Stephen King’s latest novel is about a small town that is suddenly and mysteriously taken off the grid. Events gives the town bully free rein in this dystopian tale, titled Under the Dome , to be released on November 10, 2009.
It is a rewrite of a novel King attempted twice before, under the title The Cannibals. As King stated on his official site, these two unfinished works “were two very different attempts at the same idea, which concerns itself with how people behave when they are cut off from the society they’ve always belonged to. ” From the material originally written in the 1980s, only the first chapter is included in the new novel.”
The New York Times review says: “the people of Chester’s Mill, Me., get a letter from the president. Typically exalted in its rhetoric, it wrings a tear from at least one grateful citizen. But Big Jim Rennie, the town’s second selectman, is disgusted. He scowls at the printed sheet. Yep, there it is in black and white: “The bastard had signed it himself, and using all three of his names, including the terrorist one in the middle.”
“Why is Obama writing to Chester’s Mill? Because an enormous transparent dome, not breachable by prayer, bullet, laser beam or cruise missile, has suddenly and unaccountably descended over the town. Its provenance is uncertain (aliens? North Korea?), but its effect is incontrovertible: no one gets in, no one gets out. Some kind of energy field is attached to it; at close range it blows up iPods and (bad news for incautious oldsters) pace makers, and sends a gust of “horripilation” through the human nervous system.”
The paperback edition of Just After Sunset, released on September 29, 2009, included an excerpt from the novel and
author Dan Simmons, to whom Stephen King sent the manuscript for Under the Dome as a gift, commented on it on May 5, 2009, calling the novel “huge, generous, sprawling, infinitely energetic […], absolutely enjoyable and impressive.” Publishers Weekly reviewed the novel on September 11, 2009, calling it “formidably complex and irresistibly compelling.” The review said the book contains “themes and images from King’s earlier fiction, and while this novel doesn’t have the moral weight of, say, The Stand, nevertheless, it’s a nonstop thrill ride as well as a disturbing, moving meditation on our capacity for good and evil”.
On the day of the release, Stephen King will be in New York City at The TimesCenter to promote the book. In mid-October, Under the Dome became one of the highly-discounted book preorders on Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and Target, sparking a “price war” between the retailers.
A Collector’s Edition (limited to 25,000 copies) and a Signed Edition (limited to 1,500 copies) will be published by Scribner concurrently with the regular trade edition. These editions will feature printed endpapers, 27 illustrations by The New Yorker cartoonist Matthew Diffee, a ribbon marker, and will also contain a deck of cards with the Diffee illustrations. These editions will be printed on specialty paper and be housed in a stamped slipcase.
On September 15, 2009, Stephen King’s official site posted a 61-page facsimile excerpt from King’s original novel The Cannibals, consisting of the first four chapters of the original typescript. A further 60 pages were posted on October 4. The excerpts served to also document how long ago King had had the idea of being under a dome:
Several Internet writers have speculated on a perceived similarity between Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie, where, […] Springfield is isolated inside a large glass dome […]. Said King on his site:”I can’t speak personally to this, because I have never seen the movie, and the similarity came as a complete surprise to me…although I know, from personal experience, that the similarity will turn out to be casual. For the doubters, this excerpt [from The Cannibals] should demonstrate that I was thinking dome and isolation long before Homer, Marge, and their amusing brood came on the scene.”[
Negativity is such an interesting phenomenon.
If King’s books appear increasingly bloated, more superficial and less than “stylistically complete” it’s probably due directly to fame and associated editorial freedom. Where his earlier books passed through the hands of working editors, his latest efforts (some of which aren’t even issued as traditional books) appear to be disgorged whole with minimal interference from publishers. For example, compare the original edition of THE STAND to the later, much larger edition, replete with rewritten bits and large sections cut King’s editors.
It’s not that he’s run out of ideas, but he’s getting lazy and he’s become so big that he apparently doesn’t have to – or desire to – listen to anybody else’s suggestions.
When an author begins to resurrect ideas from the mid ’70s that weren’t good enough to complete and release even as Bachman titles at the time, and starts reissuing previously published series as graphic novels, the thrill (at least for me) has clearly gone.