The Ants Go Marching

Under the Dome: A NovelA review of Under the Dome by Stephen King

Late in Stephen King's wrist twisting (over 1000 pages) horror epic, Under the Dome, Rusty Everett, just one of the doomed citizens of the entombed Maine town of Chester's Mill, draws a metaphor between their current woeful predicament and that of the ants he and friends cruelly set afire under a magnifying glass in their youth. The Chester's Millers are the ants scurrying under the mysterious dome which one day just seemed to drop from the heavens, neatly, over their little burgh. But if the townsfolk are ants, then they are most certainly two species: Black and Red, let's say. One group blindly following the second selectman, Big Jim Rennie, an overt car dealer and covert meth lord; the other, enlightened to Rennie's nefarious misdeeds and allied with the convenient scapegoat, outsider Dale (Barbie) Barbara.

Barbara, a part-time short-order cook just passin' through, is also a veteran of the Iraq War; a former Lieutenant, who is elevated in rank and put in charge by his old commander, Colonel Cox. Cox is running the investigation and rescue of Chester's Mill on the outside, but, alas, nothing seems to be able to penetrate the enigmatic bubble which isolates the town from the rest of Earth. To Big Jim Rennie, this whole situation is not so much a disaster as an opportunity. He takes charge quickly, after the chief of police meets with an unfortunate if gruesome end, demonizing Barbara and recruiting young thugs, his own son included, to enforce his law

In this book, King doesn't shy away from political commentary by drawing parallels to history. Citizens sport armbands to show their alliance to Big Jim and their disdain for the transient Dale Barbara, reminding the reader of Nazi Germany. That Rennie happens to be the second in charge of the Selectmen, a puppet master to the First Selectman, Andy Sanders, whose wife happens to be the first casualty of the dome, is a sly metaphor not lost on this reader. Fundamental Christian ideology loaded down with its accompanying baggage of hypocrisy plays a large role in this morality tale as well.

The horror master populates his imperiled town with many provocative characters: Julia Shumway, the editor of the town journal, an attractive older woman and love interest to the ex-soldier, Barbara; Junior Rennie, Big Jim's returning progeny, resident psycho and Barbie's foil; "Scarecrow" Joe McClatchy, genius teenager who, along with his skater buds, Benny and Norrie, makes a key discovery; Phil "Chef" Bushey, Rennie's meth-addled, born again crystal chemist; Romeo Burpee, wealthy department store owner; and "Sloppy" Sam Verdreaux, the Christ-like town drunk. All of these personalities, borne of the author's fictive world, have a complex history of their own which guides them and in turn King's story to its apocalyptic conclusion. But in the end, what it really comes down to is not so much vengeful heroism, but rather a surrendering to a higher power, merely a pismire's plea for pity, that is their saving grace.

~Book Jones~ 4 Stars