I cut my youthful literary teeth on Stephen King. I believe The Stand to be his greatest feat, an epic beyond epics. (Surprisingly, the made-for-TV-movie is pretty compelling. We own it and watch it every couple of years.) I had heard Under the Dome was reminiscent of the good old King, far from his newer endeavors of The Cell and Lisey's Story, which I couldn't even bring myself to read. When I started to listen to this 30-disc monster, I chuckled to myself. I could pick his prose out of dozens. It is sooooo vintage King. Almost too vintage. But I will get to that in a minute.
So here is the drill. Small Maine town (shocker I know), where the townspeople are rudely jolted out of their daily drudgery by the appearance of a very large, transparent dome that has encased the town proper. By disc two, there was a sizable body count resulting from cars and an airplane colliding with the dome, people being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having arms/legs/heads cut off. Hmmm. Curious. You can take it all from here. The army, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer are on the scene, on the outside looking in. No power. Limited supply of food, firemen/police/doctors, propane. Greenhouse effect = hot. Polluted air. But those are just the physical problems.
Then there are the people, the real heart of every King tome. There are the unsung heroes...a Gulf war veteran cum short order cook, a nosey journalist, a whiz kid, a physician's assistant, a town drunk, a college professor...who bubble to the surface throughout the entire story. Frailties are present, but intent is pure. Everyman, if you will.
And oh, the evil ones! King has a brilliant gift for making my stomach burn from the loathing of the lecherous. A newly-formed police force that resembles the Hitler youth, a money-grubbing dentist, the homicidal son of the town's unofficial leader. A leader who is so despicable, he is a stereotype. A bible-thumper, he refuses to curse, but doesn't blink an eye if he must bash someone's head in as a means to the end. A profiteer at the core, who sees this whole dome business as an opportunity.
There is also the splinter cell. Bad guys that march to the beat of their own drum, and are a threat to everyone, including their bad guy brothers. Explosions are involved.
Where am I going with all of this? My prevailing thought throughout this HIGHLY entertaining book was that it is The Stand Redux. That doesn't mean I didn't like it. I wallowed in it. But I knew, in the back of my mind, how it was all going to turn out. It is in the journey that pleasure is derived. And the message. In this case, be kind and have empathy for everyone and everything, including the ants. They have lives too.
There is an enormous cast of characters. Dozens and dozens of names and personalities, so much that it could overwhelm you if you let it. My advice would be to hitch up your skirts (or trousers) and wade through it. Don't sweat it. The important people will find their place in the forefront of your brain eventually.
I had a moment of total fangirl glee somewhere in the middle of the story. I know for a fact, through King's editorial column in EW, that he enjoys Lee Child's Jack Reacher crime thriller series (a personal obsession of mine). He tips his hat to the anti-hero Reacher not once, but twice, with a passing use of Reacher's name in context. I giggled. I loved it. I needed to tell someone, but who do I know that loves King AND Reacher? I told my husband, who gave me a blank stare, then went back to his tirade about the stock market "fat finger" debacle.
I also know that King loves audio books, so I had fairly high expectations of this particular narrator. And he WAS pretty close to awesome. His depiction of the head baddie, Big Jim Rinney, was perfection. Worthy of your darkest, ugliest thoughts.
I've asked myself the question...if this book had been written first, before The Stand, would I love it more? Probably. But that didn't happen, and instead it stands as a paler bridesmaid next to the blushing bride. She is attractive in her own right of course, but is still in her shadow, nevertheless.
4 out of 5 stars