Riding With The King: Dreamcatcher (2001)

How do you go through a particular artist’s work when you want to absorb it all? I take a variety of paths, sometimes trying to go through the efforts chronologically, other times by theme or subject. With Stephen King’s books, I’m a bit more willy nilly! I’ve read a good number so far and have purchased even more, so I often find myself staring into my horror To-Read box wondering which King to tackle next. Though I still have his latest, If It Bleeds, to devour, I decided to dip into the box and chose 2001’s Dreamcatcher for two reasons: one, it’s long and two, I heard it wasn’t very good. Luckily, I was wrong about one of those things!

Spoiler: the book is long, clocking in at 879 pages in the version I have (the movie tie-in one over there on the left). I found myself very entertained by the novel, which is about a quartet of friends who, while on their annual hunting trip up in the wilds of Maine, find themselves dealing with a full-on alien invasion as well as the ensuing military intervention and the spread of an extra-terrestrial infection that could prove disastrous for the planet.

I think my perception of the book’s quality came from of how poorly the film was received (including it’s eventual appearance on a very funny episode of How  Did This Get Made?). I have not seen the film, but I believe the main complaint is that there’s just way too much in it. Some may have the same complaint about this book and its length, but it felt in the  same vein as The Stand and Under The Dome (I still haven’t tackled It). Sometimes when King does a story like this  where it bounces around to different characters, I lose track of who the players are, but that wasn’t the case for me this time around.

I enjoyed the way King bounced around between the friends and the military personnel as well as the past and present. With all of that, you come to understand not only the full extent of the situation, but also what everyone is willing to do because of it. Like his best books, it becomes an excellent character study about relatively normal people thrown up against weird, wild and deadly circumstances.

To me, this book had elements of “The Body” and (I’m guessing) It with the variety of scenes to the four boys growing up and how their friendship influenced their adult lives. As a guy approaching 40, I’m easily drawn to stories like this, especially about pals who get together on a semi-regular basis (which we did for a while). Oh and for a more direct connection, part of this book takes place in Derry and there’s a brief mention of Pennywise.

Dreamcatcher also features another of King’s oft-trod ideas in the form of, for lack of a better term, the “magical kid with disabilities,” kind of like Seth in Regulators. I’m not prepared to say whether the portrayal of Dudits is sensitive or not, but it felt okay to me, though sometimes cringey? I don’t know. You do definitely hit some problematic moments with the boys during their childhoods. At the same time, it felt accurate to the era and the characters, but might not sit well with some.

At the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised by a book that might seem more sci-fi, but definitely got into psychological and even body horror elements that had me creeped out at times. The real joy for me was experiencing friendships like the ones I’ve built over the years. Mileage will definitely vary on this one, but I’m glad I put it in my eyeholes.

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