Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Reading #1: The Tommyknockers

 Hi, all.

I thought it would be fun to write down my thoughts about books I'm reading over the summer. Aside from job hunting, what else is there for a college grad with a BA in English to do?

So anyway, today we have some classic Stephen King with the The Tommyknockers. Mr. King is not for everyone. The man once described his work as "the literary equivalent to a Big Mac with fries." Sure enough, there is a lot of greasiness to his characters and plots. Course language, sex, violence, death, monsters, and other nasty bits. If you're looking for something more "intellectual" then you're better off reading something else. Like a gardening magazine. You know, something safe. That is, of course, until the tomatoes come alive and try to eat you...

This novel starts with Roberta Anderson, a writer who discovers a piece of shiny metal buried in the woods near a sleepy New England town. She becomes obsessed with this thing and starts digging it up. She discovers that this piece of metal is part of an alien spaceship and her digging it up opens a kind of Pandora's box over the town. The locals begin to have ideas for fantastic inventions. Floating tractors, automatic postal sorting machines, typewriters that read your mind and write your stories for you, portals to other dimensions, and ray guns. However, the people in town start to lose their identities and become linked in a hive mind directed towards the goal of unearthing the rest of the spaceship. Horror, madness, and death quickly follows as the influence of the craft reaches out to more people and threatens the future of  the entire human race. The only man who seems capable of stopping the coming destruction is Anderson's friend, Jim Gardener, who is often drunk out of his mind and too afraid to commit to anything serious.

I have always enjoyed reading King's work. His prose is warm and fluid and always drags me in no matter how outlandish the situation is. I particularly enjoy his use of parenthesis to show how his character's stream of consciousness, which often results in said characters talking with themselves and falling into madness. I have yet to read any other author who is capable of showing such deep psychological turmoil in their characters. I also enjoy how he captures the dialect of the Northeastern United States, which always brings those chaw-chewing, gossip trading New Englanders to life. If you are familiar with other stories by King, you may recognize echoes of It, Pet Cemetary, and Cell in this novel. At one point in the story, a news reporter is murdered by a flying Coke machine. King never trusted machines.

Some people might be annoyed with the fact that, like most of his other works, the protagonists in this story are writers. Critics may see it as egotistical or lacking in creativity on King's part. I am not bothered by this because the protagonist's careers are not a driving force behind this story. The horror of losing their minds to an alien force and losing the ones they love to this force is more dominant than anything else. Besides, King is very passionate about the craft of writing. Who are we to say to an author that he or she are not allowed write what they know? On the other hand, this is a trope that can be overused and could be seen as weak writing. However, King is one of the few authors who can pull this off and still deliver a powerful story.

As I've mentioned before, King is not for everyone, but if you're in the mood for the literary equivalent of an order of fast food delivered by solid writing, then this is a good book to read. Next time I will look at Terry Brook's Running with the Demon.

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