Under the Dome – A Book Review


Just got out from under the dome and am breathing in the fresh air.


Reading this book was a seriously claustrophobic experience. This is a story about a small town trapped underneath a giant dome. Nobody can get in or out. Just the premise alone has me breaking into a cold sweat, I can’t bear the feeling of being trapped. And though this book was a chunkster and all, I just whizzed through this book so that I could get to the ending and get out of the dome, just like all the characters in the book.

At the end, I just let out a huge sigh of relief and a big gulp of fresh air. Or at least it seemed like that, that’s how thrilling this book is.

Book Synopsis

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

My Review

Like you might have guessed, this book was one hell of an immersive read. I just couldn’t let go of the book. Even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.

A lot of recent Stephen King books (remember Cell?) have been just meh to me of late. But Under the Dome is Stephen King back at close to his best work.

The book starts off with a bang – with the descent of the dome, and this is King at his best – almost 100+ pages of gruesome deaths, murder, and chunks of dead bodies. I have highlighted some excerpts from this section of the book here.

Of course, the book sags a bit in the middle. It is to be expected in such a huge chunkster. The middle of the book forks into two directions:

  • People investigating the dome and how to get out from under it.
  • The impact of the dome on the people living in the town – the ugly small-town politics, the environmental impact of the dome, and so on

Of the above two threads, the second one is given the most prominence throughout the book. In many ways, this book is like a Lord of the Flies only enacted by adults.

Big Jim Rennie is one of the leaders of the town and he uses the dome and the uncertainty of the townspeople to establish his leadership and dominance. Bold and ruthless, he is willing to do whatever it takes to get whatever he wants.

I found his character a little too broad and as the book proceeds he becomes more and more like a caricature. However, I was willing enough to overlook it as the book becomes even more entertaining when he goes over the top.

I do wish that some more focus was spent in the middle of the book on the causes and nature of the dome itself. Because not enough time is devoted to the dome itself, the ending (which is absolutely over the top fantastic otherwise), did not have the impact it should have.

The heroes of the book finally getting out from under the dome was such an anti-climax. But then, I find Stephen King almost always falters at the end, and compared to some other terrible King book endings, this one was okay and I ended the book a happy camper.

Overall a total joyride of a read. There are issues in the story, yes, total lack of character development, sagging middle, an ending just to end the book, but in spite of these flaws, the book worked for me and how.

Great read!

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

About the TV Series

Of course as soon as I finished the book, I wanted to take a look at the TV series. Priya had commented on my teaser post that the trailer seemed pretty gory.

I think I have a high tolerance for gore because I didn’t mind it so much. But I was quite startled by the look of the actor playing Big Jim Rennie. From the book I was expecting an overweight man with a big belly and mean eyes. The actor doesn’t look quite mean and hard enough. Of course, I shouldn’t judge just from the trailer alone, but that was my first thought.

Have you seen the TV series? Read the book? Which is better?

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  • I love your rating system at the end of the post Nish! What a great addition! I’m glad you liked this. I’m thinking of reading one or two books from Stephen King this year and I’m thinking of this one and The Stand. I can understand why the experience was claustrophobic. I’ll let you know when I read it 🙂

    • Nishita

      Thanks @fiveeyedbookworm:disqus I am hoping to improve the rating system a little bit more but am running out of ideas, I guess 🙂

      Yeah, I get claustrophobic easily while reading books where protagonists are confined to one area. This one shouldn’t have been too bad, but every time they started talking about the staleness of the air and stuff like that, I got that feeling again 🙂

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  • Lord of the Flies with adults – that’s a perfect description. But what I love about King is that his allegories work even without the intended deeper meanings. The book is just so engaging, and intriguing – it’s a lesson in morality and a mystery at the same time! I think with such a long book, we begin to form our expectations for the ending, and in that respect, it did not maybe live up to the build up. But I liked the ‘explanation’ for its sheer obvious simplicity! I guess my gore-tolerance is lower than yours, but if the series does ever air in India, I’ll be hooked on to it from Day 1. 🙂

    • Nishita

      @priyatabularasa:disqus after I wrote my review, I looked up some other ones, and it seemed that many people felt that King was comparing the administration – Jim Rennie and co to Bush and his cronies. I didn’t see the comparison when I read it, but it definitely sounds like it could be true.

  • veens

    I was JUST about to TeLL you that thIs story has been made into a sERIes 🙂 BUT YOU alreADY know! (ignore the caps, MY Laptop IS aCTinG cRAZy theSe DAYS)

    • Nishita

      @veens:disqus haha, did your son have something to do with that?

  • Wanton Ruminating

    Hmmm… why is it so difficult for me to figure out the comments section here I just don’t know. As I was saying,I think you are really brave to be reading Stephen King. Remember Dreamcatcher. Couldn’t go to the loo for weeks after that! Haven’t bought a Stephen king since then, I just start shaking whenever I pick up any of his works. That guy is terrifying. *shudder*

    • Nishita

      @wantonruminating:disqus is the comments section not displaying properly? Or is it that the sub-headings in the post are too distracting with their lines and stuff? I am still figuring out the look myself too 🙁

      • Wanton Ruminating

        No no!! I have fallen into the habit of just clicking a comment and watching it appear on wordpress posts…. Now I am permanently logged into disqus all will be well!! And your blog looks lovely!!

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    This sounds like a good book that could have used a little editing.

    • Nishita

      @bermudaonion_kathy:disqus yeah, it’s a huge book, but very quick moving. Maybe a little editing, yeah. But overall, I didn’t feel the pain of a huge book.

  • Really like the new look of your site! I am yet to read some Stephen King… I just can’t get myself to

  • Also, did you revamp your site? I love it!

    • Nishita

      @aprilthesteadfastreader:disqus yeah, did a total revamp, and thanks 🙂

  • I liked Under the Dome quite a bit. I’ve heard King himself describe it as an inverse version of The Stand, but I think I like your description of Lord of the Flies as enacted by adults even better. 🙂

    I agree with most of your thoughts on this book, it was a ton of fun. I love character heavy novels but it did feel a like character development (and Dome development) was a little limited.

    I read this in January 2010… I don’t even REMEMBER the ending… though looking back at my Goodreads review I wrote, “I know it’s long, but definitely worth the read, even if the end is a bit anti-climactic, there’s enough action in the rest of the book to propel it along.”

    The TV series is just kind of ‘meh’ to me… when it started I watched it regularly, but then fell off (though I love the cow chopped in half during the opening sequence) … I haven’t finished it even though it’s available on one of the streaming services that I subscribe to. I think the second season is due to air in the U.S. this summer.

    Whew! I got a little wordy there! Thanks for linking up!

    • Nishita

      @aprilthesteadfastreader:disqus limited character development? I would say practically none, but the pace and action of the book made up for it.

      Sad the TV series is meh, I would have expected more of it considering its backed by Spielberg.

      That cow scene sounds mind-blowing 🙂

  • Didi B.

    I bought Under the Dome last year for 2€ and it still sits untouched on the shelf. Not so sure it’s going to be a priority this year. I think I’ll try to read it next year. It’ll be my first King book since I don’t really enjoy reading horror. I thought Under the Dome would be doable for me. What do you think.

    • Nishita

      @didib:disqus I am just the same as you, I think. I was sitting on reading this book for the past 6-8 months almost.

      I think there’s no tearing hurry to read it. It’s entertaining but it’s no classic. Btw, even though it’s gory in places, I don’t think this is particularly scary or full of horror either.

  • Rachaita H

    Hey! Just wanted to drop by, say hi and ask you to take a look at http://www.indiabookstore.net/bookish.

    • Nishita

      @rachaitah:disqus hey, thanks for visiting and commenting. I visit bookish regularly, love the posts there 🙂

      • Rachaita H

        Wonderful to hear! Thank you and spread the word? =)

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