Tommykockers, tommyknockers, knocking on your door....
I still don’t know what the tommyknockers had to do with this story, but it made for a cool name. Actually, I do 'know.' Jim Gardener, the closest thing to a main character, was thinking about the Tommyknockers when all this started, and it stuck. In my opinion, it was incorporated a little weirdly. It seems like it was just a good, intriguing title for the book.
But on to the story. To me, Stephen King is the master of small-town tales. Salem’s Lot, IT, his latest Under the Dome. To some degree, I even consider The Stand as in the same category. It was far from small town, but it had the same large cast of characters that King developed throughout the book. And that's what I love about these stories. If you notice, all of the books listed about are more than 700 pages, three of them breaching the 1000 page mark. King spends ample time building a diverse ad interesting cast of characters and then plunge them into bizarre situations.
The Tommyknockers is definitely a smalltown novel. And, clocking in at just under 750 pages, it has the length. I thoroughly enjoyed it for that. Still, it was my least favorite out of the ones I’ve mentioned.
Let’s look at IT. That book was as much about Derry as it was about Pennywise the clown. Through a thousand pages, you got to know the town, its people, and what made it special. And you had six main characters whom each had their specific personalities, quirks, and downfalls. The story got a little bizarre (especially towards the end), but it didn't really matter but the characters were ucking fawesome.
With The Tommyknockers, I didn’t come out feeling like I had gotten close to knowing that many people, and Haven didn’t taken on the same reality that Derry had. Some of the side stories were interesting, such as the kid who made his brother disappear (permanently) during a magic trick, or the police officer who gave her life to alert the outside world of what was happening in Haven. But I don't think it was focused enough. I wasn't sure that Jim Gardener was supposed to be the main character until more than halfway through. With his drinking problem, his resistance to the power of the ship, and his many internal conflicts, he was interesting enough. But his partner, Bobbi Anderson, was honestly a little boring. I kind of just wanted her to die.
And what about her sister? Sister Anne? Trying too hard, Stephen? He does those rough, malicious characters pretty well, but usually they are three dimensional. Anne Anderson was basically King saying, how vile can I make a female who isn't breaking the law? Even to the end of her life she was snarling like a rabid dog and it's like...really? Do people like this really exist?
The story got a little weird at times, but most of King's stories do. He's a great tale-weaver, but when you zoom away, some of his stories sound a little...off. But that's how the real world is, isn't it? He stays true to what could really happen in extraordinary situations, even if it leaves us wondering...what the fuck? In the end, he delivers the goods where it matters: character development and scaring the shit out of you with his wonderful tension. The Tommyknockers missed the mark on these elements at time, but then again I'm comparing it to other King works, so it had a tough grading rubric to begin with.