Monday, May 23, 2011

His first reaction to the unplanned and unexpected wasn't a frown but a smile

I was originally thinking I would read Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I was planning on getting as an e-book.* Then I realized I'd be going on vacation in a couple months and not having to pack 10 books is one of the bonuses of the Kindle. This also meant that I should probably hold off reading ebooks for a little while, and hopefully save some money by reading some of the actual books I have lying around the house. And thus I decided to pick up Dreamcatcher by Stephen King. I've been dragging this book around with me for years. My dad had given it to me as a birthday gift when I was in high school. I had forgotten when he gave it to me until a birthday card fell out of the front of the book. I apparently hadn't even opened the book in awhile. It's not that I didn't want to read it. It's just that it's a hardcover book and recently reading this has just reconfirmed how much I dislike reading hardback books. Luckily the book is making it worth it.

I haven't come close to reading the full King catalogue, but I have read a number of his books and have run the gamut from some of my favorite reads (Misery, the short story "1408") to some very meh titles (It). I didn't know what to expect with this one. To be honest I didn't know what it was about when I started it. I didn't even bother to read the blurb about the book until a few pages ago (I'm up to page 250 now). I figured that whatever King had in store, a blurb might describe the basic plot but isn't going to tell me if I'll enjoy it or not.  The plot is only a small part of a King story, and I've discovered with him it's better to just dive right in.

King's forte is coming up with some great characters. Not characters you want to hang out with, not characters you particularly admire, but characters you feel like you know, you feel like you can connect with even if you don't want to. When I was around page 116 I was joking with Boyfriend that I could probably sum up everything that had happened thus far in the book in 4 sentences. If you wanted just plot points, those 116 pages held very little in terms of action. However, this isn't a condemnation of the writing. In fact, when the action did start to pick up I actually wished for the story to go back to just the characters. I wanted to learn more and more about their flawed lives. There are no Mary Sue characters in King's world. (Stephanie Meyers, please take note.) He creates characters that you can feel pity for, be proud of, get angry at and most importantly, be interested in.

King puts his characters through the extremes, in this case extraterrestrials. (I was going to say spoiler alert but then I realized it mentions this ins the blurb. So if you're angry at me for not giving a spoiler warning, blame the blurb writer.) The focus isn't entirely on the action, on the weird stuff but instead so much of the story is how the characters react. What will they do? How will they deal with the craziness? And so much of the book so far has involved flashbacks to the main characters' childhood that I'm currently still trying to piece together how it fits in with the story I'm reading now. I trust everything will come together. King doesn't show all his cards all at once and slowly more and more is revealed.

I'm about a third of the way through so there will be at least one more post. I'm excited to see what will happen next, how everyone will react to the outside forces and to one another. King is a writer for the masses that gives you a story that sticks with you, gives you something to think about and Dreamcatcher is proving to be on the better end of the King spectrum. Not only can I not wait to read more of this but I'm adding some more King to my TBR list.

*I think I say this a lot. I'm always planning on doing one thing and then I just end up doing something else. I should probably quit planning on things.

Title quote from page 64

King, Stephen. Dreamcatcher. Scribner, 2001.