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The Talisman (book)

4 Ratings: 3.5
A book by Stephen King.

The first (1984) collaboration between horror/fantasy writers King and Straub, this book has been reissued in multiple formats to coincide with the publication of its sequel, Black House. In The Talisman, 12-year-old Jack Sawyer takes on a quest in this … see full wiki

Author: Stephen King
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Ballantine Books
1 review about The Talisman (book)

Talisman: A Novel - Stephen King W/O

  • May 26, 2002
Pros: descriptive, in depth, beginning of character later developed in another book

Cons: long, descriptive, some times hard to follow

The Bottom Line: Why not slip into the territories with me?

This introduction is a collaboration between Stephen King and Peter Straub and is the introduction of Jack Sawyer, who we later meet again, thanks to King & Straub, at the Black House.

Realizing his mother is dying from cancer, Jack leads a lonely existence on the beaches of the Atlantic, where he meets a whimsical black man known as Speedy Parker. From Speedy, he learns the truth of ‘twinners’, ‘the territories’, and Jack’s mission in life. Sawyer, a mere lad of 12, begins a perilous journey across the wastelands of the territories, and the interior of the United States, in search of the talisman.

Apparently, years back, Jack's father and his business partner, a nasty piece of work known as Morgan Sloat, discovered a way to flip from ‘this dimension’ into a parallel dimension known as ‘the territories’. In this new place, time and space move differently, the air is clear and pure, and in this land we find the ‘twinner’ for each individual found on the Earth as we know it. This twinner can be as pure as you are yourself or it can be the opposite of you, but it carries the basic interior knowledge that someone or something exists that is similar to itself but somehow different.

Without getting you too confused (what, I’ve already lost you?), if something happens to a person – either here or there – it happens to the twinner as well, generally. When Morgan the evil one (he is evil in both worlds) has Philip Sawyer killed (Jack’s father), his twinner, the King of the other world is killed as well. This holds true with Lily (Jack’s mother), as she is dying from cancer here, the queen, Laura, is dying in the other world.

As in Black House, things don’t always go as planned and sometimes a twinner is killed but the alter ego, back in our world, remains alive. Ta – da, enter Jack, the supposed savior. His twin, Jason, was killed but Jack lives and is the only available salvation for the queen, and for his mother.

Without driving you entirely insane, or penning an epic the size of King, I’ll try to narrow this down.

Jack must go to the west coast, where the talisman is held captive in an abandoned hotel, a 'black' hotel (Black House, Dark Tower, is this a theme?). He can take nothing with him other than what he has on, he can tell no one where he is going, he must earn his own way, he can flip to the territories whenever he wants to avoid evil or flip back for the same reason.

Along the way, Jack does meet some interesting characters and get into some delicious circumstances, not all of which I could comprehend – this is King, after all! Weird creatures, walking trees, werewolves and loving friends all come together to make Jack’s journey memorable.

As with Black House I was intrigued with the collaboration of these two authors and their writing style. You can read Black House without having read The Talisman but I highly recommend reading both, and reading them in order so you understand a bit of what King’s mind was working toward with Jack Sawyer. However, there is no way you should read The Talisman unless you go forward and read Black House, as it fleshes out Jack’s life so nicely.

What is this mystical and magical talisman that reaches into Jack’s mind and pulls him West? Is it the root of the rainbow glam that appears in the Dark Tower series? Does he succeed in his mission and are the queen and his mother saved? Does the area known as The Territories fall to ruin under the auspicious hand of Morgan and Rev. Sunlight Gardener?

The main thing you learn though is that it matters not if Jack is successful in saving either his mother or the queen, his life will still go on. He has no 'twinner' to disturb his existence.

Another thing of note, I found that Morgan and Gardener were working under the umbrella of their leader, Captain Lewis Farren. Would that be the same Capt. Farren from the Dark Tower series? Tsk, tsk, King!

I found a lot of similarities between this book and the obscure land they are dealing with to be quite like the Dark Tower series. In Dark Tower it seems to be a time in the future, as they speak of the 'old times' when things like Exxon was available. But in the territories we seem to be dealing with a past, much like the days of King Arthur. Perhaps not, but just a feeling I got from mannerisms and speech patterns, modes of transportation, clothing and so forth.

At 653 pages, this isn’t always an easy read. Many parts, if you are not a true-blue King reader, are confusing and convoluted. However, King never fails to be descriptive and you are often given much more information in a particular instance than you want – grin. I don’t know how closely he and Straub worked on this writing but I found a much heavier King influence than Straub.

Friends, this book is definitely not for a first time King/Straub reader, it will simply leave you confused.


ISBN #0-375-50777-9
Copyright in 1984 by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

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