Under the Dome by Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton, RRP $39.99):
This is the one I’d been not-so-patiently waiting for: an epic offering from the king of epic offerings, Stephen King.
It’s a monster of a book, with close to 900 addictive pages in a weighty book that bears the label: his finest epic since The Stand.
I’m always a little dubious when I read statements like that on the front cover of a book but in this case I’m happy to say it lived up to the hype.
Chester’s Mill is, like so many of the settings for his books, a small town in Maine. One fine day, all out of the blue, Chester’s Mill is hit by a mysterious event: it is cut off from the rest of the world by the sudden appearance of an invisible dome, some kind of force field that can’t be broken, blown up or bombed.
I raised an eyebrow when I read this on the back cover of the book shouldn’t this come as a surprise to the reader?
But no, young Mr King gives us a heads up on that particular turn of events so that when the dome comes down and in the process causes a plane crash, chops off the hand of an unlucky gardener (see, I knew there was a reason I didn’t like weeding) and has an equally devastating effect on an equally unlucky woodchuck it doesn’t come as too much of a shock.
Throughout the first hours of the dome we meet some of the Chester’s Mill townsfolk who will feature prominently as the story unfolds, including reluctant resident Dale Barbara and the murderous Junior Rennie and his dad, Big Jim Rennie, used-car salesman and wannabe world leader extraordinaire.
Of course there are plenty of other characters, more than 100 of them in fact, and there’s also a handy little cheat sheet at the start of the book for the reader to refer back to if they get their characters a bit muddled up. There’s also a handy little map of the town, just so you can get your bearings.
Early on in the book we get the delightfully gruesome details we’ve come to love and expect: someone scalped by a broken windscreen, gaping holes left by richocheting bullets and decaying corpses.
As the story builds, so does the heat in the town, both via the climate and politically.
This is classic King, with the slow-burn build up to madness, mayhem and a good, old-fashioned battle between an imperfect good and evil.