Late last night and the night before,
Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at the door.
I want to go out, don’t know if I can,
‘Cause I’m so afraid of the Tommyknocker man.
The Tommyknockers is a 1987 sci-fi novel written by Stephen King. It takes place in the same universe as most of his other books, but this one is about aliens as opposed to ghosts and monsters and the supernatural. It begins with Wild West novelist Bobbi Anderson discovering the tip of an enormous spaceship sticking out of the ground in the small town of Haven, Maine. She feels compelled to dig it out, but the ship starts releasing an odorless, invisible gas that starts to transform Bobbi and the citizens of Haven into something else, something not human.
There are a few characters who are immune to the “becoming”, one of them being Bobbi’s lifelong friend (and occasional lover) James Eric “Gard” Gardener. Gard is immune to the gas because of a steel plate in his head from a skiing accident a few years earlier. He helps Bobbi to dig out the ship over the course of a summer, watching helplessly as Bobbi and the townspeople start losing teeth and their sanity.
What’s cool about this story is that there is no real main character. You could argue that Gard is the protagonist, you could point to Bobbi being the one who drives the plot forward, but the main character is really the town of Haven. The story is about how the spaceship affects the townspeople. It seems like almost every citizen in Haven gets at least one chapter that explores how the “becoming” changes them. There are a lot of background characters and subplots, but the whole thing comes together nicely in the end.
This is a great book, one of my favorite Stephen King stories. It’s pretty lengthy but it’s never boring. Stephen King knows how to tell a good story, and he has a great writing style. It’s casual, yet detailed. He has fun with the narrative, jumping around on the timeline and exploring the minds of different characters. It’s also a metaphor for substance abuse, so there are a lot of things to pick up on if you read between the lines. Read it. You’ll like it.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young