First edition cover
|Cover artist||Cliff Nielsen|
|March 20, 2001|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Dreamcatcher (2001) is a science fiction novel written by Stephen King. It was adapted into a 2003 movie of the same name. The book, written in cursive, helped the author recuperate 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 gain special powers after they save Douglas "Duddits" Cavell, a child with Down syndrome, from a group of sadistic bullies. The four friends grow up and go their separate ways, living equally problematic lives. While going on their annual hunting trip at the Hole-in-the-Wall, an isolated lodge in the Jefferson Tract, they become caught between an alien invasion and an insane US Army Colonel, Abraham Kurtz.
The friends first begin to suspect that something unusual is happening when Jonesy finds a disoriented and delirious stranger wandering near the lodge during a blizzard 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. Jonesy notices a reddish discoloration on the man's face. Beaver observes the wide-scale migration of numerous species of animals, all exhibiting similar reddish discoloration to that of the stranger. By the time Beaver returns inside, the man has retreated to the washroom and died while sitting on the toilet.
The lost man, the stampeding animals, and a 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 the infectious red mold results in the host incubating large worm-like aliens called byrum (derived by the true name of the infectious mold, byrus). They name the byrum "shit-weasel" due to its incubation in the human intestinal tract 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. If a human is dermally infected, the byrus will eventually die and leave the host, either from the host's immune system, or because of a terrestrial cause that life on Earth is already immune to. Internal ingestion of byrus gives rise to a byrum, which is inherently fatal to the host. Byrum are highly aggressive and, while small, are more than capable of killing a human being.
Beaver is killed by a shit-weasel, Pete is killed by an alien named Mr. Gray and Jonesy experiences hallucinations following his possession by Mr. Gray. Jonesy and Henry attempt to stop Mr. Gray from implementing his scheme to infect a large number of people with the virus and to prevent their annihilation by Kurtz and his followers. This task requires the help of Duddits who is now dying of leukemia, who telepathically functions as the "Dreamcatcher."