Title: The Talisman
Author: Stephen King and Peter Straub
Page Count/Review Word Count: 774
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.
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.
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.