Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Dreamcatcher

I finished reading Dreamcatcher by Stephen King over the weekend. I liked it. I didn’t love it, but it was an engaging story. I’ve found myself thinking about it on and off since finishing. It’s a rather long book at 620 pages. The length isn’t a bad thing, but it could have used a bit more editing. There were overly indulgent portions, and then other parts that could have used some more fleshing out.

The book starts out with the story split between four male friends, our protagonists. We get some background about the friends as they each prepare to meet for their annual November hunting trip in the woods outside of Derry, Maine. These four have been together since jr. high school, and thus have mottos and catch phrases that infect the book. By the end, I’m likely to summarize the whole book by labeling it SSDD, or Same Shit Different Day.

Though, in truth their story is anything but SSDD, nor has it ever truly been. These friends share an unshakeable bond that was formed during one heroic act when they were about 14 years old. Henry, Jonesy, Beaver, and Pete stood up for and protected a disabled boy named Duddits from the bullying of the local quarterback and his cronies. It was this act that both bound them and came to define them for the rest of their lives. And since this is King, Duddits is extraordinarily gifted, paranormally so. Though we don’t fully come to realize how gifted until close to the end of the novel.

We’re also introduced to the characters’ extrasensory powers. Jonesy, a college history professor, can sense when students are cheating. Pete, a car salesman, has an almost supernatural ability to find lost objects and retrace a person’s steps. Beaver, a construction worker, has an unnatural ability to soothe. Lastly, Henry, an accomplished (though suicidal) psychiatrist, can sense the truth of his patients almost to the point of mind reading.

These friends embark on the last hunting trip of their lives without realizing its significance when, BAM! They’re thrust right in the middle of an alien invasion and the fight of their lives. This alien invasion is one part X-Files and one part medical experiment gone wrong. There is an alien fungus, called “Ripley” by the military force trying to eradicate it, which turns people into drones for the sentient alien life force. There are also horrible beings called, I kid you not, shit-weasels. These beauties grow in a person’s guts eating through them and causing the most horrible gas imaginable – we’re talking burps and farts from hell, liable to clear out an entire convention center rather than just one measly room. Once the horrible flatulents reach critical mass they expel themselves from the rear end of their host, thereby killing said host.

Now, this isn’t such a horrible premise for an alien invasion. There have certainly been worse. But, the book clearly talks about how these same aliens have been visiting earth for decades testing the waters and planning their attack. Then, they just so happen to touch down with a sad amount of troops, unprepared for a fight, and in an inhospitable environment. And we’re supposed to buy all that? Seems rather convenient… for the author, that is.

The meat of the story centers on a fight between Jonesy and the alien consciousness, Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray has taken over Jonesy’s body and mind, but Jonesy is able to lock himself in a little room inside his mind and protect his awareness from being assimilated, or destroyed, or whatever. The alien is frustrated by this ability since no one has ever presented it with this problem. Mr. Gray is attempting to find a way to infect the world at large with Ripley, and Jonesy is attempting to save himself and possibly the world. The rest of the story hinges on a military force attempting to isolate and clean up the alien threat, and it’s all headed by a singularly maniacal madman named Kurtz.

By far, the best aspect of this book is the representation of Jonesy’s mind. This is accomplished by describing Jonesy’s inner sanctum as a locked office, and outside the office is the largest warehouse imaginable. The warehouse is filled with stacked and labeled boxes which house his memories. He merely needs to think of certain subjects, and suddenly those boxes are stacked neatly outside the door to his office. I would have loved some more exploration in the memory warehouse throughout the book.

The supernatural aspects of the book were interesting. There was a lot of telepathy, and that was fun. I liked the arguments both for and against, and actually spent a bit of time indulging my own fantasies of what life would be like with widespread telepathy being the norm. Duddits, the Down Syndrome friend, has supernatural abilities regarding telepathy and connecting people. In fact, Duddits is so special that he can transfer some of his abilities to others, hence the abilities of his four best pals.

The conclusion wraps up with the typical tropes: humanizing the alien, love conquers all, and mind over matter. It was okay. It was expected. I’m just glad that there was an epilogue rather than ending at the conclusion of the action scene (the cop out of many authors). An actual dreamcatcher made an appearance in the book, but disappointingly so as a bad metaphor.

Overall this book was enjoyable. It wasn’t great, and I wouldn’t recommend it anyone but Stephen King fans. I could have used a lot less of the graphic scenes involving flatulence. I do wish there was more exploration of the friendship of the four protagonists. I also wish there was more exploration of the inside of Jonesy’s mind. So many reviewers have compared this book to It, and I’ve yet to read that novel. I’m now looking forward to it since I hear it’s one of King’s best.

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The Book-Lying Cat

Okay, I have to admit that when I first wrote that title I wrote “The Book-Laying Cat”. My mind immediately conjured an image of my cat attempting to lay a book like some demented chicken laying an egg. Ha! Obviously, I changed to be grammatically correct. *chuckles while shaking head*

I have certain reading rituals; I think everyone does. Some of them are comfort related, some are food related, and some are not easily categorized. One of my rituals when reading a large hardbound volume is to sit with a pillow on my lap and the book opened on top of the pillow. This allows me to be hands-free while reading for any length of time. Really, it saves me later hand cramps from holding such a large tome.

My cat, Spirit, is in the habit of curling up on my lap while I’m vegging on the couch or my recliner. He doesn’t appreciate his prime sleeping spot being taken over by a book. What is a cat to do? Spirit has handily solved the problem by lying right on top of the open book on my lap. He loves lying on my open books. Plus, there’s the added bonus (for him anyway) of me being unable to read, and he’s in prime petting position. Thus, I end up petting him and ineffectually trying to push him off my book. That cat can make himself weigh 50 lbs if he wants, I swear! I am usually incapable of gently nudging him from atop my book.

Spirit on Book

I usually end up telling him he doesn’t make a good window, and that I’m trying to read this book. I believe my exact words are, “I’m trying to read dis book, meowface.” Like reasoning with a cat is going to do me any good. *shakes head* The situation generally devolves into me crooning insults at the cat in a lovey voice, with him none the wiser of what I actually want. He’s cute, and thus usually wins. Well, he wins for a minute or two.

Eventually I get tired of this game and tilt the book so that he falls off. He usually only slumps off onto the pillow and stays exactly as puddled thinking it’s a new great resting spot. I’m left to rest the book on top of the cat, rather than the pillow. This is my winning move. Spirit doesn’t like being a bookrest, and he generally leaves with a sigh or a snort. Victory! Silly meowface.

Book on Spirit

The sweet victory is often only a passing reprieve between cats. Psyche or Sativa will eventually get the memo that I’m reading a book on my lap. They’ll find me and repeat the entire process. What is it about lying on an open book that is so appealing to a cat? I bet it’s like boxes. They like the feel of paper under them.

Who knows? Catses are funny creatures.

How do your cats lovingly annoy you while you read?

Sativa on Book Psyche on Book2

Does the Size of My Book Make It Impressive?

“Wow, that book is huge! I’m impressed.”

I’m always perplexed by this kind of declaration. Are you impressed that I’m attempting to read a lengthy book? Does that mean that I must have lots of time or dedication? Or, is this a statement about my intelligence? Are you implying that I must be smart to attempt a book of such stature? Perhaps it’s more of a personal reflection on your part. Do large tomes intimidate you?

I’ve never understood the intimidation factor of lengthy novels. When I look at a lengthy novel (I’m thinking over 500 pages), I’m usually excited. I’m especially hungry for the novel if it’s by an author I adore. If it’s a favorite author, 500-800 pages (or more) might not seem like enough.

I’m thinking of the ever-thickening volumes of the Harry Potter series. The 7th book was over 700 pages, and I was still left aching for more. Some of that may have been the grief of series ending. But seriously, if there had been an extra 300 pages laying around for the Deathly Hallows, I would have gobbled them up as hungrily as I did the other 700 or so. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, fellow Potties. Oh, that’s not the correct term? Hmmm… Potterites? Wizards? Pott-heads? Wait, that last one seems off… *raises eyebrow*

Back to novel-size obsession, what is the deal? Seriously? Because I never quite understand the intent of the person making the observation, I never quite know how to respond – or even if a response is necessary. Most of the time it’s a complete stranger that’s making this exclamation, and so I can’t divine intent without some sort of telepathic ability.

Even if I know the person, I’m somehow vaguely offended by this statement. You’re impressed that I’m reading this book? So, you think I can’t handle a book of considerable size? Do I not seem up to the challenge? Is this even a challenge? Are you somehow proud of my reading habits? It just seems a bit condescending.

I’m probably ascribing malicious intent when none was actually intended. Whatever laugh-not-laugh and narrowed eyes I return to this declaration are usually received awkwardly. And yet, I still feel that you’re getting as good as your giving.

It’s possible that you want to talk about reading habits in general and that you’re not as much of a reader as I am. I accept that, and if that’s truly the intent of your conversation, please continue with a follow up line about your own reading habits. If your opener is about how impressed you are by my tome, you won’t get far.

In all probability you’re really trying to engage me in a conversation on reading based on my current book selection. I would love to talk with you about my book! Please, ask me questions about it. Where am I in the story? How do I like the characters? Have I read anything else by this author? Is this my genre of choice? All of these questions are acceptable and exciting, and they all engage me in the best kind of discussions. But, seriously, please refrain from expressing how impressed you are by how big the book is.