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4.2 out of 5 stars69
4.2 out of 5 stars
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The start of Stephen King's 1987 novel "The Tommyknockers" has always reminded me of the set up of one of my all-time favorite science fiction-horror films, "5 Million Years to Earth" (a.k.a. "Quatermass and the Pit" in the U.K.). A writer named Roberta Anderson, living on the outskirts of the small town of Haven, Maine, is out looking for firewood in the forest behind her house when she stumbles over three inches of metal. She assumes that she has stumbled over a beer can left behind by a logger, but instead she discovers the metal was solid. What she has found is a space ship, buried in the earth for millions of years, but still vibrating faintly. So, Bobbi begins to dig the giant craft out of the earth by herself, soon to be joined by her friend and former lover Jim Gardener, and by the strange advanced technology that they are suddenly inspired to create. But as they uncover more of the ship Bobbi and Jim, as well as the rest of the citizens of Haven, all start to change.
Up to that point "The Tommyknockers" is pretty good and I have to admit that I thought the idea of alien technology working into the ancient rubric that there are some things human beings were not meant to tamper with was enough to sustain the story. But instead we are treated to a malevolent presence that has evil designs on the citizen of Haven and that seemed to me like overkill. Add to that the fact the two main characters are writers (King dedicates the novel to his wife Tabitha, who is also a novelist), and "The Tommyknockers" becomes a bit too self referential for me as does the whole subplot about Gardener’s writer’s block. This novel represents the start of a period in King's writing where my recurring complaint was that the great set up never resulted in an ending that was equal to the task, although we do have a sort of reverse "deus ex machina" at the end of this one. But the discovery of the ship and the weird inventions people in Haven start putting together out of odds, ends and batteries is pretty good stuff.
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on 3 April 2008
This book is simply amazing. Yes, it may be overly long and slightly tedious in places (particularly near the end), but it does have some fantastic moments including every one of the character sub-stories, particularly the introduction of the middle-aged, gold-toothed, foul mouthed, drug-snorting Sissy which breathes new life into the book in its later stages. The references to other King books (It, Firestarter) are a nice touch too. Obviously people who knock this book don't have very long attention spans and are not aware that it takes great skill to keep a reader entertained over such a long story. A King classic, only the Stand is better.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2007
I first read this book ages ago, in the 80s, and I didn't like it at all - but it was clearly because of a horribly bad French translation (in this time I couldn't read English). I returned to it now and I found it quite good, although with a little weak ending.

There are many excellent things in this book. First, the idea of digging. There is something extremely appealing about the idea that there is somewhere, very close to our home, a buried treasure waiting to be uncovered. King is always at his best exploring children fantasies and fears (he is a teacher by profession) and here he had the idea of discovering a real alien spacecraft buried just behind one of the main character's house. This will of course have very serious consequences to almost everybody in the town, expecially considering that the aliens who used to own the ship were really, but really NOT ET-like...

There are many great moments in this book and in fact one of the chapters from the middle is so good that sometimes it figures in King's antologies as a separate short story and it was also adapted for TV as one of the "Outer Limits" episodes.

There are however some flaws, which make it impossible to five star it. The ending is unsatisfactory and hastened, as if the author was on a too strict a deadline. The identity of the evil force in the book is uncertain and confusing - is it a ghost of one of alien crew? Is it just a poisonous gas? I failed to understand this point and it left me hungry for answers at the end.

Then there is one (just one) point which I found simply too stupid to suffer - although the "tommyknockers" are so smart that they can easily rebuild vending machines in warrior robots, they are forced to kidnap living beings to use them as sources of energy! How on Earth couldn't they think about something simpler, like solar panels or even just tapping discreetly the energy lines? OK, the latter would still attract attention ultimately but much less than disappearance of people!

Still, I had fun reading this book and I think that even less than perfect Stephen King's works are still the best you can find on the market as far as fantastic books are concerned.
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on 27 August 2015
I just want to say that I have been a late convert to Stephen King .
I love his books and seen a lot of reviews of his novels. I hugely enjoyed Revival , The Stand, Carrie and Needful Things, Carrie : you name it!
As regards the Tommyknockers I have read a lot of very mixed reviews.

However, I loved this book from the very start : I think the earliest parts of the book relating to the two main characters go into a lot of detail , but you end up caring for the characters.

Many of the book's early parts are clearly written 'from the heart' and I suspect have a lot of autobiographical content . The middle section scenes (on the face of it) relate to totally different characters - but this section works if treated as "short stories" within the context of the main book. It really does function to progress the story !
The final third I think is one of the better, if not the best endings that he's done. ( I think he does sometimes seem to rush endings )
There are elements of the book that you could treat as silly , but it is a science fiction book and so there needs to be some 'suspension of disbelief '.
I think that the main criticism that you can throw at Stephen King is that he "does go on " .
There Is clearly no editor involved ! is very much a case of 'whatever Stephen writes we print', in this book.... But you can say this with many of his books ( Duma Key and Insomnia spring to mind -and I enjoyed them both but remember thinking crikey " get on with it /too much trivial detail"!)
In this book , I don't think there's too much 'fat ' -I genuinely don't.
I thoroughly enjoyed this --to the point where I was literally staying up late into the early hours reading it .
It is a hugely entertaining book and whilst it's not particularly frightening (that there are frightening elements in it )I think it is more a story that is written with entertainment at its heart .
I have read a interview with Steven King where, on reflecting on this book, he describes it as "terrible".
I think this is unbelievably harsh.
I have read a lot of Stephen King books (I think IT being his best- though it does have 'that'misjudged/ clangingly ghastly scene ...)

But I enjoyed this the most- time for a reappraisal!!
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on 9 October 2013
I've heard mostly negative opinions of The Tommyknockers, at least when it was published in 1988 and I was a teenager who read books like this. So I skipped it. Now over 20 years later I decided to try it, for some reason I haven't got a clue of. And I must say that this is one of the best King novels. Of course it is a little too long (nearly 700 pages), but that is his trademark. The story should not be read about in advance, just read the book. It contains some brilliant ideas, the main characters are well drawn and interesting and the story has suspense enough to last to the end. The only thing I find negative is the description of one of minor characters (Sissy), introduced towards the end, who don't feel realistic at all and too much a cliché. But as this is only about 10 pages it's no biggie. Gard, the protagonist, a sometimes brilliant but mostly hopeless alcoholic poet, is well drawn.
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on 2 January 2014
I used to read a lot of Stephen King in my teens and I enjoyed most of them (Needful Things and the Stand stick in my mind) decided to pick up a new book on my Kindle.

I'm not a fan of sci-fi to be honest and this is all about a spaceship, so I supposed I was doomed from the outset with this book, hence the reason for giving it three stars. It is a bit of a tomb too but I have yet to give up on a book and finished this one too although I found that it drags on at times.

I did enjoy defamiliarising myself with Stephen Kings style of writing. He can definitely write there is no denying that. It's also funny to read a book written in the eighties where a lot of the technology we now take for granted is absent which makes a story line possible which no longer would be.

If you like sic-fi and Stephen King, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book.
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on 30 August 2007
I bought this book many years ago, but have read it at least six times, and have to say it never bores me... It is easily one of Stephen King's best novels; it is very long, but is so good, time passes easily, and you just want to carry on reading... I rate this book up there with The Shining and Salem's Lot... If you are a fan of Stephen King (as i am) buy it!!..
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on 8 January 2016
As with quite a few King books, this could have benefited from being a third shorter. I’ve read everything King/Bachman from the seventies through nineties, and a little beyond. I tried this book a while ago, but couldn’t get past the start, tried harder this time, and found this to be one of King’s poorer efforts. There’s greatness in here — a storyteller of King’s ability can’t write 700 pages without striking gold here and there — but man does he bore on at times. There’s too much character development/back-story, and too often King leaves the story jogging on the spot while he goes off on one of his rambling tangents. I appreciate that delayed gratification can be an effective way to build tension, but King overdoes it to the point where I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking oh no here we go again.
Another area where I think King is pretty weak is in the fact he just can’t do likeable characters, and we spend a lot of time learning about them in this one. They’re well-drawn enough, just I don’t give a stuff about them.
I also found the sci-fi element poor. I take it that if you’re reading reviews/blurbs, you’ll know there’s a spaceship at the centre of this story, so I won’t be spoiling anything for you. If you’re a sci-fi fan, don’t get your hopes up though, as the first thing they find when they enter a ship built by a super technological alien race is a sodding ladder. You’ll realise how daft this is when you read the book.
The sci-fi aspects have a 1950s quality to them, and some of the technological wonders are a bit half-arsed too. If you've read any modern science fiction, this'll feel like pretty tired stuff. A bit of a lame duck this one. King has a genius for storytelling, but if you’re new to him, don’t start here.
2.5 stars by Kin'gs standards.
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on 21 May 2013
I've had this one in my collection for a while and couldn't remember reading it - so I gave it a blast. I've read lots of Stephen King novels and whilst he tells an excellent tale, he doesn't always get the endings right. I thought that Tommyknockers has one of the better Stephen King endings, much better than some of his recent books like `Under the Dome'.

The story introduces us the characters in the book and we start to get to know them. Even the secondary characters are well detailed and brought to life by King's narrative. We start to get a hint of the pace changing when lead character Bobbi Anderson trips over a piece of exposed metal on her land. Gradually we find out that the metal is part of a much larger structure, one that begins not only to affect her life but those of the other town-folk as well.

The story is a long one, and the pace is brisk for much of the book although there are some parts that you need to read in fast forward (am I the only one who doesn't like quotes from songs/other books at the start of chapters?). The characters are believable although the science is a little less so (I think there is probably a limit to what you can build with old calculators and batteries...)

The story picks up pace as you get past the half way mark, and even towards the end there are new characters and twists that keep you reading. I enjoyed this book and found myself picking it up and reading it to see what comes next - always the sign of a good book.
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on 10 August 2014
Like the book my review is in 3 parts

Part 1- 1 star. I found this extremely hard going and to be honest a bit boring, I was tempted many times to give the book up as a bad job.

Part 2 - 4 stars, but as you can see I persevered, and boy was I rewarded. The first couple of chapters on how Haven got its name is comic writing at its best. The rest of part 2 is Stephen King at his near best.

Part 3 - 5 stars, Stephen King at his absolute best.
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