Split-Scream? Stephen KingAEs aeDomeAE among His Best Tales

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Split-Scream? Stephen KingAEs aeDomeAE among His Best Tales


Byline: Ted Anthony Associated Press

By now with Stephen King, itAEs easy to think this is all kind of ridiculous. An invisible dome descending upon a small town in Maine? People trapped inside, trying to figure out what on Earth is going on and u as always in a Stephen King story u dying in droves?

Good Lord. Is the King of Really Heavy Books u the author who is a one-man argument for the hernia-preventing benefits of e-books u running out of viable plot devices?

This is, after all, the guy who wrote entire volumes about cell phones turning fellow citizens into ravenous zombies, about possessed and murderous 1958 Plymouths and about evil, immortal clowns who live in the sewers and prey upon children. Really, now. How much gimmickry can one writer expect us to stomach?

Those statements are all completely fair and true. Trouble is, when it comes to "Under the Dome," theyAEre also all entirely inaccurate.

Because "Under the Dome" is one of those works of fiction that manages to be both pulp and high art, that successfully u and very improbably u captures the national zeitgeist at this particularly strange and breathless period in American history.

The town of ChesterAEs Mill, Maine u just up the road from the equally fictional Castle Rock, home to so many of KingAEs unsettling yarns u is minding its own business one dazzling October day when an unseen force field descends upon it, slicing in two pretty much anything that was crossing the edge of town at that moment.

What happens in ensuing days is even more unsettling. Except for Internet service and spotty cell-phone signals, the town is isolated and imprisoned in plain sight. And inside the dome, society slowly, inexorably, almost methodically begins to fall apart.

King is usually classified as a horror writer, but he is more of a chameleon than that. HeAEs capable of shifting from genre to genre at will, particularly in his short stories. "Under the Dome," however, is such a hodgepodge of genres that it ends up transcending genre entirely, and in the best of ways. The most accurate way of characterizing it in a single line may be "Our Town" meets "Silent Spring" meets "Lord of the Flies."

For it begins becoming evident, in the usual serpentine King way, that the environment and the way we treat it have everything to do with why the dome is there and what it might mean. …

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