WARNING – PLOT SPOILER
I will never look at ants in the same way again. In fact, I promise not to stamp on them if they’re where I don’t want them to be.
The plot of this one was the usual Stephen King fare really. And this is not a criticism. That’s why we all read him. There are the usual bad guys who have not so hidden agendas. There are lots of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances trying to make sense of a world that has gone crazy. There are lots of people who seize the opportunity when bad things happen, to make things better for themselves. In the end, it comes down to Stephen King knowing a lot about human nature. He makes his characters believable by showing us incrementally what they do and feel and how they act toward others and of course, he then puts them under the magnifying glass and shines the sun in.
The small New England town of Chester’s Mill, just near Castle Rock has just become sealed off from the rest of America by a giant dome. The dome is invisible and of course at first several people die as they realise that they are in fact, in a massive upturned jar. The dome is just permeable enough to let air in and out, but not enough to allow winds and breezes from outside. Within five days the air inside the dome is becoming unbreathable. The people are living in a society ruled by a self-serving used car salesman come selectman Jim Rennie who is obviously becoming more and more megalomaniacal by the minute. You are either with Big Jim, or against him. You really don’t want to be against him.
Dale Barbara, Barbie, is our hero. He is an ex-soldier who became trapped in the town because of ill luck. He’d worked there for a while, but was leaving after one too many run ins with the local hoods led by Big Jim’s son Junior. Barbie is chosen by the US govt. to take over Chester’s Mill during the emergency. Big Jim outmanoeuvres him and jails him on a trumped up charge of murder and then proceeds to create him as a boogyman figure to rally the town under his own leadership. The fact that Big Jim has a finger in every pie helps him in this. Everyone, it seems, owes him something.
What is worse is that some of the people who believe Barbie’s innocence, including Julia Shumway, the town’s newspaper editor, find out that there is something strange going on out on a hill outside town and it may have something to do with the Dome. The rest of the plot details the race against time to find out what is causing the Dome and how to get the town back on track. They all need to do this without Big Jim knowing and without the police force of young thugs that he has tracking them down.It wouldn’t be a King novel without lots of violence and horror, but he makes it come from the people, not so much from the creators of the Dome. The twist at the end, which I won’t give away completely, was interesting, but I did feel slightly let down by it.
The tension is suitably tight and the action is, if at times predictable, also fascinating. This will rank up there with the likes of The Stand as an epic tale told by a great writer of genre fiction.