Will do. I'm about 50 pages from the end (where Bobbie tells Gard what the Tommyknockers really are). Hope to finish it tonight.
The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
While searching for firewood, Bobbi Anderson stumbles across a mysterious piece of metal jutting from the ground in the woods behind her home in the town of Haven, Maine. The metal, obviously the topmost part of some larger structure, emanates an odd vibration which calls to Bobbi and imparts knowledge that lets her build some incredible gadgets like a power source that can run her hot water heater on everyday batteries. It also compels her to dig up more of the structure to the point where it becomes an obsession. Joined by her friend and former lover Jim Gardener ("Gard"), they slowly uncover a gigantic, ancient spaceship which has been buried for millions of years. But the more they dig the more the ship exerts its strange influence on Bobbi and the rest of the townsfolk, slowly transforming them into something alien.
The Tommyknockers represents King's attempt at grafting horror onto a science fiction story and the results are somewhat mixed. The protagonists are typical King archetypes - Bobbi writes western novels, Gard is a former teacher turned poet. They make for an unlikely pair tasked with overseeing possibly the greatest discovery in the history of mankind. King was dealing with his own alcoholism while writing the book and it comes thru in the character of Gard, who spends 8/10 of the book in a drunken stupor that he really only comes out of for the climax. It makes for a somewhat unlikable character who seems to stumble his way thru much of the story. King also spends a lot of time introducing characters who have the most tenuous connection to the narrative, giving us their backstory, and then killing them all in the same chapter. The intent is to show the effects of the ship on Haven and the surrounding area but it often bogs things down and grinds the narrative to a halt.
The novel itself harkens back to several sci-fi archetypes. The whole ancient spaceship exerting a strange force on the townspeople is very reminiscent of a 1960s sci-fi movie called Five Million Years to Earth (also known as Quatermass and the Pit in the UK). The way the townsfolk are slowly changed is reminiscent of the children from Village of the Damned or the ill-fated astronauts from Mario Bava's underrated Planet of the Vampires. The Tommyknockers themselves end up being reminiscent of the Pakleds from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Overall, I'd say this is the most uneven of King's works that I've read so far. It's pretty divisive among his fans and even King himself admits it isn't one of his stronger efforts. Still, as a sci-fi fan it held my attention and I did like all the callbacks to classic sci-fi movies and shows of the 50s, 60s and 70s (though King gets the name of a key character from Forbidden Planet wrong - his editor let him down on that one and I'll be happy to offer my services if he ever tackles science fiction again).
Not sure what to read next. I have a hardcover copy of Pet Sematary that I've owned for ages but never read because the subject matter seemed a little too disturbing; maybe it's time to tackle that one.
The point I wanted to discuss was the similarity with "Quatermass And The Pit" which you've covered above. I'm very much a Quatermass nerd and I used to think that the similarities were homages, until I read King saying that he hadn't noticed until someone pointed them out. I'm now changing my mind about re-reading it, there are better Kings to refresh myself on.
One of them won't be "Pet Sematary", though. Not because it isn't a good story (it is) or badly written (it isn't), but because it left me so desperately sad that I have no wish to feel that way again.
When I gave my brother a quick summary of the plot he also immediately called out the similarities to Quatermass and the Pit. I'm sure King was being honest when he said he hadn't noticed the similarities (at least on a conscious level).
Speaking of Quatermass, just to show you how small a world we live in, the husband of my brother's secretary is actually Andew Keir's cousin. My brother happened to mention the movie in passing and she related how Kier and her husband Dan grew up together in Scotland. Sadly, they fell out of touch when Dan moved to America.
Your reaction to Pet Sematary is in line with a lot of impressions I've come across; it's the reason I've avoided it until now. You definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to take on a story like that. The hardcover is only 370 pages so by King standards it should be a quick read at least. If I can get a good deal on the Bill Hodges trilogy in the next few days I may tackle those and then The Outsider and Holly first. I've also never read The Dead Zone and am always on the lookout for a hardcover of that book in good condition at a reasonable price for my collection.
Don't forget "If It Bleeds" after Outsider.
Wow, as you say it's really a small world. Mr Keir was my favourite Quatermass although I prefer the BBC version of Pit and André Morell was pretty good in that.
Reading short stories again at the moment before picking a novel.
Apologies for my poor photography. Basically I live in a library and this is the Stephen King section. One is autographed (Cujo) and most are firsts- British firsts, that is, of course.
Awesome collection @Barbel.
Here's a pic of my Stephen King books (along with a few Arthur C. Clarkes). I got my copy of Salem's Lot signed by King back around 1992. He would sign and personalize a book for you if you mailed it to him in those days.
😎 We think very much alike- except that I've never been a huge Clarke fan. I've read the obvious ones (no need to mention the titles, you know what I'm going to say) but never felt drawn to read the others. I liked Asimov rather than Clarke in my younger days, but couldn't read him now.
good gosh, how many books has King written? that looks like 200 unique titles
I can remember a time when there was Carrie, Salems Lot and The Shining ... or were those just the first three to be adapted to film?
It's just my poor photography, cp. There's nothing like 200 books there, maybe 100 (haven't counted).
It reminds me of what Alan Partridge once said about Stephen King books - that they should be on wheels. 😀
ah I see the first two photos are the same spines from two different angles, same with the third and fourth
wikimipedia says "over 65 novels/novellas"
Impressive collections, gentlemen 🥂
I love both King and Clarke - Asimov I wouldn’t give you twopence for, both as a writer or a person.
I've read most of the sci-fi grandmasters over the years, Clarke was always the one that resonated with me the most. I even had the chance to correspond with him while I was in college back in the late 80s so that probably factored into it as well.
@TonyDP Corresponding with Clarke must have been fabulous - I’ve met and corresponded with quite a few authors in my time but I would have just loved to have done so with dear Arthur, but alas, it was not to be.
Are those signed trading cards I also spy there @TonyDP ? I have quite an extensive collection of movie and tv related autograph trading cards, myself.
I couldn't get a whole shelf in one photo
@CoolHandBond ndbond, getting a reply from him as well as a personalized autograph and a few other trinkets was a big thrill for me. I put together a small display from 2001 with his autograph as part of it.
My brother is a pretty serious autograph collector as well. Those autographs are of the two most recent Boston Bruins hockey teams that won the Stanley Cup. He also has tons of autographs from Bond, Star Trek, Space 1999 and other genre movies and TV shows. He gets the signatures and I put together the displays. Here's a couple.
@Barbel, actually I already read If It Bleeds a while ago; I wasn't aware of Holly's history at the time so that one got inadvertently read out of sequence.
I always liked Andrew Kier's turn as the sharpshooting monk Father Sandor in Dracula: Prince of Darkness; probably my favorite role of his.
I've decided to give Pet Sematary a go; about 30 pages in and not sure if it's because I already know the broad strokes of the story, but there is already a sense of forboding to it even though almost everything is bright and cheery at the start.
@TonyDP Those displays are magnificent!
Mine are only held in plastic inserts such as this example…
…but you have inspired me to look into doing something a lot better!
@CoolHandBond, very cool. Especially the Stephanie Beacham.
my brother bought his display cases on eBay from a company called Pennzoni. I believe they're also sold on Amazon. If look up "Pennzoni card display case" you'll see them. The ones my brother uses have a glass front and a door that swings open to access the cards.
@TonyDP Thanks for that information - we don’t have Amazon here but will try and source locally.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Louis Creed and his family move to the town of Ludlow, Maine where Louis will be taking on the job of head physician at the University of Maine. He befriends Jud Crandall and his wife Norma, who live just across the road from them. All seems well at first and one day Jud takes them to see a strange pet cemetary in the woods behind Louis' property where children have been burying their dead pets for generations. When Church, the cat belonging to Louis' daughter, is run over by a truck on the road between Louis and Jud's homes, a series of events is set in motion which will irrevocably change life for Louis and his family and bring him face to face with supernatural forces of dark, tempting, incredible power.
Pet Sematary is often cited as one of Stephen King's darkest, scariest books. So much so that I put off reading it for ages, even though I've owned the book for over 20 years before finally deciding to give it a go. I'm not married, have no children (or pets for that matter) and I already knew the broad strokes of the story but I'll admit to struggling my way thru the latter part of the book. Not because it was bad but because I could see what was coming and, notwithstanding that we're only talking about a work of fiction, I wasn't sure I wanted to face it.
Nevertheless, I think this is probably King's strongest work of the ones I have read so far with an ending that is suitably dark and unsettling. The writing has an efficiency and leanness to it that most of his other novels, especially those from around that same period, lack and it made for a fast read. Highly recommended, if you have the stomach for it.
As a parent (one of my sons was the right age at the time I read this) it totally terrified me, and continued to do so for some time afterwards. It's on my shelf (you can see that above) but it's staying right there because I'm never going to read it again. I tried to watch the film version once, but lasted maybe ten minutes since I knew what was to come.
Our reactions show how powerful and emotive a writer King can be when he chooses to. I for one am glad he isn't always like this.
Edit: He arouses very similar emotions in a later novel which I won't name here for fear of spoilers, but that one I will read again some day. No, I can't explain why.
The Dossier Of Solar Pons Basil Copper
More adventures of the renowned consulting detective Solar Pons. His rooms are in 4B Praed Street, London, and he shares with his companion Dr Parker who faithfully records his adventures for the reading public. Their long-suffering landlady Mrs Johnson is used to admitting strange clients at all hours, or sometimes Inspector Jamison of Scotland Yard who needs help on a perplexing case. Solar’s brother Bancroft, who holds a position with the British Government which is shrouded in secrecy, is sometimes involved. Often Pons recognises his archenemy’s hand behind assorted cases.
Sound familiar? Sherlock Holmes with the names changed,. About 100 years ago Sir Arthur Conan Doyle refused permission for budding author August Derleth to use his characters, so young Derleth went ahead anyway just changing the names. Over time, he published volumes of Pons stories such as the Adventures, the Return, the Reminiscences… etc.
After Derleth passed away, one Basil Copper began writing the Pons stories and I’ve just finished one of his… again. His style is a shade less humorous than Derleth’s, but nevertheless true to the Holmes manner. Of the various pastiches and continuations to the Canon, the Pons stories are my favourite and I read them regularly.
@Barbel, I've never heard of these books until now. They certainly make no bones about the inspiration, do they; even going so far as to appropriate the inverness cape and deerstalker cap on the cover illustration. Has Arthur Conan Doyle's estate ever chimed in on these?
Kind of at a loss as to what to read next. I haven't had a chance to order the Bill Hodges trilogy yet and the only Stephen King book left in my collection that I haven't read (other than the two Holly books) is "It" and I really don't have the energy to tackle such a massive tome right now. Might be a good time to pivot to something else for a bit.
I don't believe either Doyle himself (the Solar Pons series started before his death) or his estate has ever taken a position on Pons.
These stories take place after the Holmes adventures, in the 1920s and 30s mainly. People get around in cars and communicate by phone. They do however capture the correct atmosphere. Some of the stories are better than others, but then that's true about Holmes as well.
I read a couple of these and liked them. They sold very well, too.
My next book has just arrived. Hope to start it later today....
It’s a good one @TonyDP 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻