On what appears to be a normal day, the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, is suddenly and inexplicably enclosed in a giant dome. In the days that follow, the town suffers from dwindling resources, increasing air pollution, and a descent into tyranny and mob mentality.
King masterfully handles an enormous cast. Each and every character evokes strong emotion. The internal conflicts and contradictions make for interesting, three-dimensional characters, and engage the reader from the beginning.
The sacrificing of minor characters the reader doesn’t know, such as the airplane and car crashes in the opening scenes, successfully sets Chester’s Mill within the context of the larger world. This helps the reader to feel the isolation when the town is cut off.
However, the population of Chester’s Mill is somewhat derivative of the cast in Salem’s Lot: the outsider who leads the fight, the teenage prodigy with special knowledge of the situation, the dysfunctional family with an infant living in a trailer.
King also has an unfortunate habit of tipping off the reader just before a plot twist. The constant use of “little did he know …” or “that was the last time she would ever …” means there are no real surprises. With more subtle foreshadowing, this could have been a riveting, can’t-put-it-down read.
The only twist not broadcast in advance is the ending. The sheer futility of the whole situation makes for a truly stunning conclusion. The ending transformed an okay book into an enjoyable read.