To start, let me warn potential Dome readers. The book is a hard R rating. There is violence, cussing, rape, and other sexually explicit material. I don’t recommend it for kids, teens, or small cute woodland creatures.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
I loved the book. Couldn’t put it down. The story is masterful and original. It constantly kept me guessing and never let me relax. Just when I thought things were going to resolve, King would knock my firm footing out from under me. Even though it is a sci-fy novel, I never found myself saying, “Oh whatever! That couldn’t happen!” King is such a brilliant writer even the most impossible twists in the narrative are believable. Reading Under the Dome was like riding a roller coaster blindfolded. I never knew what was coming next. The novel was a fantastic thrilling experience.
Don’t read on from this point forward. If you haven’t read the Dome and intend what follows will ruin it for you.
The most horrifying and compelling aspect of the book wasn’t the gore, the violence, or the super-natural stuff. It was King’s discussion of the abuse, mis-use, and scramble for power. To quickly summarize, a small town in Maine is inexplicably surrounded one day by an invisible dome. No one can get in or out. Despair quickly begins to set in as airplanes and cars smash against the dome’s impenetrable sides. Through the narrative, the heroes seek to find a solution and try to keep the peace while the villains use the dome to increase their own control and influence over the town. The idea of the Dome was interesting but the discussion of power was awesome. The invisible barrier was a masterful vehicle for the narrative’s dialog about political gaming and the struggle for control. Often I would put the book down at night and not be able to sleep, still wrestling with King’s pictures of manipulation and power. Here are some random thoughts and insights I took away:
Throughout the story the phrase “we all support the team” was used to describe the attitude of the residents of the small town. Sometimes it was in a positive way, like when two elderly women stop to help a victim of a car crash. More often though it was a sinister phrased used to explain why people of the town wanted to keep embarrassing injustices in the shadows. As things like the drug ring in town came into the spot light under the dome the question would be asked, “Why didn’t someone do something about this before it got this out of control?” The answer was, “We all support the team.” I’ve seen this in every business and church I’ve been a part of. We ignore dysfunction because no one wants to address the underlying problems at work. Under the Dome all that dysfunction bubbles to the surface and innocent people are hurt because no one confronted the injustices when they had the chance.
Big Jim was a fantastic bad guy. Seriously, a classic villain I will never forget. He was a wonderful metaphor of unbridled ambition and ego. He justified his actions with the simple claim that his grab for power and glory would be good for the town. He excused his horrible behavior with a beautiful ends-justifies-the-means attitude. Even while beating a man to death with a baseball he assured himself that sacrifices had to be made for the greater good. I’ve seen aspects of Big Jim lurking in the dark places of every leader I’ve worked with (including myself). I think we all have the gift of self-deception Big Jim displays so well hiding in the shadows of our hearts. We all have the potential to do horrible things to others to see a “greater good” accomplished. I’ve seen over and over people crushed by leaders because the peoples efforts were not part of the leader’s vision. Big Jim was a wonderful reminder to me of the worst things about leadership.
King did a wonderful job of showing how people use faith, “God’s will”, and prayer as a weapon of manipulation. In the words of Big Jim, “Never let a politician pray.”
There is a wonderful discussion throughout the narrative of how the misuse of power begins when people are no longer seen as individuals to be valued but rather as objects to be manipulated. Again and again in the story people become pieces on a chess board simply being pushed from one place to another with no thought to their worth. At one point for example Big Jim insights a food riot to solidify the town’s dependence on him. People are seriously injured, but Big Jim celebrates as the town looks to his forceful leadership to bring comfort in the chaos.
I hate to say this…but I must. Under the Dome gives a chilling picture of leadership I’ve seen played in the church world. So often congregatants are treated like cattle being pushed from one pen to the next; they are seen as a mob and thus denied the respect and value individuals demand. Leaders justify mistreating others and belittling their work with their vision. Prayer and the phrase “God’s will” is used to excuse all kinds of ridiculousness. No one in the church is being raped or murdered; but the misuse and abuse of power is absolutely present. I’m sure this is true of every business and small institution. The church is simply what I know so it is where my mind goes.
I could continue to share more about the book but at this point if you are interested it is probably best if you go read the book yourself.
If you’ve read the story I would love to hear your take on it.