(R)October 2010's SK Flavor of the Month - The Tommyknockers

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(R)October 2010's SK Flavor of the Month - The Tommyknockers

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Out 1, 2010, 9:37 am

Did anyone else grow up with a cheesy heavy metal station that would refer to the tenth month as 'Rocktober'? In Long Beach/Los Angeles it was KNAC. So cheesy.

Anyway, the book this month is The Tommyknockers. Not a fan favorite, but I remember REALLY liking the book (after a slow start).

Out 1, 2010, 10:11 am

This is one that I haven't read yet but I didn't like the movie. How do they compare?

Out 1, 2010, 10:22 am

oh man, Rocktober. Yeah, we had (and still have) a cheezy station that does that along with the venerable Block Party Weekend. They still play the same old crap they did then.

anyway, I forgot about this one and am looking forward to reading it. I hope the Suck Fairy doesn't pay me a visit.

Out 1, 2010, 11:47 am

It's been so long since I read this that I can't even remember what it's about.

My husband went to find my hardcopy but camr back with a note, signed by my little sister, that she needed to borrow it for a class. The note was dated 2004! We have moved since then! The movers must have carefully packed the books, leaving the note tucked between two other King novels.

So I got the audio book with one of my audible books, got the e-book with the gift card from B&N.

So ... how do we do this reading together thing?

Out 1, 2010, 11:48 am

Just post here as you go along - random thoughts, observations etc. It's pretty loose.

Out 1, 2010, 2:40 pm

#2 - From what I remember, the movie version was pretty god-awful. I remember being excited because I liked the book, but having second thoughts when I saw the stars were Jimmy Smits and Traci Lords.

It was aired as a mini-series and I never watched the second half.

Having said that, I would try to watch it again. Maybe after I finish the book.

Out 2, 2010, 3:47 pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Out 2, 2010, 3:48 pm

Up to page 21. Suddenly remembered the toothlessness when Bobbi had her dream. And Peter and the wires and his running legs. Oh what have I gotten into?

Out 2, 2010, 6:46 pm

I'm at the part where Gard has his big party meltdown. It's horrible and I can't take my eyes away.

Out 4, 2010, 12:25 pm

#8 - You have a much better memory than I do.

I started it last night and am up to page 40. Bobbi has just skected out her excavation and guestemated the circumference of the thing.

I've forgotten so much since my original read it is practically like my first try.

Mainly, I'm jealous of the way Bobbi lives. I could so go for that.

And the way King is gradually revealing just what she has in her yard is really well done.

Out 5, 2010, 10:32 am

Just finished book 1.

jseger9000 - I know what you mean about forgetting. It's been over 20 years since I read this, and my memory -- heck, I have no memory at all of the actual book except for the fact that I read it

I like suspense, really enjoy horror. Stephen King does both really well. But I read King, not for those things. but rather for the way he uses language. He has metaphors that are so apt, often so surprising.

Page 199 - he talks about how it sounds ... like an old washing machine but not right
Growing up, we had an old wringer washer. I know that sound ... and when it was full of daddy's work pants, the sloshing sound got thicker --
And that's one of the things he does, connects us to the image personaolly, viscerally.

Is anyone else bothered about Peter? There he was, filled with rage, rage that might be his or might be side effect of the saucer, getting younger -- and he's suddenly gone, dead and buried, There has to be more to the story.

Out 5, 2010, 3:02 pm

#11 - I haven't gotten that far yet. I just finished reading Gardner's 'meltdown'.

Man, for most of that long chapter I was right there with him. Sure he was drunk as a lord, but his tirade was justified. Ted the Power Guy was egging him on and was behaving equally as bad. Then he had to go and punch someone.

I have to admit that even though that chapter was cringe-worthy, I was grinning anyway.

I wonder how much of himself King channeled into Gardner? From what I read it was quite a bit. (Wasn't this written just before his wife staged that intervention?)

I agree with you on King's use of language. That and his depth of character are what make him a bestselling writer. Certainly it isn't his subject matter or there would be more bestselling horror writers.

Out 5, 2010, 5:28 pm

Okay, one thing I didn't catch for sure the first time I read the book: The guest appearance of Jack and the Alhambra.

Out 5, 2010, 5:36 pm

Yeah, I remembered that when I read it again. King is so self-indulgent. But in a good way.

I've read into the beginning of Bobbi's explanation, but that's it.

Out 8, 2010, 9:31 am

I finished book 1 last night. Was it just me or was the whole first section about addiction? Not just Gard, but Bobbi as well. Knowing what little I know about Stephen King and where he was when he was writing this, I just can't help but think it was heavy on his mind.

I think my favorite scene so far was Gard opening up the bottom of the hot water heater. That was just like something out of an old pulp sci-fi story.

Book 2 I believe contains most of what I remember, as the Tommyknockers start effecting the town. I remember stuff about clock towers and magic shows and a crazed drive through Derry... what did they see in the sewers anyway;)

Fun, fun my friends.

Out 11, 2010, 10:28 am

Anybody still plowing through the book?

I'm working on the second half of the Ruth McCaulson (? I don't have the book handy to double check her name) section. She just found a message on the blackboard.

It's funny, because King has already told us how she died, yet I still have no clue what she was doing at the town hall with all her dolls.

Out 11, 2010, 10:51 am

The whole 'we love you Ruth' aspect of her story was the creepiest. The whole section reminded me of Needful Things in a lot of ways; the death of a law man, the reflections of town life through one person, the closeness of a small town and just the whole vibe.

Am about to go with Ev and Monster while they sneak into town during Ruth's funeral. The dark little hint that all will not be well was beautifully done.

I really don't know why people are so down on this book. Maybe I'll find out the more I read, but so far I like it.

Editado: Out 11, 2010, 10:52 am

Bah, double post.

Out 11, 2010, 11:51 am

I just picked it up from the library but first I am finishing Eyes of the Dragon. Better late than never!

Out 12, 2010, 10:07 am

#17 - Am about to go with Ev and Monster while they sneak into town during Ruth's funeral.

I just got to that part last night. You're right, that last little hint is excellent.

Out 14, 2010, 10:15 am

I started book 3 last night. Folks are really changing in Haven now. And I'm reading about Sissy.

I started wondering what would have happened if Sissy were the one to discover the ship. I mean, I know the Tommyknockers are a communal/hive mind. But Sissy's personality is so strong. I bet she would have become some sort of dictator.

Out 14, 2010, 7:04 pm

Something I don't understand: Why can't the Tommyknockers develop a more efficent battery or design some of their machines to run off of A/C instead of batteries?

Out 14, 2010, 7:39 pm

'cause Uncle Steve was wasted.

That and for the same every 'science fiction' author have to use an agrarian basis for their futuristic government...complete with titles and all? 'cause it's TV as my husband would say. I say it's because human creativity is finite.

Out 15, 2010, 9:54 am

'cause Uncle Steve was wasted.

What does it say that even blasted out of his gourd he's a better writer than any other genre/popular novelist?

I remember reading somewhere that he didn't even remember writing Cujo (which might explain why the closet monster never went anywhere). It was still a great book.

Okay. Gard went into the shed. Finding out what was in there killed any sympathy I had for Bobbi.

I'm hoping to have the book finished by this weekend.

Oh, and you need to read some better science fiction;)

Out 15, 2010, 10:15 am

yeah probably, but what I've read doesn't make me want to read more.

I remember the shed from prior readings. Gruesome.

Out 18, 2010, 12:14 pm

I finished the book last night.

I really don't see why it gets such a bad rap. I rate The Tommyknockers higher than most of what I think of as Stephen King's 'second wave'. Stuff like Firestarter, The Dead Zone and those.

Out 18, 2010, 5:25 pm

I whipped up a review for The Tommyknockers.

Was it just me or did the book go a little over the top near the end? I mean the last fifty pages are unrelenting tension, but how much torture could Gard endure? I guess working at unearthing the ship probably had him in pretty good shape. But I felt sure he would just collapse before the end.

Out 24, 2010, 3:15 pm

I just read the Sissy section and knowing what I know about how she ends up, I still can't summon a shred of sympathy for her. It was great when The New and Improved Bobbi showed her real self...in a Lost in Space kinda way. Very campy.

Out 25, 2010, 2:25 pm

I have been reading through this book this month. One of the few I have been able to read this year.

I have to say the TV movie hurts the book. The images from that craptastic interpretation color my reading and imagination and makes it almost annoying to read the book.

I can't say it's one of my favorite books either. It' s not all that frightening or enjoyable. It's disturbing and weird, which is the point, but not in the fascinating and fun way that a lot of King books are for me :). Maybe this is reflective of King's personal problems at the time (as many others have mentioned) but either way it's a negative for the book.

What's good is the story. The story and characters draw me in. I hate Gard at points for being a no good a angry drunk but I can't help but read more! Same thing with Bobbi and lots of the other townsfolk.

I do like Ruth. Her whole character and part in the story is very good. In addition the character is Sissy is excellent for the sheer visceral disgust I have for her selfish nature and for the way in which she meets her untimely end.

The ending is so so. This is the second time through for me and so there's no real surprises left. It's not a great book, but a readable one.

Editado: Out 25, 2010, 10:35 pm

#2, #29 - I am so tempted to rent the TV mini-series. Is it really as bad as I remember?

I think The Tommyknockers would be a good candidate for a remake. Most sci-fi movies/TV shows use too much CGI, but I think it would be great on the New and Improved Haven townsfolk.

Out 25, 2010, 10:45 pm

Actually the special effects are nice and understated but not awful. It's the actors that make it awful.

Out 25, 2010, 10:51 pm

#29: I hope to get the mini-series from Netflix this week. It's almost certainly getting the 1.5x speed treatment. (I love my PS3.)

Out 25, 2010, 11:19 pm

#32 - If only you could get audio at 1.5 speed. You could have "The Chipmunks Do The Tommyknockers"

Nov 2, 2010, 8:09 am

The miniseries was on the other day, but I resisted.

Agreed that the beating Gard takes there at the end is a bit over the top for a guy who's been pickling his liver for weeks and working himself to death at the same time. But whatever.

I liked the bit of suspense King dropped in by having the non-Haven fire & rescue people notice the ship taking off. It seems sort of random since the rest of the book is pretty sloppy and lurches along in a pretty linear way. But that little nugget gets a reader wondering who's driving and what happened. I'm glad it was Gard and that he got a chance to save the world for real.

I also liked Bobbi's denial of the real nature of the Tommyknockers. They seem to be a distillation of everything distasteful about human beings. Our venality, stubbornness, willful blindness, selfishness, callousness and propensity for violence all rolled into one ghoulish creature. Ick.

Nov 3, 2010, 2:33 pm

Getting ready to start the book soon (I'm way behind schedule) but I'm looking forward to it since it's one I've never read before and the comments seem (mostly) positive.

Nov 3, 2010, 3:41 pm

I'm with you LibraryLover. I am only 100 pages or so in. Now if I could find the time.....

Nov 30, 2010, 7:38 pm

I'm just starting the third section of the book, so I'm maybe 3/4 of the way through. The first section dragged (although I did find Gard's rant on nuclear power plants interesting) but the second section was much better. The bouncing around to different characters and seeing one thing from multiple perspectives is what I think King does best.

Still haven't figured out what exactly is in the shed, although I'm sure it's nothing good. It kind of reminds me of Cold Comfort Farm, and Aunt Ada Doom seeing something nasty in the woodshed that scars her for life. :)

Dez 1, 2010, 12:47 pm

I'm only about half way through. I agree with LibraryLover, the second section is a lot better than the first!

Set 13, 2011, 12:03 pm

Well I finally finished it and was not too impressed. I'm not a UFO fan and I don't read a lot of sci-fi so maybe that's why.

I wish it would have been a little more condensed. I think the massive amount of characters that weren't important distracted me from the storyline. I know that King writes that way but in this book it bothered me. Another distraction was the movie. I saw a bit of it years ago and I have those characters in my head and they didn't match what I imagined Bobbi and Gard to be.

I did love King's descriptions, he never fails to make me feel as though I am in the story. The last third of the book was really good. A lot of excitement and creepiness as only King can deliver!

Set 13, 2011, 3:31 pm

Yeah, it seems that even when people purport to like King's style of the extraneous, they don't like this book. I found the extraneous interesting and it didn't try me too high. Gard's a hell of a guy, he put up with stuff I wouldn't have in a million years. I would have shotgunned those people long before they got too powerful to allow me.

Set 14, 2011, 6:15 am

Yep, I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and the heavy metal station had 'Roctober' and 'Zeptember'. As I recall, Tommyknockers was not magic for me, but I still consider it 'vintage' King.

Set 16, 2011, 5:59 pm

Zeptember! I hadn't heard that one, but then I don't listen to much heavy metal.

#40 - I liked the extraneous stuff in The Tommyknockers. The book was more about the town of Haven than any one particular character.

Set 16, 2011, 6:18 pm

ah, well, Zep isn't metal, actually. It's solid AR.

Set 17, 2011, 4:06 am

That's true. Zep is one step beyond.

Editado: Set 19, 2011, 4:46 pm

My wife's cousin's husband is the drummer in a Rush tribute band. A couple of the members of that band also belong to a Zep tribute band.

What I know about the music of either band is based mainly on what I've heard when they put on shows.

On my own, I prefer punk, old goth and (God help me) synth-pop.

Fev 28, 2012, 3:12 pm

Reading The Tommyknockers and following the comments as I go. I'm just leading up to Gard's big drunken outburst - he's just started his bender - and I'm enjoying it, although I did when I first read it years ago.

Bobbie and Gard are likeable (not all of his flawed characters are), they are both at a certain age in their lives and VERY cynical, or so it seems to me. Jseger, I read your review and it's interesting you mentioned it having an addiction subtext, because what I've picked up mostly seems to be about adjusting to approaching middle age! Bobbie's lifestyle IS very appealing, I have to agree with that. Up until Gard comes in, the story is with Bobbie, and I do understand that she is on her own, and that Stephen King does include the internal dialogue his characters have with themselves, but it seemed as if there was almost too much internal dialogue at the beginning. Did anyone else find this? It really is a minor gripe, I'm already intrigued as to what happens next.

Editado: Fev 29, 2012, 8:49 pm

Gard is now at Bobbie's. Not sure Gard and Bobbie are likeable as such, I think it's their friendship that is endearing, but they are interesting characters nonetheless. Forgot that Gard shot his wife. I think Gard works better than Jack does in The Shining - both are flawed but Gard is easier to sympathise with and it is easier to see how the alcohol is as much to blame as his character for his actions, because he is better written.

As for the internal dialogue problem, it's there with the section on Gard too. It's coming across a bit... rambling. It's very typical of the way King writes but when he's not at his best it becomes obvious and obtrusive, and that's apparent here.

The green light (from Pete's cataract, then from Bobbie's in the dream) is surprisingly creepy. King's always good at making unlikely things scary. The sci-fi touches are very 1950s creepy comics - green rays from the eyes, flying saucers - and would have been very unfashionable when he wrote this, but I think they're fun, and I think they work.

Another quick observation. King really does like his Forteana, doesn't he? Always throwing in stories of strange, unexplained phenomena, this time about a family whose glassware picked up radio signals. He must be like a walking, talking 'Unexplained' magazine in real life :)

Mar 8, 2012, 3:40 am

Finished book 1, started book 2.

Just mentioned '1950's creepy comics' and then Gard mentions the same thing when looking at the heater.

Yep, by the end it is as if Bobbie is addicted to the saucer. Still think the addiction theme works better than in The Shining.

Noticed the Alhambra reference too.

A lot of it is coming back to me - I'm looking forward to re-reading about the Hillmans (I think that was the name of the family).

Abr 1, 2012, 12:42 pm

I should have checked in more. Did you finish the book? Reading your comments about the green rays and flying saucers made me feel nostalgic for the book:-)

Abr 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

I've just picked this back up (been really busy, family stuff mostly). I left off with Ev Hillman and will be picking things back up at Ruth's funeral later.

Second time around I still don't see the negativity towards the book. It's not his best but it's a lot of fun. Maybe because it came at the end of a peak for King, I don't know.

I'm skimming through comments here so I don't spoil anything for myself and I did spot a comparison to Needful Things. I see the similarities but think The Tommyknockers is much better. Speaking of spoilers, so much is coming back to me as I read that I'm not sure there will be any surprises. If I remember correctly I preferred the ending here too - the ending to Needful Things seemed to be a bit too hysterical and done before (Carrie meets The Shining, as it were - King likes to burn everything down and blow everything up). I THINK I remember Gard redeeming himself with a major sacrifice at the end, which touched me more. NO, DON'T TELL ME!!! I'll find out when I get there.

I wish there had been a whole lot more of the Hillmans in book 2, and a bit less Ruth. The whole "we love you Ruth" episode would have been creepier had King not laid it on with a shovel - and I found Ruth a bit too 'worthy' to really hold my attention. The Hillman's were far more interesting, especially little Hilly and Ev. I think what happened to them would have had more emotional impact if we as readers had spent a little more time with them.

Editado: Abr 11, 2012, 4:55 pm

Getting there, random thoughts:

Bit TOO self-referential - "that guy up Bangor way" who writes horrors, Gard imagining himself breaking into the shed like Jack Nicholson, PLUS The Alhambra, the Dead Zone (that Bright fellow), and Pennywise/sewers. Too many references to himself, his work AND the SK world.

Derry/Pennywise - first time I read this, I thought there was going to be some sort of tie-in (probably hinted at rather than plotted in) with Pennywise and Derry. In IT, the kids see a vision of IT smashing into the Earth when it was newly formed. Plus both the ship and IT are malevolent forces.

Drags a bit - Sissy wasn't necessary and she's so OTT (though Eau de piss made me laugh, so childish). Neither was the plane that flew over. Over written so not as tense or scary as it could have been.

Too long - as with the above points, some editing wouldn't have gone amiss (this really is the main problem with the book because it's still a fun re-read).

Thought about technology - how things have changed! During the set-up of the bell-tower illusion, my mind was screaming "Photoshop"! Had a few of those moments this time around. Not a 'proper' science fiction book by any means, more an homage to 50's sci-fi B-movies.

Gard's just out of the shed. Doesn't the contraption with the arms (one holding a knife) seem silly?

Abr 11, 2012, 8:52 pm

I would like to hear some opinions on the way in which King brings many of the key characters and protagonists from his other novels into the dark tower. Do you guys think it is a positive or negative thing to link all of his works in this way?

Abr 12, 2012, 9:40 am

52: Interesting topic but it might be missed here. Might be worth starting a new thread?

Abr 12, 2012, 7:55 pm

Finished! Mixed feelings...

I've never been a fan of King's more over the top endings and this was one of them, which made the last 100 pages a bit of a slog. Didn't like the ending of Needful Things, The Shining or Carrie either and they don't get the stick this book does, so still baffled by the book's reputation.

Gard passing out and imagining him, Bobbie and Pete all together was sad and lovely, and the Brown boys being reunited at the end was also touching. But getting to the end... all those gadgets! All the individual stories of death and destruction! Really dragged.

Overall? An enjoyable read most of the time, not a re-read but the relationships between characters stuck with me and made me remember the book fondly (and I still will). Massively over-written but at this point in his career King's characterisation was consistently strong enough to carry the book along, unlike some of his weaker earlier works.

Editado: Abr 23, 2012, 10:56 pm

#51 - In IT, the kids see a vision of IT smashing into the Earth when it was newly formed. Plus both the ship and IT are malevolent forces.

I hadn't thought of that at all!

Having just read Desperation and The Regulators, I could see Tak arriving much the same way (though I don't believe it was ever explicitly spelled out).

...still baffled by the book's reputation.

Me too. And while I agree it could have used some editing, I could see rereading it again. Just reading your posts is tempting me to do it (not that I will right away. Too many books, not enough time).

Abr 24, 2012, 6:07 am

Dunno if the link to Derry and Pennywise was a thread that King considered then dropped, or whether I picked up on the references and ran with them myself. At first I thought he was suggesting the ship was the cause of IT. Who knows? He was smashed when he wrote this.

This time round I've been thinking about where he could have gone with it had he explored it more. If he'd have reigned in his worst excesses, hinted at more of a link (and not spelled it out - just enough that the reader can see the link but not the characters in the book), it could have been a great follow up to IT. Maybe in the epilogue, a Derry librarian finally decides to publish his history of Derry with the sight of the ship flying away as the end chapter, not remembering why that would make a fitting end to his book...

The tragedy of the losers club, sacrificing themselves to destroy IT when the discovery and removal of the ship was only a few years away, would have mirrored the tragedy of what happened to those in Haven. IT as a maker but ultimate breaker of friendships and the ties that bind us as humans, as it were. That's a very sad and haunting idea.