Carrie / Tommyknockers Review

Carrie / The TommyknockersCarrie / The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Carrie was the first published work by author extraordinaire Stephen King. Most of his standard cliches and tropes began here, and as such I had felt like I’d read it long before I had. I’d seen it mocked on Tiny Toon Adventures. I’d seen the Sissy Spacek movie, and the TV movie, and the remake. I’d heard of — and avoided — “The Rage: Carrie 2.” I knew the plot and characters and setting, and I even read “On Writing” and can tearfully recount how the publishing of Carrie changed the lives of King’s poor family. You can know absolutely everything about this story and never know how absolutely amazing it is until you actually pick it up and read it for yourself.

Told through a variety of views, including memoir, police report, and medical journal, Carrie tells the story of Carrie White, a put-upon young woman who gets her first period at the age of 16.

As many ‘late-bloomers’ are, she is on the outside of the social order and is all but assaulted by her classmates when her menstrual cycle begins in the now-infamous shower scene. This trauma — combined with Carrie’s mother’s ascertain that menstruation only comes to those who have sinned — triggers latent telekinetic powers. The sci-fi aspect is almost an afterthought though — a grim warning that those put-upon victims might someday lash-out — as has since been proven the case many times. It’s a first period story, a story about bullies, and a warning to the repercussions of the sort of staunched religious upbringing that Carrie is born into. Sexual repression, violence, and vengeance are all prevalent themes.

If you’ve only read other books by King or only seen the adaptations of Carrie, you might wonder why King is considered the master of his generation. Anyone who has actually read this book doesn’t have to wonder.

A few years ago, a popular Internet critic named Doug Walker (better known as the Nostalgia Critic) created a game known as ‘The Steven King drinking game’ for use in reviewing the film adaptation of the novel ‘It’.

I’m not going to comment on the insensitivity of creating a drinking game after a known alcoholic. I’m a fan of Dougs, but found said review to not be his best. The drinking game however instructed viewers to take a shot whenever certain prevalent King stereotypes came into the story, ie: characters that are alcoholics, characters that are writers, etc…

If I were playing that game right now, I’d have died of alcohol poisoning.

I’m of two minds on Tommyknockers. I like the plot of Gard and Bobbi digging up and old UFO, of the strains on their friendship, and the physical tole it takes on them. The issue is that this plot takes up a maximum of 1/3 of the novel.

The rest is just… Stuff.

Just stuff. That’s it. Characters come and go with little to no point. We have entire chapters and multiple-chapter sections of the text devoted to people and events that have absolutely no bearing on the plot. There’s an entire chapter devoted to a pilot that crashes after flying over the town. Another three chapters devoted to reporters investigating the mysterious events in the town ( which wouldn’t be so bad, except it doesn’t resolve).

There is no point to any of it. I read it all and resisted the urge to skip parts under the assumption that a master like King would be going somewhere with it, although I had suspicions that it would not. There is no point. It’s 400 pages of padding. Obvious padding that’s tedious to read, because you realize it’s padding while reading it.

I read an interview from King once where he said he didn’t plan his novels before he started writing. With Cell I believe that. With Tommyknockers, I think he planned it, realized it would be shorter than people expected it to be, then went about filling.

How do I grade this? How do I grade it when I loved the main plot but am so dismayed by the crap I had to wade through to reach each plot point?

I was going to give the 1/3 I liked 5/5, but that still only works out to 0.6/5, rounded up to 1. That lumps it in with trash like Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which it does not deserve. I’m giving it 2/5. Skip any scene that doesn’t have Gard or Bobbi in it and you’ll have a much better reading experience.

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