Picks and Pans Review: Dear Steve,

updated 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Enough already! The Tommyknockers is the fourth novel you've published over a 15-month period. Naturally, all four made it to the top of the best-seller lists, so it's not as if you have anything to prove. But it's time you took a break. Give the old word processor a rest. What brings this on, you ask? Well, Steve, The Tommyknockers has me worried. It's not your worst book (Christine still holds that honor), but it's a long way from your best (The Dead Zone, The Stand, The Shining). Actually, The Tommyknockers starts out promisingly enough. Bobbi Anderson, a writer of pulp Westerns, stumbles over a sharp metallic object in the woods behind her house in Maine. Aided by her friend and onetime lover, alcoholic poet Jim Gardener, Bobbi begins to unearth the unknown artifact. Bobbi also begins to act very strangely; she adapts ordinary household appliances so that they become technological marvels, and writes a 400-page novel in three days. Yet all the while she is experiencing troubling physical changes. So far, so good. But when the object in the woods turns out to be the hull of a tremendous spaceship (piloted by beings that Gardener dubs Tommyknockers) that has been buried for about 50 million years, the carefully constructed sense of mystery you created crumbles. I suppose it was just a matter of time before you got around to writing something about extraterrestrials, yet it still seems too obvious a route for you to follow. As you have proved so often in the past, terror is most effective when it is grounded in reality. There are some other problems: Your usually sure touch for creating the right mix of sympathetic characters seems to have failed you in this instance, and the sense of urgency we have come to expect from your prose is curiously absent, except for the final 50 pages or so. In short, I get the feeling that you were simply going through the paces with this one. The Tommyknockers appears to be a tired book, written by a tired author. So why don't you just hop in that '68 Caddy of yours, drive the kids on down to Disney World and recharge those batteries? No doubt you will come back feeling refreshed and scare the Mickey Mouse ears right off our heads. (Putnam's, $19.95)

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