Welcome back to Ben Arzate’s The Unreprinted, a column exploring rare and/or out-of-print books that have left a lasting impression on readers. Today, author Zakary McGaha takes a look at Jeffrey Thomas’s entry in the Black Flame series of Nightmare on Elm Street tie-ins.
by Zakary McGaha
The Black Flame line of books holds its own, special exhibit in the History of Horror Fiction Museum. Never before has there been a publisher that was, in essence, dedicated to publishing tie-ins and novelizations for beloved horror films; this was Black Flame’s niche. They did a couple other things, but horror tie-ins were their bread and butter.
As far as I know, none of the Black Flame titles has been reprinted, which explains the outrageous price people are asking for them online. Every now and then, you’ll come across a cheap copy. I’ve been extremely lucky in that it’s happened to me several times. So far, I’ve collected two Friday the 13th books (along with one in their exclusive Jason X series), two Nightmare on Elm Street books, the Snakes on a Plane novelization, as well as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake novelization. The latter I gave away because it was complete shit.
I’ve decided Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers by Jeffrey Thomas was worthy of a review. It’s the most recent one I’ve read, so it’s the freshest in my mind.
Long story short: if you’re a NOES fan, you’ll love this book. It has everything you could possibly want in a book about ole Freddy. The plot revolves around some completely impossible, revolutionary technology of the early 2000s: dreams can be recorded and played back like virtual reality movies. One tiny problem exists with this, though: rogue developers!
One of the main characters happens to work for a company that, for some reason, is studying the brains of several murder victims who were all killed in Springwood, OH. Said individual feels that it would be awesome if he could borrow the dreams taken from these brains for commercial use at his other job, a company that deals in the dream-disc business.
That’s where Freddy comes in. Like always, the people of Springwood have completely forgotten him, so he’s got to jog their memories in order to build up his slasherific powers. Lucky for him, he doesn’t have to try hard sine he’s in the dream-discs taken from all the murder victims…because, yeah, he was their murderer.
The greatness of this premise lies in the novelty of the possibilities granted by the technology. If the discs were sold, victims could potentially put themselves in Freddy’s territory willingly, thus making Freddy’s life akin to a buffet of bodies.
Great imagination on Jeffrey Thomas’s part is shown in the multitude of dream sequences. From Roman coliseums full of black birds and skeletons to convenience stores being hijacked by Lovecraftian creatures, this single book has the coolest dreams of anything in the franchise…in my opinion.
I hate to say it, because I like books more than movies, but this book should seriously be adapted. If it were, it’d be the best in the franchise, hands down.
Thomas’s writing style services the story, it’s neither flashy nor dull; it’s like the middle bowl of porridge (or was it oatmeal?). He’s able to evenly pace the suspense, kills, etc. This very well may be the most expertly crafted tie-in novel I’ve read.
If one were to consider the current direction the franchise is going (the direction to nowhere) then this book could greatly fill the void. It doesn’t take place at any specific point in the timeline, although it can be assumed it takes place after Freddy vs. Jason. In that way, it’s perfect: it doesn’t have to be viewed in any canon sequence. It’s simply another one of Freddy’s whacky adventures, which is what most fans want. It also exists after an unspecified length of time in which Freddy has been quiet.
This book doesn’t have much in the way of themes or meaning. It’s just a fun, well-done slasher; it’s escapism at its best. It doesn’t lecture us about futuristic technologies and it doesn’t portray Freddy as anything more than a psychopathic goofball. Most importantly, it doesn’t have Jason in it. Slashers are best solo (change my mind).
I give Nightmare on Elms Street: The Dream Dealers 4 stars out of 5 instead of a full 5 ONLY because it was a bit too long. This was probably a requirement by the publisher, seeing as how all the Black Flame books are ultra-thick.
I plan to review all the other Black Flame books I own here and elsewhere in due time. If you have one of them sitting on your shelf collecting dust, don’t hesitate to send it my way. I promise to give it back; I’ll also be your friend forever.
Zakary McGaha is a writer living in Tennessee. He loves books, dogs, and horror films. His novella Locker Arms is available from Kensington Gore Publishing. Soothing the Savage Swamp Beast is forthcoming from JournalStone.