Under the Dome, By Stephen King
Sunday 18 July 2010
Stephen King first had the idea for this novel in 1976, began it, abandoned it, and did not return to it until 2007, when he finally felt confident of tackling the technical problems that his theme posed.
The reading public has reason to be grateful for the 31-year maturation period: the result is an epic that is both thought-provoking and insanely readable. As a reviewer with limited time, I wouldn't usually opt for a novel of 877 pages – but I finished this tome in three days.
The town of Chester's Mill, Maine, is mysteriously encased in an invisible, impenetrable barrier, cutting the population off from the outside world (just like in The Simpsons Movie).
In a surprisingly but believably short time, the normal rules of civic society are ditched. Used-car salesman Big Jim Rennie becomes the town's dictator, aided by a specially recruited police force of vicious thugs. Colonel Dale Barbara, an Iraq war veteran, leads the outnumbered opposition.
It's a straightforward fight between good and evil – or liberal values and naked power. Yet it is not as simplistic as this might suggest: Barbara, the good guy, has a guilty conscience about his part in interrogating terror suspects in Baghdad, while Rennie's son, a psychotic killer, experiences the best feeling he's ever had when he rescues a little girl and feels her arms around his neck.
Both heroes and villains are human and believable, and King handles the huge cast of characters with aplomb. Some may find the storytelling style too direct, and King has a habit of using dialogue to reveal exactly what he wants us to know about that character at that point. It was also a mistake to include a dog who can understand human speech, including messages from ghosts. But you have to admire the verve, the energy, the endless invention. It's popular literature, yes. But if only all popular literature were this good.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East