Once upon a time, in the haunted city of Derry (site of the classics It and Insomnia), four boys stood together and did a brave thing. Certainly a good thing, perhaps even a great thing. Something that changed them in ways they could never begin to understand.
Twenty-five years later, the boys are now men with separate lives and separate troubles. But the ties endure. Each hunting season the foursome reunite in the woods of Maine. This year, a stranger stumbles into their camp, disoriented, mumbling something about lights in the sky. His incoherent ravings prove to be dis-turbingly prescient. Before long, these men will be 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.
Stephen King's first full-length novel since Bag of Bones is, more than anything, a story of how men remember, and how they find their courage. Not since The Stand has King crafted a story of such astonishing range -- and never before has he contended so frankly with the heart of darkness.
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 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 26, 2001
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Excerpt from Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
Pete sits behind his desk just off the showroom of Macdonald Motors in Bridgton, twirling his keychain. The fob consists of four enameled blue letters: NASA.
Dreams age faster than dreamers, that is a fact of life Pete has discovered as the years pass. Yet the last ones often die surprisingly hard, screaming in low, miserable voices at the back of the brain. It's been a long time since Pete slept in a bedroom papered with pictures of Apollo and Saturn rockets and astronauts and space-walks (EVAs, to those in the know) and space capsules with their shields smoked and fused by the fabulous heat of re-entry and LEMs and Voyagers and one photograph of a shiny disc over Interstate 80, people standing in the breakdown lane and looking up with their hands shielding their eyes, the photo's caption reading THIS OBJECT, PHOTOGRAPHED NEAR ARVADA, COLORADO, IN 1971, HAS NEVER BEEN EXPLAINED. IT IS A GENUINE UFO.
A long time.
Yet he still spent one of his two weeks of vacation this year in Washington, D.C., where he went to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum every day and spent nearly all of his time wandering among the displays with a wondering grin on his face. And most of that time he spent looking at the moon rocks and thinking, Those rocks came from a place where the skies are always black and the silence is everlasting. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took twenty kilograms of another world and now here it is.
And here he is, sitting behind his desk on a day when he hasn't sold a single car (people don't like to buy cars when it's raining, and it has been drizzling in Pete's part of the world ever since first light), twirling his NASA keychain and looking up at the clock. Time moves slowly in the afternoons, ever more slowly as the hour of five approaches. At five it will be time for that first beer. Not before five; no way. You drank during the day, maybe you had to look at how much you were drinking, because that's what alcoholics did. But if you could wait...just twirl your keychain and wait...
As well as that first beer of the day, Pete is waiting for November. Going to Washington in April had been good, and the moon rocks had been stunning (they still stun him, every time he thinks about them), but he had been alone. Being alone wasn't so good. In November, when he takes his other week, he'll be with Henry and Jonesy and the Beav. Then he'll allow himself to drink during the day. When you're off in the woods, hunting with your friends, it's all right to drink during the day. It's practically a tradition. It --
The door opens and a good-looking brunette comes in. About five-ten (and Pete likes them tall), maybe thirty. She glances around at the showroom models (the new Thunderbird, in dark burgundy, is the pick of the litter, although the Explorer isn't bad), but not as if she has any interest in buying. Then she spots Pete and walks toward him.
Pete gets up, dropping his NASA keychain on his desk-blotter, and meets her at the door of his office. He's wearing his best professional smile by now -- two hundred watts, baby, you better believe it -- and has his hand outstretched. Her grip Is cool and firm, but she's distracted, upset.