I'm not a big reader of Stephen King these day, probably more common with people who grew up on his books and found his later works very lacking. In spite of this sentiment I picked up "Under the Dome" (1074 pages) last weekend, not being able to resist the six dollar price tag. From Goodreads:
"On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as 'the dome' comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing -- even murder -- to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out."
I liked "Under the Dome" quite a bit even though I've had a falling out of sorts with King over the last couple of decades. I found the premise of the mysterious dome falling over Chester's Mill to be extremely interesting with a myriad of storytelling possibilities. For the most part King delivers. Not only do the citizens of the small community have to deal with the environmental and ecological impact of the dome, they also have to try to survive the psychological impact as well. As each day passes being cut-off from the rest of the world we catch a glimpse of how otherwise ordinary citizens degrade through the stress of power outages, food shortages, and power grabs. The story runs at a break-neck speed in spite of its volume. I plowed through the over one thousand pages in four days.
The couple of nits I would pick with the novel is most of the characters and the ending. While King usually writes interesting characters in his novels he also usually suffers from stereotyping said characters. I won't go into too much detail but every stereotype from small town America is well represented in this book. As for the ending, usually my biggest gripe with King novels, it seemed a little forced and a little anti-climatic. It certainly didn't distract from the story too much but it just left me feeling: "oh well, that's it?".
Recommended for horror, science fiction, and thriller fans, i.e. Stephen King fans. A massive narrative on an epic scale similar to "The Stand" with literally hundreds of characters and situations.
One final note. I really got a kick out of the mention of Lee Child's famous character Jack Reacher a couple of times in this book. Nifty.