Matt Gemmell

TOLL is available now!

An action-thriller novel — book 2 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon


personal 2 min read

Well, I finished Dreamcatcher the other day, as I’ve said here previously. I’d been looking forward to reading it, to see how King would treat the ETs concept, and as usual he didn’t fail to take a new angle (of sorts).

Dreamcatcher could be said to be “formulaic King”, which of course isn’t a complaint. It has the classic King elements: a group of friends with a special bond, a child/savant character, a recurring key phrase, a late-stage answering of a long-running question, ESP abilities, settings in Maine, and references to some of his other work (in this case, Derry is actually a secondary setting, and the book mentions both the Loser’s Club and, ominously, Pennywise). Interestingly, King does not refer to his Constant Reader in the author’s note. This was the book written during his convalescence after his much-publicised road accident.

Dreamcatcher flows briskly enough, leaving threads dangling for only ten pages or so before tying them back up (the first example of which is the meaning of “SSDD”), though the last hundred pages or so slow down considerably. I felt quite oppressed by the omnipresent snow, particularly in the last few sections.

King’s books are very often two simultaneous stories, one taking place in the past, and one in the present, with a late-stage revelation directly causally linking the two, and often providing a key to the solution of a contemporary problem. Dreamcatcher is no different, but I’d have to say that I feel the story could have been far stronger had King resisted the urge to trivialise the fact of an alien visitation by getting the mystery out of the way so soon. What was a valid UFO mystery quickly came to confirmation, and then the true nature of the visitation turned to much more visceral material, and not really necessary. That half of the story is almost backwards.

King introduces two unique angles on the done-to-death “alien invasion” story: he adds an entirely new, and unpleasant, slant of the common idea of aliens being incubated within human beings, and he questions the nature of the classic “grey” aliens. As usual, the fall-and-rise story arc of a main character provides both the potential disaster and the final redemption, in this case of humanity as a whole.

King’s physical discomfort during the writing period certainly comes through clearly enough. It’s particularly unsettling to reflect on the fact that he’s speaking from actual experience when describing Henry’s experiences in the hospital, both real and imagined. This book also reaffirms King’s complete mastery of the description of telepathy; already vivid in The Shining, finely honed in several intermediate books, and perfected here.

There are huge waves of “It” pouring off the novel from the very beginning. Indeed, if you’re read It at all recently, I recommend you hold off on Dreamcatcher for a while, since you’ll not give it a fair chance. The ideal Derry novel is somewhere between It and Dreamcatcher, both in self-seriousness and in length. On the subject of length, whilst Dreamcatcher flows quickly enough, it feels oddly hollow when you consider that you’ve read nearly 700 pages.

In all, Dreamcatcher was a serviceable, workmanlike piece from King. Not a great King, and nowhere near as tight as “From a Buick 8”, but compelling - even if it does somewhat run out of fuel about 50 pages from the end. For alien fans, a more satisfying (but much more painful to read) King work to try is Tommyknockers, but it’s not for everyone. Dreamcatcher is very readable, but ultimately it’s a Gerald’s Game or a Thinner, rather than a Salem’s Lot or an Insomnia: claustrophobic in places, and ultimately only a middling King experience.