“Under the Dome” is perhaps Stephen King’s very best, even if it is anything but typical Stephen King. His trademark brand of paranormal suspense only comes into play in the last third of the novel, yet the remainder successfully diverts from typical King to depict this sociological drama.
Chester’s Mill, Maine—the cliché small, rural town—experiences a bizarre phenomena in the opening chapter: an intangible yet impenetrable wall appears precisely on the town borders, trapping the residents. The next 1,000 pages guide the reader effortlessly through the lives of various residents dealing with the escalating cultural and ecological effects of the Dome.
With risqué themes such as rape, drug use, and necrophilia, this work is not for kids, but adults will love the variety King gives with this cast. He expertly crafts each narrator’s voice distinct from the others, allowing the reader to further delve into everyone's growing paranoia.
Due to his large cast of characters, King does not rest firmly on one protagonist, though Dale “Barbie” Barbara comes close. When antagonist Big Jim Rennee finally justifies arresting Barbie and renders him inactive for a considerable period of time, several other sympathetic characters inherit the story’s reins, so the plot does not suffer. The disconnection may lead the reader to feel somewhat cheated, though.
Hypocritically religious and ceaselessly manipulative, Big Jim’s role as the main antagonist is more solid. His anticlimactic demise, however, remains unsatisfactory considering the degree of pain the reader had been wishing on him all those pages.
Thankfully, his son Junior provides an adequate secondary antagonist—both violent and psychotic, due mainly (unbeknownst to anyone but the reader) to of a brain tumor—with a dramatic end.
King delivers much as he always does with “Under the Dome,” which, though a bit long, thoroughly keeps you intrigued until the end.