If you watched the CBS TV series of the same name this summer (filmed in the Wilmington, NC area), you may think you already know what happens in the book. Trust me, you don’t. Although Stephen King is a producer on the series, quite a lot was changed from the book. Characters were deleted or changed to varying degrees, plot elements were similarly altered, and the strong rumor is (this review was written before the end of the TV season) that the conclusion and the answer to where the dome came from will also be different from the book. What is the same? The small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine is suddenly and completely sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome and the residents slowly run out of food, fuel, medicine, patience, and in some cases, sanity.
I don’t really “do” Horror, and while I love Stephen King’s writing, I tend to stay with his more Fantasy and Sci-Fi type novels than his Horror (see my reviews for The Gunslinger and 11/22/63). While there are a few scary moments and some pretty gruesome bits in the book version of Under the Dome, I would classify it mostly as a Suspense / Psychological Thriller novel. Another difference between the book and the show is that there is a much larger cast of characters in the book, although (minor spoiler) quite a few do not survive until the end. It’s almost as if George R.R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) wrote a small town sci-fi suspense thriller. In addition to many more characters, there are naturally many more events, twists, turns, red herrings, and dead end leads in the novel as Dale “Barbie” Barbara, Julia Shumway and others go up against “Big Jim” Rennie and try to figure out where the dome came from, how to survive inside it, and if there’s anything they can do to make it go away. Of course, to make a TV series or movie based on a book, much has to be edited out and the pace generally has to be picked up, and in the case of TV, the story arcs need to happen episodically.
I generally liked the TV series, despite how much is different, but I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of the novel. Raul Esparza does a fabulous job embodying the characters of Chester’s Mill, Maine, as the pressure is slowly turned up on those trapped inside this invisible and apparently indestructible dome. One other amusing note about the series: Maine is certainly not known for streets lined with Southern Live Oaks or for having smooth, sandy beaches, although that is what we see on TV. But, don’t let that minor detail detract from your enjoyment of the show, or better yet listen to or read the book instead.
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