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December 2, 2008 / Amy Bradney-George

Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher King

Lawrence Kasdan's Dreamcatcher

There’s a dusty, cluttered lot of bookshelves in my Mum’s house filled with Stephen King books. My older sister left them there for safeguarding and I always seem to gravitate towards them when I visit. Sometimes to read the stories that have stuck with me, old friends like Bag of Bones or The Stand. This time I picked up Dreamcatcher, and I won’t deny there was a bit of scepticism wandering around as I turned to page one.

The premise surrounds four men, friends since boyhood, meeting for their annual holiday in a cabin in the woods. When a lost hunter stumbles across their cabin, all muddled up and ill, things take a turn for the worst. What ensues is a fight between humans and aliens, between the past and the present and between minds.

I’d caught a glimpse (about half an hour) of the Kasdan adaptation when my sister watched it years ago, and left after a while because I wasn’t engaged. And I prefer to read originals before going to the movies with a text (a lesson very much reinforced by Fight Club). So when I picked up King’s Dreamcatcher I set out to prove my scepticism wrong.

For some reason I often feel that plots involving aliens coming to a modern-day Earth in books is unengaging. I read a lot of science fiction set in the future, or in different worlds, where aliens are part of the stories, but something about the use of aliens in our own world has always deterred me. Perhaps it initially had to do with my ability to suspend disbelief, which can be a bit harder when you’re reading something set in a similar time to “now”.

That perception has been blown out of the water with Dreamcatcher.

King’s masterful use of tension and informative but friendly style of narration effectively presented the aliens in Dreamcatcher as both believable and disturbing (and at times even sympathetic). The plot, however, was secondary to the strong characters. Even the more minor of these were very, very real, and I think that assisted in suspension of disbelief.

Especially interesting was the way the narrative would change depending on which character’s perspective it was written from. Although written in third-person, it had a personal quality to it which I would normally associate with first-person narrative. The use of rhymes, for example, when Henry’s perspective is explored, allowed me to relate to the character as I would someone I talked to in everyday life. Similarly, the religious phrases and dark, cynical humour (or was it honesty?) of Kurtz meant I was able to identify narrative focusing on him instantly.

I found this book a compelling, engaging and essential read, primarily because of the well-drawn characters and secondarily because of the way the plot unfolded. King challenged my preconceptions and left me pleasantly surprised and more open to the throes of speculative fiction.

Since reading Dreamcatcher I decided to revisit Kasdan’s film adaptation. The one thing that had struck me during that first brief excerpt was that the acting was amazing. I’ve since become more familiar with Damian Lewis (in the BBCs series of Shakespeare Retold to name just one remarkable instance), and have always respected Morgan Freeman’s work as well.

Second time proved the charm in this case. I was both engaged and intrigued by the comparison with the book. Kasdan brilliantly conveys the friendship between the four friends – Jonesy, Pete, Beaver and Henry – and that would have been enough for me. But it goes further. Lewis as Jonesy and the creepy Mr Gray is amazing – both creepy and sympathetic, at one stage bringing to my mind part of the book where Jonesy and Gray talk.

The one change which interested me the most was that Duddits was another alien, destined to fight Mr Gray. I appreciate the wonderful twist and the way this change fits in with the original work, and I liked it in the film. But what I liked about the resolution in the novel is that the struggle was more internal – it was about perception, support and belief in oneself. It didn’t discredit the idea that human beings could be truly gifted without having an alien past.

However, I think both texts have their own merits and purposes. I’d recommend reading the book before watching the movie, but I would also recommend both because they are complimentary and comparisons often provide insights that nothing else can.

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5 Comments

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  1. Novroz / Dec 10 2008 5:11 pm

    I love the movie so much…I have watched it more than 10 times….but I haven’t read the book yet…I couldn’t find the book. It is really hard to be King’s fans in my country

    • amybradneygeorge / Dec 11 2008 8:32 am

      I would definitely recommend the book if you love the movie that much. Some of King’s other works I’ve read around 10 times (Bag of Bones comes to mind), so I guess my bias is in the books. It makes it hard if you can’t get it thought, and I guess that’s one aspect of making movie adaptations that I didn’t think of – movies are often more accessible across the world.

      It’s easy to forgot from Australia, but excellent to be reminded of (thanks!). Where are you from?

      • davidgi141 / Aug 24 2011 12:09 pm

        love his movies hardly read his books , a very great experience to know that there others who love him as much for his work and atributes. and im from jamaica

  2. jamiecatto / Aug 7 2012 2:29 pm

    I’d love to hear what you think of Winters Tale by Mark Helprin x

    • Amy Bradney-George / Aug 7 2012 4:30 pm

      Thanks Jamie, I’m going to the library today so I’ll pick up a copy then 🙂

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