First edition cover
Author(s) Stephen King Cover artist Cliff Nielsen Country United States Language English Genre(s) Horror novels Publisher Scribner Publication date March 20, 2001 Media type Print (Hardcover) Pages 620 ISBN 978-0743211383 Preceded by The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Followed by Black House
Dreamcatcher (2001) is a horror novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a 2003 movie of the same name. The book, written longhand, was the author's tool for recuperation from a 1999 car accident, and was completed in half a year. According to the author in his afterword, the working title was "Cancer." His wife Tabitha King, persuaded him to change the title.
Set near the fictional town of Derry, Maine, Dreamcatcher is the story of four lifelong friends: Gary Ambrose "Jonesy" Jones, Pete Moore, Joe "Beaver" Clarendon and Henry Devlin, who save Douglas "Duddits" Cavell, a child with Down syndrome, from a group of sadistic bullies. The four friends grow up and apart from Duddits, but maintain close bonds with each other, always telling stories of Duddits and their good times together. Each man has his own troubles: Beaver is terrible in relationships, Pete is an alcoholic, Henry is suicidal (unknown to his friends), and Jonesy almost died from a severe car accident from when he walked into open traffic, seeing a vision of Duddits calling to him. As they schedule their annual hunting trip, they decide to go visit Duddits on the way back.
While going on their annual hunting trip at the Hole-in-the-Wall (a cabin in the middle of the woods), the friends first begin to suspect that something unusual is happening when Jonesy finds a disoriented and delirious stranger wandering in the woods during a blizzard, and talking about lights in the sky. The man exhibits dyspepsia and extremely foul flatulence but claims that these are the result of eating berries and lichen while he was lost. Beaver and Jonesy notice a reddish discoloration on the man's face, which the man dismisses as an allergic rash. Beaver and Jonesy observe the wide-scale migration of numerous species of animals, all exhibiting similar reddish discoloration to that of the stranger. When rescue helicopters appear, Beaver tries to flag them down, only to be told the entire area has been put under quarantine.
Returning inside, Beaver and Jonesey find the man dead on the toilet and, after they hear splashes of water, Beaver sits on the toilet seat, trapping whatever it is inside the toilet. Jonesy rushes to the garage to find duct tape to seal off the toilet as Beaver hold down the seat with his body weight as the thing tries to escape. Beaver has a nervous habit of chewing on toothpicks and as he tries to take one from his pocket, the creature hits the seat, causing him to spill them all on the floor, which has been covered in the dead man's blood. He spots one landing on a clean tile of the floor, not coated with blood, and bends down to retrieve it. As he does, the creature hits the seat from inside the toilet, making Beaver lose his balance and fall to the floor. Free, the creature begins to attack Beaver.
Henry and Pete drive back to the Hole-in-the-Wall, but crash to avoid a woman sitting in the road. Exiting the wrecked car, Pete has an injured leg, but Henry is fine. They go up to the woman, who mumbles about lights, mentions the man found by Jonesy, and displays the same foul flatulence and burps as well. Henry and Pete drag her to a safe clearing. Henry goes to find help and tells Pete to stay with the woman and not go back to the car for the alcohol.
The army quarantine is headed by Colonel Abraham Kurtz. The lost man, the stampeding animals, and the woman (who is a hunting companion of the stranger) all share similar symptoms, and the friends eventually discover that they have all been infected with an extraterrestrial macro-virus known as The Ripley. Army scientists gave the alien species the codename "Ripley" after the protagonist of the Alien series, due in part to its extreme resilience to destruction. The friends discover that ingesting or inhaling the infectious red mold results in the host incubating large worm-like aliens called byrum (derived by the true name of the alien mold, byrus). They name the byrum "Shit-Weasel" due to its incubation in the human and because it exits the host's body through the anus. The exposed creatures are red, lamprey-like beings with multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth. A second form of byrus grows on open wounds and mucus membranes of the host. When sufficiently established, the host develops a form of telepathy with other such infected individuals. The aliens have a symbiotic relationship with the byrus, as they communicate telepathically. Internal ingestion (eating) of byrus gives rise to a byrum, which is inherently fatal to the host. Byrum/Shit Weasels are highly aggressive and, while small, are more than capable of killing a human being. Normally, the byrum and the Greys (aliens who are the adult form of the shit weasels) maintain a symbiotic relationship, but because of the cold environment, they react badly and eventually kill their earthly hosts. Outside, the byrum/shit weasels are highly dangerous, but die quickly in the cold, just as the byrus fungus does.
The byrus comes from an alien species known as the Greys. Kurtz states that The Greys have tried several times over the past century to attack and gain control of earth, but have failed. This time the Greys are outside a crashed ship, sending radio waves depicting they come in peace and are helpless to try to fool the Army. Several helicopters are sent to wipe out the Greys and they succeed, but many of the soldiers are exposed to the byrus in the attack. Meanwhile, all people in the area who have been affected by the byrus fungus are rounded up by the Army and will later be executed.
Jonesy makes it back to the bathroom, only to find Beaver being killed by the byrum/shit weasel. Beaver uses the last of his strength to hold onto the byrum/shit weasel, so it can't attack Jonesy and finish him off. Jonesy closes and bolts the door, but the byrum begins to break through. Behind him appears one of the escaped Greys. It takes over Jonesy's body and controls it, but discovers difficulty as the human body is so much different than its own.
Back at home, their childhood friend, Duddits, cries and screams to his mother, "Beaver's Dead!"
Pete makes his way back from the car, as he went back for the beer. He finds the woman dead as the byrum/shit weasel has made its escape from her body. It attacks Pete, but he manages to defeat it throwing it into a fire they made for warmth. Although he does not ingest any, his attack with the Byrum exposes his body to he byrus fungus and it begins to cover his body. Henry, meanwhile, gets to Hole-in-the-Wall, discovering Jonesy taken over by the alien, Mr. Grey. Mr. Grey uses Jonesy and leaves on a snowmobile. Inside the house, Henry finds Beaver's dead body and the byrum that killed him in the bedroom. It is weak from the cold and he manages to shoot it and burns a bundle of eggs it has laid. After he leaves to look for other help, Henry is captured by the army and is placed in quarantine.
Flashbacks to their childhood with Duddits reveal each man gained a certain degree of telepathy (mind reading) from being in contact with Duddits who has special powers. Through their friendship and Duddits' powers they manage to find a missing girl, trapped from falling down a hole.
Jonesy battles Mr. Grey in his mind, stealing and locking away his memories of Derry and Duddits from Mr. Grey so he read them from his mind. While Mr. Grey is in control, Jonesy can witness everything happening through his eyes, but can do nothing. Pete finds Jonesy/Mr. Grey and Mr. Grey forces Pete to come with him, guiding him with directions to Derry. Once the directions follow through, Mr. Grey has the Byrus fungus constrict and kill Pete.
Henry convinces and Army officier named Owen Underhill to help him, revealing deep memories of the man through his telepathy gained from Duddits. He tells him of Jonesy and what he thinks the alien is planning. Filling the water supply with Byrus to infect the town. He also tells Underhill that the Byrus is fatal to the cold and the people infected do not need to be executed. They form a plan.
Through his telepathy, Henry broadcasts a signal to the other captives infected with Byrus, showing them the plans of the Army: their execution. They panic and stage an uprising. Many are killed as they escape, but most flee into the woods. Henry makes his escape with Underhill as Kurtz realizes his plan and tries to stop him. He gathers a few of his men and an officer infected with a Byrum and chase after Henry and his rogue officer.
Mr. Grey loses track of the town, following old memories in place of the new stolen ones by Jonesy. Eventually, Mr. Grey becomes weak, not knowning what hunger is. Jonesy guides him to a diner to buy time.
Henry and Underhill make their way to Duddits as Henry believes he is the hope to defeating Mr. Grey. They find Duddits already packed up and ready to go as he knew they were coming. Duddits is very sick, being diagnosed with leukemia. His mother is reluctant to let him go, but she knows Duddits needs to help his friends and that he would be much happier dying in the company of his friends than dying alone in his room.
Mr. Grey/Jonesy eventually make their way to the water supply that supplies water to several cities surrounding the area. Henry and Duddits make it there to confront him. Duddits uses his powers and forces Henry and Jonesy into a vulnerable place for Mr. Grey inside of Jonesy and they kill Mr. Grey. As they both make their way back to their original bodies they find that Duddits has died overusing his powers (and his leukemia). Outside, Kurtz finds Underhill and they are both killed. The byrum from the infected officer escapes and then dies in the fire. The last of the alien byrus on earth dies.
Later, Henry and Jonesy relive their events with Beaver, Pete, and Duddits.
Connections to other works by Stephen King
Some of the novel takes place in Derry, a fictitious town featured in other works by King. A plaque dedicated to the Losers Club and graffiti saying "PENNYWISE LIVES" are direct references to one of these stories, the novel It. Both novels feature a group of young friends who must unite to defeat a force of great evil.
-  Dreamcatcher at The Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase
- Book review on Entertainment Weekly
-  Dreamcatcher - Characters
- ISBN 0-7432-1138-3 (hardcover, 2001)
- ISBN 0-7434-3628-8 (mass market paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-7434-3627-X (mass market paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-7432-2188-5 (e-book, 2001)
- ISBN 0-7410-0369-4 (e-book, 2001)
- ISBN 1-58945-621-1 (e-book, 2001)
- ISBN 0-7434-6752-3 (mass market paperback, 2003)
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