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The Talisman by Stephen King

The Talisman (1984)

by Stephen King, Peter Straub

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Recently added byKelMunger, Isfet, dmerrell, contriver, jreising65, krikke959, private library
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Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
Jack Sawyer was my first character crush. Ok, maybe not my first. But what an awesome adventure. It has everything. Horror, mystery, thriller, fantasy, love - mostly familial love, but still. After all this, it is just an amazing story of friendships and the journey.
( )
  tiddleyboom | Jan 6, 2014 |
A young boy goes on a quest across the United States and its parallel world, the Territories, to save his mother.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it's an early attempt to tackle some of the themes that I grew to love in King's books, such as the idea of linked worlds. On the other hand, I think it's bloated and the execution is clumsy. I also didn't feel a real connection to these characters. Perhaps that was Straub's influence, a writer I tried to like but could never connect with either.

Contrariwise, the sequel Black House is a much better read.

Read ages ago because Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. Reviewed from memory. ( )
  sturlington | Nov 28, 2013 |
3.5 stars

13-year old Jack's mother is dying. He finds himself on a quest from New Hampshire to California to find a “talisman” to cure his mom. This quest will take him back and forth between worlds, this one and the “Territories”.

I waffled on this one between rating it ok (3 stars) and good (3.5 stars). I'm not even sure what genre to call it – it was a mix of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, maybe? I'm not always a fantasy fan, and what I did find in this book was that the parts that I lost interest in where mostly the parts in the Territories, the other world. My mind did wander at times, but there were other times where I was interested. In a way, some of the parts felt a little like short stories (which I'm also not a fan of), but more fleshed out short stories, where there would be some focus on the people Jack met and what he was doing for a time, then he'd move and on there would be new people and another “story” before he moved on again. Overall, I'll rate it “good”, but I don't think I'll read the sequel. ( )
  LibraryCin | Oct 13, 2013 |
What an odd experience, reading this book. It was unmistakably King: never having read any Peter Straub, I might not be able to identify his influence here anyway, but this book felt just like every other Stephen King book.

And, incidentally, "just like every other Stephen King book" is how I would describe The Talisman's plot. This novel is like a shambling Frankenstein's monster, rudely stitched together out of concepts and plot points from the rest of King's oeuvre. From the [b:Shining|11588|The Shining|Stephen King|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1349371560s/11588.jpg|849585]-esque beginning, with the family holed up in the deserted off-season resort hotel and the mysterious old black man who seems to know something special about the kid; to the interminable, dimension-hopping road trip second act, reminiscent of [b:The Stand|149267|The Stand|Stephen King|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1213131305s/149267.jpg|1742269]; to the here-at-the-nexus-of-all-possible-worlds climax (which almost feels like King taking an early dry run at the apocalyptic end of [b:The Dark Tower|5091|The Dark Tower (Dark Tower # 7)|Stephen King|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1348208581s/5091.jpg|6309701]), almost everything here felt familiar. Throw in another few of his favorite themes - childhood friendship overcoming horrible supernatural menace, crazy evil religious nutcases, etc. - and the King grab bag is complete.

An exciting read while it lasted, except in the places where it was overlong, but nothing to hook me into reading the rest of the (trilogy?) series. ( )
  benjamin.duffy | Jul 28, 2013 |
Summary: Jack Sawyer's mother, an aging B-movie actress, picked him up and moved him from California to a moldering hotel in an abandoned-for-the-winter East Coast tourist town. Jack knows there's something wrong, that she's very sick, even though she is doing her best to pretend that everything is fine, and to make things worse, Jack's late father's business partner, Morgan Sloat, is harrassing their family, trying to get Jack's mother to sign over their half of the company. Jack must do something, but he doesn't know what, until a custodian at a local carnival tells him about the Territories - a magical parallel world, a world that Jack's father knew how to visit, and which Jack himself can learn to enter. The Queen of the Territories is also dying, and Jack must go there and retrieve the Talisman, a magical object that will heal both his mother and the Queen. But the Talisman is in California - or the Territories equivalent of California. And how can a twelve-year-old boy make it across the country and back, while being chased by Morgan's evil forces, before time runs out... in both worlds?

Review: There are books that have a time limit for me, or an age limit. I've read plenty of books and thought "That was okay, but I bet I would have loved it if I'd read it when I was eight/twelve/fifteen." Mostly these are mid-grade books that don't quite make the leap to adult readership, but in the case of The Talisman, it's more a function of my reading tastes changing over time. Because if someone had handed it to me when I was thirteen or fourteen, when I was in the throes of my horror-reading phase, and was devouring Dean Koontz and Stephen King like they were going out of style, I suspect I would have, if not loved it, at least had an easier time with it than I did as an adult.

Because damn, this book was a tough slog for me this time through. It was slow reading, the pacing seemed really terribly off, it rarely drew me in enough to want to go back to it, I didn't get along with the prose style, I didn't really care about most of the characters, I was put off by both the horror/gore and some of the implicit social attitudes in the book, and I knew the quest was going to work out - since that's how these books go - so I wasn't particularly curious about the ending. In fact, I almost DNFed the book despite having committed several weeks to it, and already being 80% of the way through. Instead, I buckled down to some serious skimming to get through the last section (which, unsurprisingly, played out very much like I was expecting.)

I think the pacing was the biggest problem. The Talisman is structurally similar to The Odyssey, with the protagonist on a quest, but he keeps getting sidetracked/stuck along his journey. Conceptually, I have no problem with these kinds of road-trip novels, but in the case of The Talisman, the time spent in the various side adventures seemed uneven relative to their overall importance to the story, and just out of balance in general. Fully two-thirds of the book is spent getting Jack from the East Coast to Springfield, Illinois, and then he covers the distance between Illinois and California in only a few chapters, and without any major adventure.

I also didn't really care for Jack as a character. I got tired of hearing about how the Territories were changing him to this serene, wise, beautiful boy, especially when I found his companions, Wolf and Richard, much more likeable and interesting, respectively. The rest of the characters didn't fare much better than Jack; particularly distasteful was the character of Speedy Parker, who sets Jack on his way to the Territories with a bottle of magic juice, and could be the model for the "magical negro" character that King's so fond of, complete with dialect. (Also, the shorthand of "casual use of cocaine = villain" got me thinking - that's a trope I remember from my teens, when I read a lot of books like this, but not something that I've seen at all recently. Is that still a thing in more current fiction?) The book shows its age in other ways, too, not only in outdated cultural references but also in some of the attitudes about race, women, and homosexuals that are implicit in the writing. (To wit: "These [sexual advances from grown men] were annoyances a good-looking twelve-year-old boy in Los Angeles simply learned to put up with, the way a pretty woman learns to put up with being groped occasionally on the subway. You eventually find a way to cope without letting it spoil your day." What the hell do King and Straub know about how a woman should react to being groped by a stranger?)

Basically, the whole book felt self-indulgent, both in terms of the prose and the plot, without a correspondingly interesting story or compelling characters to merit it. The story definitely has potential: I like the ideas of the Territories, and Twinners, and how actions in one world affect the other; I loved Wolf as a character, and Richard's contrast to Jack; and some of the individual scenes were very tense and compelling... but the bloat of the book quickly swamped out the good parts. I probably would have put up with it (or even eaten it up) as a teen, but I've gotten less patient in my old age. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It seems like there are plenty of people out there who liked this book a whole lot better than I did, so if you like supernatural horror and/or fantasy quest novels, particularly ones set in the real world, it might be worth a try. But for me, I think I've grown out of, or at least away from, this type of book, and King's style of prose. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Jul 23, 2013 |
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Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Straub, Petermain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hilltop, we looked away down into the village and could see three or four lights twinkling, where there was sick folks, may be; and stars over us was sparkling ever so fine; and down by the village was the river, a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand. -Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
My new clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I was dog-tired. -Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
The book is for Ruth King, Elvena Straub
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On September 15th, 1981, a boy named Jack Sawyer stood where the water and land come together, hands in the pockets of his jeans, looking out at the steady Atlantic.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345444884, Mass Market Paperback)

On a brisk autumn day, a thirteen-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America–and into another realm.

One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written, The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother’s life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more. Let the quest
. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:40 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer braves the mysterious dangers of the Territories, a surreal parallel world, in his cross-country quest through the U.S. for the Talisman, the only hope for his dying mother and for his own survival.

» see all 10 descriptions

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