Book Reviews: Thrills and Chills from Horror King

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STEPHEN King is a phenomenon. Just how can one man produce so many books - more than 30 at the last count - and most of them the size of a coffin?

He tells us that Dreamcatcher (Hodder & Stoughton pounds 17.99), which is just short of 600 pages long, was written with a fountain pen.

How does he find the time? Why isn't he writhing in agony with writer's cramp?

Success brings detractors and I confess that I have not always been impressd with King's work but who can deny his prodigious imagination, productivity and undoubted gifts as a storyteller?

Dreamcatcher is a book that takes us from the wide open spaces of the forests of Maine to the claustrophobic confines of the mind via any number of nightmares. It can be dizzying, dazzling, frequently confusing and sometimes intensely irritating but you just have to keep turning the pages.

Four childhood friends, now grown up, meet once a year for their traditional hunting trip into the backwoods but this year Beaver, Henry, Pete and Jonesy are in for a shock.

A barely coherent stranger stumbles into their camp, obviously suffering from some terrible disease which turns out to be contamination with an alien fungus.

Childish glee

The ETs also implant horrible creatures in their victims, weaselly things that emerge with piranha teeth and insatiable appetites.

With childish glee King makes breaking wind one of the chief symptoms of this invasion so a taste for lavatory jokes may help when reading this book.

It comes down to Jonesy and Henry to save the world but why are they immune to the alien contamination and how come they have strange telepathic powers?

The answer lies in a childhood incident when the four lads rescued a Down's Syndrome boy called Duddits from a gang of bullies. It led to a long-lasting friendship but also something much more profound.

It seems that while the rest of the world dismisses people like Duddits as mentally subnormal they actually have extraordinary gifts of love, gentleness and in this case, something more. This, at least, is one decent message in the heart of all the mayhem. …