The first in its trilogy, Nova Spark‘s apocalyptic, alien novel Dome is filled with characters figuring themselves out as their home disappears and a new questionable home arises that forces them to find the truth and what is real home.
Alternating between the point of views of a father and daughter, Sam and Emma, the story begins with Sam, who is having an affair and taking his life and family for granted. His daughter, Emma, who does well in school, is just as unenthusiastic about life, manufacturing drugs in a lab to sell to other students. But it is when Sam starts having dreams about the end of the world and is compelled to act on them to try to save Earth, his entire family, his wife, Kat, and Emma, along with thousands of others are transported to another world – one manufactured by a alien race, The Syrion, to simulate home. Yet what they soon begin to discover is that this new home is not home sweet home and more like a lab where they are the animal experiments.
Spark’s story is a narrative about how a crisis takes one out of their comfort zone or rut but can revitalize strained or dying relationships between people. The destruction of Earth and the suspicions about the Syrion brings Sam, Emma and Kat together again. It is also like an intergalactic versioning of history — the alien Syrions claim to “save” humans from their own destruction but it turns out that the former group may have actually caused the destruction of the other’s home or abducted them and quarantine them for their own desires, for experimentation, for control, for power. Sound familiar?
Although the opening is a bit off-putting at first because it reads like a stage or script description or directions, probably because the book was originally a script, and Sam’s character is not favorable from the start, Sparks does develop the story well in terms of the plot, alternating between the voices of Sam and Emma that are clearly individual yet interwoven, giving a good balance between familiarity and mystery, and the world-building of the Syrion. The Syrions keep a feel of mystery as we find out bits and pieces of who they are from their look (grey skin, long black nails, white hair, big pupils) to their world, Syri (dry and mountainous, mostly dark because of weak suns), to their lack of emotion in a human sense and vast knowledge of Earth life as proof they were studying Earthlings for a while. That last part and the mysterious nature of the Syrion, whether they are friends or foes, adds further depth for the story that can be expanded into the next book. The Dome may look like home, but whatever is disturbing that is happening out of sight makes me nervous about Sam, Emma, and the rest of the humans’ future and where they will find a new home.