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by Stephen King
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Stephen King fans, rejoice! The bodysnatching-aliens tale Dreamcatcher is his first book in years that slakes our hunger for horror the way he used to. A throwback to It, The Stand, and The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher is also an interesting new wrinkle in his fiction.
Four boyhood pals in Derry, Maine, get together for a pilgrimage to their favorite deep-woods cabin, Hole in the Wall. The four have been telepathically linked since childhood, thanks to a searing experience involving a Down syndrome neighbor--a human dreamcatcher. They've all got midlife crises: clownish Beav has love problems; the intellectual shrink, Henry, is slowly succumbing to the siren song of suicide; Pete is losing a war with beer; Jonesy has had weird premonitions ever since he got hit by a car.
Then comes worse trouble: an old man named McCarthy (a nod to the star of the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers) turns up at Hole in the Wall. His body is erupting with space aliens resembling furry moray eels: their mouths open to reveal nests of hatpin-like teeth. Poor Pete tries to remove one that just bit his ankle: "Blood flew in splattery fans as Pete tried to shake it off, stippling the snow and the sawdusty tarp and the dead woman's parka. Droplets flew into the fire and hissed like fat in a hot skillet."
For all its nicely described mayhem, Dreamcatcher is mostly a psychological drama. Typically, body snatchers turn humans into zombies, but these aliens must share their host's mind, fighting for control. Jonesy is especially vulnerable to invasion, thanks to his hospital bed near-death transformation, but he's also great at messing with the alien's head. While his invading alien, Mr. Gray, is distracted by puppeteering Jonesy's body as he's driving an Arctic Cat through a Maine snowstorm, Jonesy constructs a mental warehouse along the lines of The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. Jonesy physically feels as if he's inside a warehouse, locked behind a door with the alien rattling the doorknob and trying to trick him into letting him in. It's creepy from the alien's view, too. As he infiltrates Jonesy, experiencing sugar buzz, endorphins, and emotions for the first time, Jonesy's influence is seeping into the alien: "A terrible thought occurred to Mr. Gray: what if it was his concepts that had no meaning?"
King renders the mental fight marvelously, and telepathy is a handy way to make cutting back and forth between the campers' various alien battlefronts crisp and cinematic. The physical naturalism of the Maine setting is matched by the psychological realism of the interior struggle. Deftly, King incorporates the real-life mental horrors of his own near-fatal accident and dramatizes the way drugs tug at your consciousness. Like the Tommyknockers, the aliens are partly symbols of King's (vanquished) cocaine and alcohol addiction. Mainly, though, they're just plain scary. Dreamcatcher is a comeback and an infusion of rich new blood into King's body of work. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
In an author's note to this novel, the first he's written since his near-fatal accident, King allows that he wrote the first draft of the book by hand. So much for the theory that it's word-processing alone that leads to logorrhea. Yet despite its excessive length, the novel one of the most complex thematically and structurally in King's vast output dazzles and grips, if fitfully. In its suspenseful depiction of an alien invasion, it superficially harkens back to King's early work (e.g., the 1980 novella "The Mist"), but it also features the psychological penetration, word-magic and ripe imagination of his recent stuff (particularly Bag of Bones). The action shuttles between present and past, following primarily the tribulations of a band of five males four regular guys from Derry, Maine (setting of King's It and Insomnia), and their special friend, Duddits, a Down's child (then man) with telepathic abilities. The first chunk of the text offers a tour de force of terror bound in darkest humor, depicting the arrival at the four guys' remote hunting cabin of a man who's fatally ill because he harbors in his bowels an alien invader. Yet the ferocious needle-toothed "shit-weasel" that escapes from him is only one of three varieties of invader the protagonists, and eventually a black-ops containment force, face: the others are Grays, classic humanoid aliens, and byrus, a parasitical growth that threatens to overtake life on Earth. The presence of the aliens makes humans telepathic, which leads to various inspired plot complications, but also to an occasional, perhaps necessary, vagueness of narration is there anything more difficult to dramatize than mind-to-mind communication? Numerous flashbacks reveal the roots of the connections among the four guys (one of whom is hit by a car and nearly dies), Duddits and even the aliens, while the last part of the book details a race/chase to save the world a chase that goes on and on and that's further marred by the cartoonlike presence of the head of the black ops force, who's as close to a caricature as King has strayed in several novels. The book has flaws, then, and each of them cries "runaway author." Is anyone editing King these days? But, then, who edited, say, Mahler at his most excessive? The genius shines through in any case, in the images and conceits that blind with brilliance, in the magnificent architecture, in the wide swaths of flat-out riveting reading and, most of all, in the wellsprings of emotions King taps as he plumbs the ties that bind his characters and, by extension, all of us to one another. (One-day laydown, Mar. 20) Forecast: As King's first book-length fiction since the accident, this novel originally titled Cancer will generate particular interest commercially and critically. It may be nominated for awards; it certainly will top the charts. Film rights optioned by Castle Rock.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
One November afternoon in the Maine woods, four men, friends since childhood, are on their annual hunting trip that has become as much a time for catching up on one another's lives as it is a time for drinking beer and pursuing game. But this congenial respite ends quickly for Pete, Beaver, Henry, and Jonesy when a dazed and disheveled stranger wanders into their campsite. The hours and days that follow are filled with spaceships, evil gray aliens, a toxic parasite called byrus, and a military search-and-destroy mission. Unarguably, these ingredients belong in the well-stocked cupboard of a pulp fiction writer. But when King stirs them into this hair-raising yarn that forces readers to draw their curtains tightly and sleep with the lights on, he serves up a powerful work that examines the interconnections between memory and imagination and studies the influence of friendship on the human condition. Highly recommended. Nancy McNicol, Hagaman Memorial Lib., East Haven, CT
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"The X-Files" comes to Maine. Four friends on their yearly hunting trip to the north woods find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion and the U.S. military's attempt to contain the aliens' deadly virus. The friends bring a fifth and mentally retarded companion into the struggle to disarm the bad guys. Jeffrey DeMunn navigates this long and complex story. While his narrative passages and pacing are flawless, his characterizations need work. The four Maine men sound identical to one other, although they have taken very different paths in their adult lives. Their dialect is South Boston, rather than Maine, and the psychiatrist and the college professor sound like uneducated hicks. A wonderful touch, however, is DeMunn's characterization when King writes of the November 2000 election that just won't quit. He doesn't name the president. DeMunn, however, performs a convincing George Bush. But his pronunciation of various Maine and Massachusetts towns is a fascinating work of fiction in itself, including four distinct presentations of "Bangor." R.P.L. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Jonesy, Henry, Pete, and the Beav have been friends since junior high, especially since the day they rescued Duddits, a Down's syndrome kid their age, from a trio of high- school bullies. They stayed Duddits' fast friends and defenders through high school and have kept up with one another for some 20 years now, gathering for a week of hunting in the Maine woods every fall. They haven't been in touch with Duddits the last several years, however, and don't know he is dying of leukemia. When they go hunting this year, they resolve to see Duddits afterwards. But this year, a big, sick, befuddled man wanders into their camp, saying he has been lost. Before Jonesy and the Beav can figure things out, all hell breaks loose. A blizzard comes on, delaying Henry and Pete's return with food and beer, and the guy gets much sicker and then explodes, releasing a legless, toothy thing that \xc9 . Suffice it to say that this is King's alien-first-contact yarn, and it's a corker--blood, pain, and bodily fluids all over the place, concluding with a long, suspenseful three-party chase. Predictably, given King's sentimentality about friendship, Duddits turns out to be the telepathic key to the bond between the other four protagonists, to heading off the alien invasion, and to saving Jonesy's and Henry's lives. An important secondary character, the maniacal army officer in charge of the military effort to "contain" the aliens, is pretty cartoonish, and King doesn't know intellectuals well enough to make Jonesy credible as the professor of history he is. So consider this second-rate King, but allow that it may be the best alien invasion story since Wells' War of the Worlds. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
The Miami Herald Prime King at his most engrossing...[he] has lost none of his ability to mine terror from the ordinary.
Once upon a time, in the haunted city of Derry, four boys stood together and did a brave thing. It was something that changed them in ways they could never begin to understand.
Twenty-five years after saving a Down's-syndrome kid from bullies, Beav, Henry, Pete, and Jonesy -- now men with separate lives and separate problems -- reunite in the woods of Maine for their annual hunting trip. But when a stranger stumbles into their camp, disoriented and mumbling something about lights in the sky, chaos erupts. Soon, the four friends are plunged into a horrifying struggle with a creature from another world where their only chance of survival is locked in their shared past -- and in the Dreamcatcher.
Never before has Stephen King contended so frankly with the heart of darkness. Dreamcatcher, his first full-length novel since Bag of Bones, is a powerful story of astonishing range that will satisfy fans both new and old.
America's most thrilling storyteller is at the height of his powers in this page-turning epic of haunted memories, heroism, and stark survival. Once upon a time in the haunted city of Derry (the site of "It" and "Insomnia"), four boys stood together and did a brave thing. Twenty-five years later, these men are plunged into a horrifying struggle with a creature from another world. Their only chance of survival is locked in their shared past--and in the "Dreamcatcher".
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are From a Buick 8, Everything's Eventual, Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Bag of Bones, the screenplay Storm of the Century, and The Green Mile. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, was also a bestseller. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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