Under the Dome

One of the things I wondered about after reading Stephen King's latest 1,000 page novel Under the Dome is how he became so popular, especially in a global sense? Each one of his works is so deeply rooted in a kitchy Americanism that is particular to King's own experiences being raised in New England it can be disconnecting to American audiences.

Let me point out, before continuing, that I am unapologetically a fan of Stephen King. Even so, Under the Dome more clearly shows King's age and small town peculiarities as a fault rather than a gift to the storytelling. Outdated slang, references to culture and technology that are recent but not so recent to be current all go towards making Under the Dome something that reads like lightning, but leaves no taste afterward.


Started in the 70s but left off for bigger and better novels, Under the Dome is the story of a mysterious invisible barrier that completely isolates the town of Chester's Mill from the rest of the world. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out - and that includes air, which is getter harder to come by as the days go on. It's a chance for King to put people under a microscope and observe how a town tears itself apart. Chester's Mill is filled with your typical King characters - there's the blow-hard Town Councilman, the corrupt and lazy police, the psychotic dude, the devout and insane church leader - they're people we've come to know in dozens of other King books, but here they feel just as tired and listless as the air trapped in the Dome.


The truth behind what's happening to the town is an enormous joke - you probably won;t see it coming, but that's because you don't think King would ever do something so silly. He does, and while Under the Dome was a fun enough read, it doesn't have any staying power, and feels like a big disappointment after some of King's later, more mature work.