Tag: The Talisman

Stephen King and Peter Straub – Black House | Review

Title: Black House

Author: Stephen King and Peter Straub

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 822

Rating: 3/5

 

Stephen King and Peter Straub - Black House

Stephen King and Peter Straub – Black House

 

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I’ve not been looking forward to writing this review, especially because of the bizarre rules I set for myself where each review has to have a word count that matches the page count of the book. At 822 pages, this one’s a bit of a chunker, and in fact it took me two weeks to read the damn thing because I was on holiday in Spain and mostly getting drunk and packing rubble into construction sacks as opposed to reading. It was too hot.

Still, I made a decent dent on the plane there and back and so I did at least mostly read the book in chunks. The problem was that I didn’t particularly love The Talisman, and this book was basically that but watered down. It had potential to begin with, especially because of the Albert Fish style serial killer aspect to it, but what might have been okay as a 400 page novel just felt long and drawn out.

As if that wasn’t enough, I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, either. Even Jack Sawyer, old TravellinJack himself, was far more boring as an adult than he was as a child. The most interesting thing about him was his job, but seeing as I was expecting more fantasy than police procedural, I found even that difficult to get excited about.

 

Stephen King and Peter Straub - The Talisman

Stephen King and Peter Straub – The Talisman

 

Another problem was that the authors kept on breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the reader with lengthy entries along the lines of, “Let’s leave Jack where he is and go over here to see this guy instead.” It felt gimmicky and pulled me out of the story every time that it happened, and it happened a lot. There was no need to write it that way, either. They could have just continued to write in third person and it would have worked perfectly.

There were some redeeming factors, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have given it a rating as high as a 3/5. We have some great characterisation and some pretty interesting scenes when Sawyer and his merry band of bikers start to approach the Black House and things start to go a bit pear-shaped. I also thought that the ending was pretty good, which is almost unusual for a Stephen King book, but I would have liked to have seen more time spent in the Territories with the established characters and world-building from the first book.

And I think that’s where the problem lies with this one. After all of the hard work that King and Straub put in the first time round, instead of building on it they pretty much just started out from scratch, to the point at which this might as well have been written as a standalone instead of as a sequel. It’s the closest thing to a damp squib that I’ve read of King’s, and I’m about 80% of the way through his back catalogue. After some of the other awesome books that I’ve read of his, I can’t help but feel as though he shouldn’t have been wasting his time on this one.

 

Stephen King

Stephen King

 

It’s still worth reading if you’re a completionist though, and I will admit that the last couple of hundred pages got a little bit better. I’m just not sure whether it’s worth reading 622 pages of substandard work just for 200 more pages that are just okay. I’m kind of surprised that their editor didn’t have a word with the authors to tell them that big swathes of it needed to be cut out or entirely rewritten, not because there was anything technically wrong with them but because they were dull to read and not really necessary.

But perhaps I’m just grumpy because Black House put me into something of a reading slump. I’ve never really understood what people meant when they talked about reading slumps, but it took me two weeks to finish this one and it’s had a knock on effect on the next books that I read. It’s not that I’m not reading, it’s just that I’m not as excited about books as I usually am, and I think it’s because Black House broke my reading streak and messed with my mojo.

All in all then, this definitely isn’t worth going out of your way to read, but for Stephen King and Peter Straub fans then it’s a book that you’ll inevitably get to. Don’t read this without reading The Talisman first though, because The Talisman is both a better book and the perfect introduction to what’s actually going on in King and Straub’s fictitious universe. Try to save it until you’re running out of books by either of the two authors and definitely don’t read this as an introduction to King. It feels like a waste of time.

 

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King Quote

 

Click here to buy Black House.

 


Stephen King and Peter Straub – The Talisman | Review

Title: The Talisman

Author: Stephen King and Peter Straub

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 774

Rating: 4*/5

 

Stephen King and Peter Straub - The Talisman

Stephen King and Peter Straub – The Talisman

 

When I picked this up, one of my friends said that this was one of King’s best, but I disagree. It’s pretty good though, and while it might not make it into my ranking of his top ten, it would make it into my top twenty. Still, I’m glad that I picked it up, and it was especially cool because I blazed through it in three days when I was on holiday in Berlin.

Still, it was a pretty good read, and I was surprised by how seamless it was in terms of having two authors but feeling like it only had one. In fact, it just felt like a Stephen King book, so I’m not too sure what role Peter Straub played in its creation. I’ve never read any of his stuff before, but I’m tempted to, especially after reading this.

The Talisman is basically a dimension-hopping road trip novel in which a young boy must make his way across America in search of a mysterious object that has the power to cure his mother’s cancer. I guess because of the age of the protagonist, it’s basically a YA book from a time before YA really existed, which is interesting. I still feel like it’s aimed more at adults than at children, though.

 

Stephen King

Stephen King

 

It’s worth noting that I picked up on a few things that my editor would have flagged if I’d written this. For example, there were a couple of places where there was a perspective shift and we hopped from one character’s head to another. I also found a few places where speech marks or full stops were missing, and there were a bunch of layout fails where certain pages were printed so close to the margin that they were almost cut off the end. It also ended two separate scenes at different points with “all hell broke loose”, which is something that I did in one of my short stories. Pam Elise Harris, my editor, told me to show and not tell, and she had a point.

Still, it was a decent read, just a pretty good adventure novel, and I’m actually looking forward to reading Black House, which is some sort of sequel. I actually picked that one up first and then realised that The Talisman came first, but most people on Goodreads seemed to think that Black House was nowhere near as good. I’ll probably save it until I go 0n another holiday.

All in all though, I thought it was a pretty good book. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and it’s definitely one to look out for if you’re a fan of either of the authors. For me, it’s also been a nice way to sort of cross-pollinate my reading tastes and to ease myself into Peter Straub’s work. I’ve heard quite a lot of good stuff about Straub and I’ve always suspected that I’d like his writing, and after this I kind of want to pick up one of his books to see if I can identify which parts of The Talisman came from him.

 

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King Quote

 

I was also thinking about this afterwards and I started to notice some similarities between The Talisman and King’s Dark Tower series. There weren’t necessarily outright references that linked the two of them together, but you could argue that there’s a Ka-tet of sorts and both books basically deal with a long journey towards some some mysterious object, whether that’s The Talisman or whether it’s The Dark Tower itself. Both of them involve people hopping between two different worlds, too.

I also thought that the pacing was good, especially when you consider that it was over seven hundred pages with pretty small print. It maybe got a little faster at the end, but not to such an extent that it made the rest of the book feel slow, and it was interesting to see how the two worlds – and people’s Twinners – came together. If you’ve read King before then you’re probably familiar with how well-thought out his books are, and this is the perfect example. Everything is connected and nothing happens without a reason.

So if you’re wondering whether to read this or not, the answer is, “Yes, you should totally read it.” It’s a great little book and it’s a lot of fun, with elements of everything from horror to a classic adventure story thrown in there. It might not be King’s best, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. It’s definitely worth a read.

 

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King Quote

 

Click here to buy The Talisman.