Stephen King’s Next Epic: Under the Dome

Details have finally started emerging about Stephen King’s next novel, Under the Dome, which is complete at 1120 pages and set to publish November 10. The official plot synopsis runs like so:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mills, 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.

This post on the Guardian Book Blog (linked via Locus Online) summarizes most of the other info currently known—that the book is a second, more mature take on a story King tried several times to write back in the 1980s, and that it “deals with some of the same issues that The Stand does, but in a more allegorical way.” Elsewhere, King has described the story as concerning “how people behave when they are cut off from the society they’ve always belonged to.”

My reaction: this is a theme he’s dealt with before, and not just in The Stand (which was pretty darn allegorical itself). It reminds me most immediately of The Mist, in which a small town’s residents barricade themselves in a supermarket while the world outside fills with a mysterious and deadly fog. Inside that one building, a claustrophobic world-in-miniature, hierarchies and alliances formed and dissolved, old grudges simmered, new leaders rose, and society’s rules slowly gave way in the face of fear and madness. Under the Dome, of course, would take place on a much larger scale—but it does seem like the scale is significantly smaller than his two other epics of comparable size. The Stand ranged across America, and IT took place over two generations, with an ultimately cosmic mythological scope.

Nonetheless, Stephen King is an author who has more than earned our attention, and while I’m not convinced by the plot summary, I have the hope that there must be something special about a story with a strong enough hold on him to inspire 19 pounds worth of manuscript 25 years after the initial inspiration.

So what do you think? Does Stephen King have another great novel in him?

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