Review: The Talisman, by Stephen King & Peter Straub

high_resJared’s Totally Unsolicited And Completely Subjective Review Of: The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub!⁠

Let’s cut right to the chase with the stars, shall we?  That’s what you really paid admission for: the Celine Dion encore – a little My Heart Will Go On.  Nobody cares about the mid-show filler.  Map to My Heart may be a serviceable tune, Celine, but we came for The Power of Love.⁠

Wow.  That may be my most impressive digression ever. ⁠

(Though for the record, I had to google “Lesser known Celine Dion songs”.)⁠

Anyway!  Back to the stars:

⭐️⭐️⭐️ .5/5⁠

Now.  A few things.  That makes it sound worse than it was. Remember, if we were marking this out of 10, that turns into 70%, which is enough to get you into a reasonable university.  So let’s be clear: the book was good, overall I liked it, and I would not dissuade someone from reading it.⁠

…I guess I’m just feeling like it’s almost sacrilegious to give my man Mr. King anything less than full marks.  I feel like I just told my father his parenting wasn’t good enough.  (It was, Dad, it truly was. Couldn’t have asked for better.)⁠

Ok background!: I’m a *big* Dark Tower fan.  As King has pointed out himself, over half his readers have never read his magnum opus series, but for those who have, we see its significance everywhere, and know it’s the nucleus for many of his other stories – It, Salem’s Lot, The Stand, countless others.  So!  A while back I read that as SK was preparing to write a prequel of sorts to the Dark Tower series – The Little Sisters of Eluria, the book was called – he was inspired by a setting he wrote about in this book, The Talisman.  Well, that was enough for me, friend.⁠

Synopsis (stolen from the interwebs as my cousin borrowed my copy after I finished and I don’t remember what the dust jacket said): “Jack Sawyer, twelve years old, sets out from Arcadia Beach, New Hampshire in a bid to save his mother, who is dying from cancer, by finding a crystal called “the Talisman.” Jack’s journey takes him simultaneously through the American heartland and “the Territories,” a strange fantasy land which is set in a universe parallel to that of Jack’s United States.”

So what did this Constant Reader (here’s lookin’ at you, Steve) think?

Again, overall, I enjoyed it.  It hooked me fairly quickly, but then I found it lulled in the second quarter or so.  I couldn’t tell you why – and I always wonder as a reader if it’s really the book that does that, or if it’s whatever else I have going on in life that makes it less exciting for a time to return to it.  The latter half picked up for me, and I really enjoyed the last quarter.

I think the thing that threw me (and hence we arrive back at my suspect and superfluous review opener qualification of “subjective” andwouldyoulookatthatalliterationrightnowthesyntaxcrowdgoesstupefied) was the knowledge it was co-written by another author, Peter Straub.  I am not familiar with any of Mr. Straub’s other works; my only passing acquaintance with him was when SK praised Peter’s dialogue writing abilities in King’s memoir, On Writing.  I think I was distracted, looking for stylistic deviations from what I’m accustomed to, and trying to discern who wrote which parts.  Did they trade off every chapter?  Did they go line by line?  Did they both hunch over the typewriter or Commodore 64 (this was published in 1984, after all), chain-smoking cigarettes and debate every paragraph?  Or did they mail the manuscript back and forth?  All these questions I threw (to no one) and had no (because I was too lazy to look) answers for.

Nonetheless I felt simultaneously protective of my sacred writer-reader covenant with Steve, and leery of bringing anyone else into the mix.  I felt like a newlywed who six months into the relationship (I’ve been reading King a little longer than that, but stick with the analogy, please) is plied with more drinks than usual one night by my person who then suggests we bring someone else into the bedroom (and literally, as that’s where I do my reading).  So many questions!  Did my person feel they weren’t enough on their own?  Was this other person more exciting?  What if *I* ended up liking the new person more?  I was nervous.  You never told me about Peter when we met, Stephen Edwin.

Anyway.  One of the reasons I love King is for something I don’t know he gets enough credit for – the beauty of the language.  There is far more poetry in his prose than one might expect from such a prolific penman (ImeanreallywhatswiththealliterationtodayitwasntintentionalwhenIstarted) – in fact with his monster It (both in scope and subject matter), I thought he was at his most lyrical.  But I felt like that was missing somewhat here.  As mentioned, it was ’84, and he was still relatively early into his 50+ year career, so I don’t know how much (if any) that had to do with it.

Or maybe I was just distracted while I was between pages 100-250ish.  I’m completely willing to be open to that possibility as well.  Come to these reviews for the inanity, Dear Reader, stay for the subjectivity (and verbosity).

Perhaps I was also thrown because this tome wasn’t as Dark Tower related as I thought it would be, though there are many parallels.  Maybe that’s it, now that I think of it.  And in fairness, it never promised to be.  Though a completely functional story in its own right, after having dedicated many months of my life to Roland of Gilead and his crew, this felt like a lesser effort (my *gosh* it pains me to say that!  Sorry, Dad).  Apparently, however, the sequel to this work – Black House – ties into the Tower more than this one did.  And perhaps upon reading that (down the road; I find myself in no rush), I’ll feel differently and then sing The Talisman/Black House praises from my bungalow rooftop.

So.  3.5 lovely stars from me, friend, really.  70%.  And let us never speak of this review again.

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