Author: Stephen King
Publication: 2001 (Scribner)
Over the past few summers, I’ve made it a soft, unofficial goal to read all of King’s non-Dark Tower books. Dreamcatcher is one that I’ve put off a couple times for stories that looked more interesting. I wasn’t terribly eager to slough through bastardized Native American mythology or another The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. (That book was good. Let a good thing stand on its own, King.)
But this book isn’t like either of my expectations, and that was enough to keep me reading.
Aliens and weasel-larvae who chew through humans’ intestines to spread a reddish-gold virus that grows worse than kudzu should be really, really interesting. Except the aliens have been here doing diddly-shit since the 1940s, the weasels provide way too many excuses for fart jokes, and the virus can’t survive Maine winter so it dies out without anyone’s help.
Hear that “wamp-wahhh” sound? That’s what an anticlimax sounds like.
My two main problems with this book as a writer:
- The dreamcatcher. It’s unnecessary. It feels like King thought he needed something specific and physical to hang all the metaphysical stuff on, but he already had that in Duddits. Saying “This is all in the Dreamcatcher” Is actually way more confusing than just admitting, “Okay, dudes, we’re in Duddit’s mind and have to finish this quickly so shit gets done before he dies.
- The women. I’m only complaining about this because I know King can write good women characters but doesn’t do it enough. In this book, every single woman is either stupid or mean. Sigh.
There was still good stuff in here. King can write buddies like he’s taking dictation from bull sessions; he’s particularly great at getting the casual but still newly obscene rhythms of young teenage speech. I’ve gotten a few of my favorite swears from him: “Jesus Christ in a chariot-driven sidecar” is one, and “bitch-kitty” always seems to sum up a pounding headache. I love his leaders gone crazy, who always pump their deranged messages like evangelical showmen. I liked that the ending to this book is both hard-earned and neatly sewn up. That’s a really difficult balance, especially for a full science fiction showdown.
I also found this quote: “Pride was the belt you could use to hold up your pants even after your pants were gone.” It has nothing to do with any of the major themes or plot threads, but it’s great, and true, and therefore I can’t hate this book.