20 Bad Books By Good Authors

The Tommyknockers

Author: Stephen King
Released: 1987

Considering that he's written 50 published novels, it's no small miracle that Stephen King's bibliography is light on flops. Granted, the duds do exist (Rose Madder, for example, could've easily made the cut here), but even in King's weakest efforts, his uncontrollable imagination, delicate characterizations, and knack for at least one knockout scare moment are, to a lesser degree, always present.

The Tommyknockers, however, is the sole King book that's devoid of all those things. The author himself has discussed the cocaine-induced state he was in while writing the 1987 sci-fi/thriller about a town being overtaken by a UFO's psychic transferences and mind manipulations. It's written with a palpable contempt for the rise of technology in the 1980s, a fear that machines and gadgetry were advancing faster than humans could handle.

Which, one would guess, is why King felt compelled to turn a vacuum cleaner and a Coke machine into villains. The Tommyknockers also suffers from the worst offense a 750-page novel can commit: None of its characters are worth giving a damn about. Perhaps it was King's own drug-fueled anger that led him to draft up such cold people and watch them squirm at the hands of an unseen force. —Matt Barone

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