The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

When an author stubs her toe on a piece of metal buried on her property, she uncovers a force which begins to change her from within–and this force might be guided by a malevolent consciousness.

I have begun The Brothers Karamazov, but it’s not exactly a “before-bed” book. Enter The Tommyknockers, a lesser work by Stephen King that deals with a pretty big whatif: “What if there was a spaceship buried in my backyard?”

Bobbi Anderson stubs her toe on some metal, and feels compelled to start digging. Soon she’s realized that the metal is only the tip of a huge vast saucer-shaped chunk of something. As she digs, she begins to change–and soon everyone in her small town (Maine, natch) is starting to exhibit odd, savant-like powers and telepathic flashes. Bobbi is joined by one of King’s most memorable characters, Jim “Gard” Gardener, an alcoholic poet with a penchant for self-destruction. Gard has a steel plate in his head, so the ship doesn’t seem to affect him, but he digs with Bobbi hoping to save her (and perhaps himself to boot).

The Tommyknockers has almost none of the humanism that elevates King’s work. The plot travels on a relentless, hopeless downward spiral. It’s clear from very early on that Bobbi, a character whom King set up with a great deal of detail and affection, isn’t going to make it, and as a result her scenes grow tedious. There’s nowhere for her to go. And watching Gard stay with her is like witnessing a slow, inevitable suicide–King draws it well, but it’s freaking dark, y’all.

It is not until the final 2 pages of the book that King allows in some light, yet the story line he chooses to redeem is the expected one, and as such the resolution is soothing but not satisfying. Despite the book’s flaws, it’s still a good read (I think this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read it), not something I can say about his later, gentler works like Hearts in Atlantis or Bag of Bones.

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