Bobbi Anderson and the other good folks of Haven, Maine, have sold their souls to reap the rewards of the most deadly evil this side of hell.
King's new novel, a numbing variation on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, offers its own best commentary on itself. Nearly one-third of the way through the 560-page book, protagonist Bobbi Anderson, a writer of westerns, describes what she has stumbled upon in her backyard to her friend Gardener, an alcoholic poet: "It was a flying saucer. No self-respecting science-fiction writer would put one in his story, and if he did, no self-respecting editor would touch it with a ten-foot pole.. . . It is the oldest wheeze in the book." After the vampirish Tommyknockers in the spaceship have wrought their evil magic upon the inhabitants of Haven (Tommyknockers live on the blood of comatose humans circulated through mind-reading PCs connected to VCRs), the unfortunate townspeople have, it seems, "become" (the word, over-used and never explained, is King's) "something else" (the vague words are also the author's). The "gadgets" of the town "become" living beings that kill (there are marauding hedge cutters and Coke machines, Electrolux vacuums, Yamaha motorcycles and flying smoke detectors ) and The Tommyknockers is consumed by the rambling prose of its author. Taking a whole town as his canvas, King uses too-broad strokes, adding cartoonlike characters and unlikely catastrophes like so many logs on a fire; ultimately he loses all semblance of style, carefully structured plot or resonant meaning, the hallmarks of his best writing. It is clear from this latest work that King himself has "become" a writing machinethis is his fourth novel since It was published 14 months ago; the faithful readers not overwhelmed by his latest fictional "gadget" are likely to wonder, as poet Gardener does near the novel's end: "What had it all been for? He realized miserably that he was never going to know."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 28, 1988
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