In his first full-length novel since Bag of Bones, horror master Stephen King takes us back to Derry, Maine, the setting for It and Insomnia. There, four friends encounter telepathic aliens, renegade military forces and the redemptive power of their own childhoods while on a hunting trip in the Derry woods. A triumphant return to King's beginnings in nasty, gut-wrenching, monster horror, tempered by experience and maturity, Dreamcatcher resembles such earlier works as Cujo and Salem's Lot, but with the benefit of more complex characters and the recognition that sometimes the bad guys don't wear identifying hats.

Long ago, Henry, Jonesy, Pete and Beaver did something great something that would put the rest of their lives in stark relief by rescuing a boy with Down Syndrome from neighborhood bullies. Their unselfish aid for Duddits laid the groundwork for a lasting friendship and created psychic abilities in each. For years afterward, the quintet was inseparable. But the foursome grew up, leaving Derry and Duddits behind. Only an annual hunting trip keeps the four connected (minus Duddits). This year's trip is like any other, until a spaceship containing unfriendly and dangerous passengers crashes. The government quarantines the area, plotting to kill any living creature in the infected zone. One alien snatches the body of Jonesy, planning to spread his fungi race around the globe. It is only the friends' unique ability to communicate without words that fortifies their attempt to stop the extraterrestrial virulence. Gradually we understand that the central figure of Dreamcatcher, the force that holds together the friends and unifies their struggle to save themselves and the world, is Duddits.

Dreamcatcher is a tightly plotted, suspenseful tale of hostile aliens and heroic humans willing to sacrifice themselves to prevent the destruction of humanity. That King remains a force in fiction is demonstrated by the painful realism and urgent, clawing intensity he brings to Jonesy's memories of continuing recovery from a car accident, a reminder that King himself lived through that type of pain while writing this book. Clearly his own painful recovery provided his imagination fertile soil for nasty things to grow. And grow they do, like an alien fungus.

Stephen King has scared Kelly Koepke since she was a teenager.

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