UNDER THE DOME – Stephen King

“The pink stars are falling,” Aidan said.  “They make lines behind them.  It’s pretty.  It’s scary.  Everyone is watching.  No treats, only tricks.  Hard to breathe.  He calls himself the Chef.  It’s his fault.  He’s the one.”

I was in middle school when I read my first Stephen King novel.  I selected Tommyknockers.  And while many will list Carrie, Christine, It, and The Shining as their favorites, I lean toward Bag of Bones, Insomnia, and The Green Mile.  His catalogue is truly astounding, and there are more King novels that I haven’t read than I have.  He is wordy. 

He is uncomfortable.  He is snarky.  And he is terrifying.

I love him.

The beginning of fall was the perfect time to start Under the Dome – a 1,072-page beast of a novel set in Chester’s Mill, Maine in early October.  One could call Chester’s Mill quaint, but one would be wrong.

Chester’s Mill is a small town with good-hearted residents, crooked politicians, meth-head preachers with no congregation and drug dealing preachers with filled pews, broken hearts and broken homes.  It is home to heroes and villains, and some who are both at the same time. 

Dale Barbara, Barbie, is a drifter and after an unpleasant run in with some of the worst parts of the town, he just wants to get the hell out of Dodge – but someone or something has other plans.  Before he can escape the picturesque town with the gritty underbelly, a structure descends upon the town, trapping its residents and mystifying those inside and outside its walls.

The people panic and a dirty town selectman seizes the opportunity to increase his power and control.  He staffs the police force with unskilled, trigger happy juveniles with a chilling blood lust, including his unstable and unwell son.  By the end of the novel, the body count is nearly as high as the cast of characters.

At times, I had to put the novel away.  Under the dome, law and order vanished, and those who were to serve and protect became far more deadly than the dome.  The treatment of Sammy was one of the most horrific things I have ever read, and a stone grew heavy in my stomach with each page.

The novel steals your hope, over and over again.  It is an extremely uncomfortable read.  And just when you are at the end of your rope, there’s a flash of light and a breath of fresh air.  The reader is a plaything, the book is the dome and the dress.  And King?  He’s Barbie.  He’s Big Jim.  He’s Piper.  He’s the Chef.  He’s one of the leatherheads.

If you love King, you’ll love this novel.  I won’t spoil it; I will, however, let you know that the dog dies.  More than one.

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