Wow. In the author's note at the end of this book, King wrote "I tried to write a book that would keep the pedal consistently to the metal."
I think he succeeded. If there is one thing that this book is not, it's a leisurely walk through the park.
And this is what makes King my favorite author (well, the main thing, anyway), when he writes a fast-paced novel, I don't dare look away. Not only is it fast-paced, but King brings the characters and their community to life so convincingly that I'm afraid of what could be happening with my back turned, and I don't want to miss anything. It's more like watching than reading, and every time I closed the book, even for just a second, I would wonder what was happening that I wasn't there to observe. If this is what it means to give a book life, then King is like Dr. Frankenstein, only he knows exactly what he is doing and is more than willing to shape and guide and love these newly formed creations of his.
Under The Dome is like a return to an older, more ruthless version of King. I would not have been one bit surprised if this book had been published as "the last (and we really, really mean it this time guys... maybe) posthumous Richard Bachman novel". It reminds me of some of his older books, with little hints of The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, IT, The Stand, and The Dead Zone, and then had minute references to the Dark Tower series and The Talisman.
There is so damn much packed into this book that I know I can't talk about it all without writing a review that's almost as long as the book itself.
Big Jim Rennie, your typical used-car salesman turned power-hungry politician, reminded me of Greg Stillson, only more Caligula-esque. He's narcissistic, and thinks that the world, or maybe at least the town, revolves around him and should kiss his feet in an offering of thanks for managing their pitiful little lives for them. He's selfish and cruel and greedy and manipulative. Let's just say that he takes full advantage of the Dome to achieve his personal agenda.
He pulls the strings behind the scenes that set in motion a series of events that aren't exactly pretty. He increases the size of the police force exponentially, making sure that the new recruits are all young, hot-blooded and authority-wielding men, creates a state of fear and panic, and effectively turns the town into a police-state.
There are a lot of references to Hitler, but I likened it quite a lot to the Patriot Act Mentality of the most recent Bush administration: You're either with US, or with THEM. It shows, at least on the reactionary side, what can happen when we lose ourselves to fear and want someone else to take care of us and make everything all better.
There is also a strong environmental warning here. Be careful what you manufacture, because you may just be forced to live with it and pay the price for it now, and not in some indefinite and indefinable future generation.
The characters in this book were of course brilliant, as I think all of King's characters are. They are fully realized and alive, and at any moment feel like they could walk off the page and into existence. I loved Barbie (Dale Barbara), Rusty, Twitch, Julia, Joe, Norrie, Benny, Linda and the kids... I loved the way that they acted the way that REAL people act, and not the way that over-the-top book characters act. I loved that they were who they were to the end, and rolled with the times, but didn't let the times change them.
I could say a lot more, but I think I'll leave it at that. I loved this book, as I fully expected to. It was definitely a roller-coaster, and even though I was afraid of what the next brutal, cringe-inducing page would bring, I couldn't have stopped reading if you'd paid me. This is why King is my favorite author.