Saturday, March 2, 2019

Powerful Pages: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (1987)

Powerful Pages: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King (1987)

I often hear The Tommyknockers labeled a lesser outing from Stephen King, and I've never heard anyone recommend it.  Even the author himself has derided the novel as bloated, essentially surmising that it ran twice as long as it should have because he was too coked up to take his foot off the gas.  And yet, writing a book is a lot like casting a spell, and a reader can tolerate a lot of excess if they are sufficiently captivated.  While I will not argue that the book takes a while to get going and sags (a lot) in the middle, I must confess that I'm going to rate it far higher than most of my peers.  In fact, I really enjoyed The Tommyknockers, warts and all.  I attribute this to two pivotal elements of this massive tome.  First, I had a lot of fun with the main character.  Deeply flawed and viciously self-destructive, Jim Gardner may have been the unlikeliest of unlikely heroes.  However, he also had some charm at his disposal, and his reckless passions were described well enough to be understood if not endorsed.  Dude was funny too, with his unraveling at a disastrous dinner party in the somewhat tedious first act practically jumping off the page.  This sequence instantly netted a place as one of my favorite passages from King.  And when the chips were down, it was both easy to root for the guy and easy to believe that he might just come through in spite of all his shortcomings.  The second aspect of The Tommyknockers that I greatly appreciated was the ending, which delivered in a big way.  I am a big fan of King, but as many will agree, he is not necessarily known for sticking the landing.  The last act of The Tommyknockers was smoking hot, deftly combining action on a grand scale, unspeakable horror, and a pronounced emotional wallop.  Is The Tommyknockers worthy of a spot in King's top ten?  Surely not, but it is far from one of his lesser efforts.  I rate it as a quality read courtesy of this generation's most beloved writer, and I strongly encourage anyone who has a tough time with the beginning to hang on for that wicked climax.

Final Grade: A

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