The Tie-Ins That Bind: A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dreamspawn by Christa Faust

So we’re at the book I wanted to write about in the first place. Christa Faust’s Dreamspawn. I read it from the library when it was published. I loved it. I kept meaning to buy it. I figured I’d always easily do so. I would learn otherwise.

Why did this book leave such a mark on me it in part inspired this whole column? The climax for one thing. But also the way Faust put a clear voice into it. The book had ideas that haunted me and stayed with me. This is a distinctly female take on the slasher. I wanted to celebrate that.

In April I actually did finally buy a copy. Not cheap. But I won an eBay auction and read it. Now of course this is in the set of uploads so I’ll be sharing it. But no matter what it was going to get reviewed. Was it so great it deserved to loom so large in my mind? Um…I have issues.

I want to stress before I go forward that this is an excellent book in many ways. Great characters. There are ideas driving it. It ends thunderously. But this is majorly problematic. And I’m not saying that to erase the value. I’m saying that to say it needs examination. So major trigger warning here for rape and false accusations.

The book has a great book. A group of outcasts team up to get revenge. One suggests they gain control of Freddy using his glove. They’re hesitant but after she gets raped they decide to go all in. But everything isn’t as it seems.

This is a tricky book to write about. It seems to have intensely divided fans. The Amazon reviews range from loving it to hate I’ve never seen. I get why. It’s not in any way a standard Freddy story. He’s in it much less than usual. And he’s really not the villain. He’s a weapon used by the villain.

In fact that’s what’s so unique. He’s in a cameo at the beginning but for the next 200 pages? Nowhere. Not even really hinted at. The bulk of that section is about setting up the girls at the core of the book and telling their saga. And it’s exactly as good as I recalled. Faust is a brilliant character writer as I noted in my Snakes on a Plane review. Given the chance to fully create her own she does a great job here.

I’m not actually annoyed that a writer chooses not to follow formula. Does she get a few things wrong? Yes. Springwood is in the wrong place and come on, Freddy needs his glove. But I like that she made her own book using the license. It’s interesting and the book moves.

However this book made me extremely uncomfortable. Faust hinges the book on one of the girls faking a rape allegation to convince her peers to use Freddy. And look, she is indisputably the villain. The book underlines that she’s a monster. But there’s a point at which I’m sick of this trope. Sure it’s always used for the villain and it’s always said that it’s wrong. But we get so much of this trope to the point where it looks common and I hate that. False accusations are so rare! And look this book was published in 2006. It wasn’t as problematic then.

The book also evokes school shooting imagery and I admit that made me queasy. It’s a damned effective climax with Freddy on a kill fest in a school but it’s unnerving all the same. This is not a subject that ever stops making me nervous and it shouldn’t. And look, horror is meant to be exploitation like this. This is a great example. Still rough.

But even with these qualms, I’m not saying the book needs dismissal. It haunted me for years. I wouldn’t put it in the top rank of tie-ins anymore but it’s very good. Read it here.

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