the ways they interact and whom they align with is kept interesting, and sometimes surprising.
From outside the dome, there are a few efforts to bust through, with the results only emboldening the Big Bad and his son, Junior Bad. Together they spin a fanciful tale, connecting the Colonel to a series of deaths, to a riot, to a drug ring, and even to the existence of the dome itself. The story wouldn't hold together well in ordinary times, but the rattled citizenry clings to it, and sides with Big & Junior Bad. Fortunately, there are some brighter bulbs in this bunch, and a resistance of sorts is born.
Through all of this, the atmosphere in town is getting rank, there is barely a breeze, and no rain. The resistance tries to discover the source of the dome, and what to do about it, while simultaneously trying to free the Colonel from the clutches of the Bads. All of this is great, page-turning stuff. And twin events: a town meeting called by Big Bad, and a "meet your relatives on the other side of the dome" gathering at the edge of town, send the book hurtling into the scorching home stretch.
The secret behind the existence of the dome is an interesting departure for this kind of book, one that may not satisfy everybody. And the ultimate conclusion is rather speedy after a long homestretch, but I understood the need for this. As the characters get more and more desperate, a fast resolution was necessary to break the tension. It was not an eye-rolling ending, or one that let me down. I was satisfied, and said as I closed the covers, that was a good book.
All through the book, I could see this as a movie, or more likely, a mini-series. If it comes to that, I have a prediction. Some characters will be combined. Some will be deleted. The Big Bad (who had an uncomfortable, but sadly underwhelming and solitary comeuppance) will have a more satisfying demise, and will infiltrate the resistance (which does not happen in the book). I do know that if a Hollywood adaptation is in the works, I will want to watch it. Highly Recommended