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Under the Dome    by Stephen King order for
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

An ordinary October day in Chester's Mill, Maine turns to horror and fear for its citizens when the entire town is held captive under a dome that suddenly appears out of nowhere. Nothing in the US military's vast and deadly arsenal is able to break through the dome's semi-porous and innocuous-looking skin, and the world's best scientific minds eventually concur that the dome must be extraterrestrial.

Iraqi vet/short order cook Dale Barbara just wanted out of town after a violent altercation with Junior Rennie, the son of smooth-taking used car salesman Big Jim Rennie. One didn't have to be a born and raised townie to understand who owned the town - and many of its townsfolk. When his former commanding officer contacts Dale and informs him that the president has ordered him to assume control of the town for the duration of the crisis, Dale knows that accepting is akin to signing his own death warrant. If crazy Junior Rennie didn't already have it in for him, then his power hungry father would see to it that Dale had an unfortunate accident.

Dale's prediction soon comes true - he's framed for murder and as he awaits trial, Big Jim's new police force quickly exerts full control of Chester's Mill while the entire world watches with a mix of fascination and horror. Now it's up to reporter Julia Shumway and her fellow dissenters to break Dale out so they can shut down Big Jim Rennie before all hell breaks loose inside the dome.

Unfortunately, King's penchant for redundant narrative continues in his latest release. He spends far too much time in the mindsets of the two-dimensional tin despot, Big Jim Rennie, and his honour guard of kowtowing minions, several of whom wallow in violent glory as they help create their boss's version of a police state. More time spent with those stalwart townies who eventually band together to undermine Rennie's power grab would have made for a much more gripping and believable story. King's use of plot devices that either he, or various other fantasy or SF writers, and TV series like the Twilight Zone have overused is also disappointing.

Once King sets his numerous chess pieces into position, however, Under the Dome gains momentum and barrels to an explosive conclusion. What does stay with you is King's disturbing picture of how quickly the dark side of humanity can take control - and alternately - humans' will to survive, even under the most horrific of circumstances.

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