On a sunny autumn day, a woman reaching for a garden squash loses her hand and a grazing deer his head when an invisible and impenetrable bubble clamps down around this rural town. Helicopters, planes, trucks and cars slam into the dome with deadly results.
Life under this impenetrable big top isn't just the weirdest show on Earth, it's the only show as the media, the military and the loved ones of the dome's trapped population converge on its impermeable borders.
"It's some kind of force field, like in a Star Trick movie," surmises one of the local yokels. But who or what is to blame? The military-industrial complex? Mad scientists? Extraterrestrials? Or according to Big Jim Rennie, one of the book's most evil and compelling characters, "the work of God's righteous hand."
Selectman Rennie, a used-car salesman with delusions of grandeur, sees the dome as his chance to become king of this newly created principality – maybe even make the cover ofTime.
Under his lumbering, maniacal reign, "legal is whatever we decide" becomes the mantra of Chester's Mill's police force.
But Rennie has a formidable opponent in Col. Dale "Barbie" Barbara, a decorated Iraq war veteran among the thousand or so stuck under the dome. Barbie is tapped by the U.S. president – Rennie refers to him as "the one who has three names including the terrorist one in the middle" – to govern the dome's populace. But Rennie is having none of it.
Readers will find the ensuing battle between good and evil staggeringly addictive. It's bloody and heated, and just when you think things can't get any worse for Barbie and his band of freedom fighters, they do.
Readers can wallow in this glorious novel's metaphoric and oh-so au courant messages about U.S. domination, freedom of the press, torture and environmental abuse, but they also can come to this novel just for the story.
King dishes up a fantastic you'll-never-see-it-coming culprit behind this domesday scenario. But it's the story of the people – the human zoo – trapped inside the dome that's most gripping.
In these days of text messages and Twitter novels, King grips us in a chokehold of un-put-downable fascination for more than 1,000 pages.