Title: The Tommyknockers
Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 572
The plot to this novel is relatively simple, and so I’m going to take a look at that first. Loosely speaking, it follows the events that unfold in a small town called Haven, after Bobbi Anderson discovers an alien spacecraft that’s crash-landed by her house. With the help of an old friend, she starts to dig up the spacecraft in the hope of finding an entrance hatch.
But in the meantime, something strange is going on. The spacecraft is having an effect on the locals – their teeth are falling out and their intelligence is boosted to autistic savant levels. The town starts to stockpile batteries and to create strange devices using the circuit panels that they salvage from the rest of their electronic equipment. Then, the air starts to become unbreathable, effectively creating an invisible barrier around the town. If a stranger tries to get in, they start having problems; if a Havenite tries to get out, they’ll have the same problems.
Now, I really enjoyed this book, but I found out after reading it that King feels slightly ashamed of it; his drinking and drug use was at its heaviest at the time, apparently, and he feels that it suffered as a result. As for me, I didn’t get any of that, although in hindsight I could see how Jim Gardner – Bobbi’s
rong>cantankerous old poet of a friend – could be loosely based on King’s own experiences with alcohol.
For my part, I thought that it was an excellent exercise in world-building, and that the actual structure of the book was interesting in and of itself. It’s almost like a three-act play, with the first part setting the scene, the second part introducing us to each of the locals and the third part culminating in a surreal denouement. The ending felt a little rushed to me, but perhaps that’s just because so many of the pages were taken up by the second section.
I read The Tommyknockers whilst on holiday in Amsterdam, and whilst it was a good book, I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it as a holiday read. It takes a huge chunk of time to get through it, and it’s not exactly light reading for the beach – it’s more like the kind of book you read over the course of several weeks, dipping in and out of it when you’re feeling brave enough, and that could actually work pretty well. You’d be experiencing the book in real-time, as the action takes place over eight weeks or so.
Overall, then, I have to say that whilst The Tommyknockers is far from my favourite Stephen King book, I did think that it was a good one; it’s just not the sort of book that should be taken lightly. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I could have read one of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire novels in the same time, and I ended up going straight from this book into Under the Dome, which is also a Stephen King book and, with 900 pages, is also likely to take forever to read.
But that’s just part of the charm, I suppose; King has a habit of writing books that are longer than they need to be, but when it’s him that’s doing it, it works.