About an original idea: plot similarities to James Blish The Box (1949) The core plot from King's Under the Dome rang a bell in my mind not in favor to it as an original. While checking details on Wikipedia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Dome) for acknowledged similarities to existing works of fiction (e.g. Simpsons Movie), I finally dug up James Blish's short story The Box, first published in 1949, which I read about 35 years ago.
The Box depicts parts of the city of New York being sealed off under a visible barrier (actually: a dome) of harmonic electronic resonance, cutting through soft material but not penetrating the ground.
The Simpsons Movie may be an accidential parallel to Under the Dome, but another one even preceding this book's manuscript (late '70s) by several decades?
Huh. So the premise at the starting point of the novel has similarities to a science fiction short story written 60 years ago? Gosh, I wonder how many novels that can be said about.
Seriously, there are tens of thousands of published science fiction novels and short stories. To expect any speculative fiction to have zero similarity to any of those is unrealistic. Heck, I have heard that there are only between 1 and 36 basic plots in all literature, once you strip out all the fine details. Somehow I suspect that the fine details that King has in this novel are different than the fine details in Blish's story.
I wasn't aware of the Blish story but this does sound awfully similar to Clifford Simak's Nebula nominated 1965 Novel, All Flesh is Grass, in which a small town becomes completely enclosed in a dome-shaped force field of unknown origin.
i think there were even a few twilight zones that toyed with these core ideas already. this book sounds essentially like a mash-up of at least three of them...
but i think the bigger issue here is that the characters and motivations are stereotypical king. and while that may be comforting formula for king and fans, it is also not 'original'. king is now just cannibalizing his own work. how many tales where a town or group of people is cut off from the rest of the world and enacts the lord of the flies? with a rich or religious person trying to control it? ....these characters read straight out of Mist, needful things, etc etc. and this type of micro-society struggle is something King was heavily inspired from Night of the Living Dead. he said in an interview, that was less about the monsters outside and more about the monsters inside. Ever since then, that has been the theme of his stronger/most popular works. exchange zombies for mist or a force field, it doesn't matter, it's about the people inside- and king has shown us these players many times before...sigh.
Yeah, I immediately thought of the Twilight Zone episode as well -- I think it was the Twilight Zone? Could have been Outer Limits or something, where a town is encased in something like glass. I recall someone smashing their car into it and that didn't go very well...
But if this is a discussion on "originality", I don't think there's a lot of that left to be had, at least not when it comes to a core idea. Just about any story you could dream up has already been done somewhere else by someone else.
I don't think it's important for a story's core concepts to be "original", though. The point is to do a good storytelling. Every core idea may have 100 stories about it already but not all of them are going to be good. I decided this while watching Mel Gibson's "The Patriot", actually. It's a very unoriginal movie -- straight from the playbook of action movies everywhere, it's the old "skilled war hero wants to retire in peace until someone (pick one) kills his wife/shoots his dog/steals his truck/burns down his house/etc, so that he comes out of retirement and Gits Em." Standard stuff. But it was a well done revisit of that theme and I liked it. It didn't need to be a completely original idea. I'm not sure that's possible or desirable (if nobody has done it yet, it's probably because it's a terrible idea).
Incidentally, I thought "Apocolypto", for all its acclaim, was really just a retelling of Rambo -- dude with wilderness survival experience gets wronged by The Man (they drew first blood!) and then uses that experience against the greater numbers of more heavily armed city slickers who come after him.
"Originality" really shouldn't be the point. It's not necessary.