At 1074 pages, or 30 discs for the audio version, Stephen King’s latest novel is quite a commitment. Even my journey to its successful completion was complicated. I’m a Hiram alum, but I’m also a reference librarian at the Twinsburg Public Library—so my initial checkout of the book was short-lived, as there were other patrons clamoring for the book, and I could not keep it out for more than two weeks. I’m a sporadic reader, often stopping in the middle of what I’m reading to pick up the latest, hottest thing; it eventually took me over two months to finish King’s purple behemoth. Yet the book was satisfying in a way that many other books are not; because it was such a commitment, seeing it through to the end seemed an achievement.
The premise is oddly similar to that of The Simpsons Movie, in which Springfield is encased by a large dome, but King maintains that he had been working on the idea in the 1970s, long before the 2007 cartoon. And while The Simpsons Movie is a farce, King’s novel is deadly serious. When the mysterious dome pops up over the Maine town of Chester’s Mill, a plane flown by two residents crashes into it and is immediately destroyed. They are only the first of many casualties to the unexplained phenomenon.
The tone and scope of the novel is similar to King’s earlier work, The Stand. Under the Dome explores the lives and minds of a cast of hundreds of characters, all of whom are struggling to survive in an extraordinary environment. There are the likeable protagonists: Rusty Everett, a physician’s assistant who must run the hospital when the town’s only doctor dies of a heart attack; Dale Barbara, a drifter with a military past; and Julia Shumway, editor of the town newspaper, the Democrat. And there are the villains, most notably Big Jim Rennie, a town politician with disturbing dreams of power and a grudge against Barbara. King paints the characters with a deft brush—it’s not difficult to keep track of their actions and motivations, even with so many to remember. Indeed, they will remain in your brain for days after finishing the novel. It’s hard to let go after being with them for so long.
Bottom line? While the task may seem daunting, Stephen King’s Constant Readers won’t be disappointed in the end.