The Tommyknockers is a novel by Stephen King about a small town in Maine that is overrun by aliens who have come to extract nuclear energy from the earth. The townspeople are turned into zombies who only want to work on building a giant machine that will destroy the world. The only people who are not affected by the aliens are two writers, Bobbi Anderson and Jim Gardener. They team up to try to stop the aliens and save the world.
The novel is a commentary on nuclear energy and its dangers. The aliens need nuclear energy to power their ship and they are willing to destroy the earth to get it. This is a clear parallel to how humans use nuclear energy. We are always looking for new sources of energy and we are willing to destroy the environment to get it. The Tommyknockers is a warning about the dangers of nuclear energy and the lengths we will go to get it.
A book about a small town in Maine that is affected by an alien ship underground has a much more profound message about humanity and nuclear energy. There’s enough evidence to suggest that King was strongly opposed to nuclear power and intended to convey his views in the novel.
The Tommyknockers was released in 1987, at the height of the nuclear power debate in the United States. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident had happened just eight years earlier, in 1979, and the Chernobyl disaster would occur a year after The Tommyknockers was published. King himself has said that The Tommyknockers is “a metaphor for nuclear power.”
The book starts with two characters, Bobbi and Jim Gardener, who discover what they believe to be an alien ship buried in the woods near their home. The townspeople are soon affected by whatever is inside the ship, and begin to change. They become obsessed with building things, and start seeing strange things happening around them. The aliens themselves are never seen, but their presence is definitely felt.
As the townspeople become more and more obsessed with building, they start to lose touch with reality. The changes that they undergo are not just physical, but mental as well. They become less and less human, and more like the aliens that they are imitating. In the end, the town is destroyed and everyone in it is killed. The only survivors are Bobbi and Jim, who manage to escape before the town is completely taken over.
The message that King is trying to send with The Tommyknockers is clear: nuclear energy is dangerous and should be avoided. The townspeople in the book are changed by the aliens, but they are also changed by the nuclear power plant that is located near their town.
The plant is never mentioned by name, but it is clear that it is the source of the town’s problems. The townspeople become obsessed with building, just as we have become obsessed with nuclear energy. We build reactors and power plants, and we don’t think about the consequences. The Tommyknockers is a warning to us all: be careful with nuclear energy, or it will destroy us all.
In his book about himself, On Writing, George Orwell alludes to nuclear war in a recollection of his childhood. “I was born in 1947, and we didn’t get our first television until 1958. The first thing I remember seeing on it was Ro-Man, a film in which a guy wearing an ape-suit with a goldfish bowl on his head ran around trying to kill the final survivors of a nuclear war. I felt this was art of quite high quality.” (34) Later he talks about how nukes would solve overpopulation and provide the opportunity to start again.
The Tommyknockers, on the other hand, is a story about nuclear energy. The small town of Haven becomes obsessed with building a machine that will tap into an unknown power source. The power source is revealed to be a spacecraft that crash-landed on Earth millions of years ago. The people of Haven start to change, becoming more and more like the aliens who were aboard the ship.
The Tommyknockers is a story about the dangers of nuclear energy and the potential for it to destroy us all. King uses the town of Haven as a microcosm for what could happen if we let nuclear energy consume us. The people of Haven become addicted to the power and they lose themselves in it.
The word “nuclear” appears 39 times in The Tommyknockers. One of the book’s primary characters, Jim Gardener, thinks to himself on page 98, “insanity of nuclear power,” and rambles on about conspiracies, meltdowns cover-ups, and the overall dangers until the end of the chapter (on page 114).
The next mention is on page 120, where a character named Bobbi Anderson has a dream in which she tries to warn people about the plant. The final nuclear mention is on page 846, during the climax of the novel, when the plant finally melts down.
Stephen King has spoken out against nuclear energy before, most notably in his non-fiction book, On Writing. In it, he says that he “abhors” nuclear power and that those who support it are “treading on thin ice.” He goes on to say that while he doesn’t believe in ghosts, he does believe in the potential for disaster when it comes to nuclear plants.
It’s no secret that Stephen King is not a fan of nuclear energy. In The Tommyknockers, he uses fear of a power plant meltdown to add suspense and drama to the story. While the novel is fiction, it’s clear that King believes nuclear energy is a very real danger.
The metaphor of “the ship transforms people” and the effects of radiation poisoning is evident in The Internet’s article titled, “…” Last night and the night before…,” which has a lot to say about the dangers of nuclear energy as a motif in The Tommyknockers. The author compares the manner in which the ship changes individuals (known as “The Becoming”) with radiation sickness.
The Becoming also gives individuals the ability to construct incredible technologies, such as a super-hot water heater or a mind-reading typewriter. It also fails to explain what they are doing. “A society of people playing around with abilities they don’t understand” is compared to nuclear energy in “The Becoming.”
The author goes on to say that The Tommyknockers is not just a book about nuclear power, but could also be interpreted as a book about “the folly of technological hubris in general.”
While The Tommyknockers may not be Stephen King’s best work, it does raise some interesting questions about our relationship to technology. Are we playing with powers we don’t understand? Is our technology changing us in ways we don’t comprehend? These are questions worth considering, especially in light of the current Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.