The Tie-Ins That Bind: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers by Jeffrey Thomas

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Happy Halloween! This would usually be the Halloween column for the year as the number of horror tie-ins is what it is. But y’all know that we got lucky and this year I got to cover all the Nightmare on Elm Street books. We’re closing the door on Freddy in prose this week.

And we’re not going out on a high I fear. The Dream Dealers is a book with a great premise and great kills but it’s hurt by a frustrating set of choices that clutter it. It’s oddly unambitious for a very ambitious run.

The book focuses on technology that will let you experience the recordings of others’ dreams. Think Strange Days or Brainstorm. A set of nightmares is drawn from the brains people who have conspicuous tumors who of course actually died from Freddy. The nightmares leak out on a piracy site and people start dying.

Let me get the good out of the way. This is a logical premise. Freddy getting unleashed in cyberspace is a fitting concept. The kills here are really solid. The best is a gladiator arena kill that’s wild. There’s also a fun subplot with a copycat of Freddy suddenly facing the cost of blaming his murder on him.

But this book is the one miss in the run. And it starts with the burden of way too many characters with none standing out. This is extra rough when the earlier books were filled with people I cared about. But I felt nothing here. I felt no connection to anyone because everyone was slammed through the book rapid fire without any discerning features. I was bored by everyone.

The book also has the classic flaw of the sin that isn’t a sin to the reader. Oh it’s a bad thing that the program leaked out via piracy? Yes I definitely think piracy leads to mass murder as I openly review this series from all but one pirated copy of these books. It’s really cloying to see in this book.

The book also has a weird approach to technology as the book feels techphobic. I don’t think Thomas actually hates tech as he writes a lot of futuristic punk fiction, continuing the trend I’ve seen of writers putting their imprint. But he seems scared. And it’s weird and off putting. The book is 15 years old but it feels 45 years old. The mark is missed.

Ultimately this is a miss for me. If you’re interested read it here.

I want to close by one last time thanking the archivist for putting these online. The other 4 were extra stellar books. I’m really glad this Halloween I got to share these with you. My plan is to do two more columns for the year. in December I’m doing a look at an anthology. But next? Look, why should Halloween end? One more bonus review Sunday.

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