Recently, I decided to go back through all of Stephen King’s works and read them all. Although he probably doesn’t edge in on my top 3 books of all time, he is one of my favourite authors. Given his massive publicity through word of mouth, and particularly scores of film and TV adaptations, it’s very difficult to come across one of his books where you know nothing of the story.
That was The Talisman for me. Although I knew it was one of two collaborations with Peter Straub, I knew absolutely nothing of what it was about, and as far as I’m aware, there is no film or TV adaptation yet. Now that I’ve been able to experience something purely spoiler-free, I wish this could be the case for everything I experience in the future. If you want the same feeling, maybe don’t read any further, and believe me when I say it’s a good read. For those who want a bit more, here’s my thoughts…
The Talisman is the journey of a boy, Jack Sawyer, who crosses the country in order to save his mother’s life. On the surface of it all, nothing too fantastical. Until he discovers he can flip into this other cleaner, parallel world he comes to know as The Territories. In this place, there are still rulers, usurpers, wagons, and villains. There are people here who bear a strong resemblance to those in his own world; known as Twinners. Jack’s own mother has one, who happens to be the Queen of the Territories, who is also dying. In a race to save two (or more) worlds, Jack comes across terrifying obstacles, not all of which possess unfamiliar faces.
Interestingly enough, I see this as King’s beta version of The Dark Tower series. It bears a strong resemblance to it with regard to parallel worlds, and long journeys to save the destruction of them. There are quite a few nods to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which this novel borrows several themes from, whereas The Dark Tower seems to find its own footing. Just like LOTR, there are quite a few action packed scenarios, with classic King tension, but also there are points which seem a little flat and unnecessary. When King and Straub do well, though, they do very well. Some greatly memorable moments include Jack’s stay at the Sunlight home, and the assault on the Black Hotel.
They build up the characters so well in these places, and when they all converge, hell breaks loose.
Sometimes you wonder why some characters didn’t do ‘x’, which seemed like common sense, only for that option to be adequately excluded due to some snappy explanation. This is fine, however sometimes the character desires and actions seem either too erratic, or illogical.
Also, given that this novel was written by two authors, there doesn’t seem to be any changes in voice or plot at all; it is just as cohesive, if not more so, than any other novel.
Altogether it is a fun ride, at times very tense, with a satisfying conclusion. The sequel, Black House, seems like it has a great base novel to start from.