Welcome back to the Dark Tower National Park and Wildlife Reserve. (For a free road map or to follow along at home, see here. ) Today we cover a Dark Tower "side-trail," his first collaboration with Peter Straub...
|Part one of a planned trilogy|
"The Talisman is an epic fantasy involving alternate universes, beautiful queens, despicable villains, and a boy's quest to save his mother's life..." (as excerpted from here.)
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
"Jack's travels also take him into a parallel world known as The Territories, a medieval-type land vaguely analogous to the United States ("an agrarian monarchy," one character explains. "They have magic like we have physics."). Events in either land - such as births, deaths, or catastrophes - reverberate in the other. People, too, have equivalents, known as Twinners. Lily Sawyer's Twinner is Laura DeLoessean, the Queen of the Territories." Queen of the B-Pictures in our world... get it? "She is also dying, and her death would send The Territories into chaos. Jack's search for The Talisman, then, has larger repercussions than that beyond his personal quest to save his mother's life."
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
"Twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer stands at the center of The Talisman. His mother - former B-movie actress Lily Cavanaugh Sawyer - is dying of cancer. The two of them are in hiding in New Hampshire, at the Alhambra Inn and Gardens, "a great Victorian pile on gigantic granite blocks," on the run from Jack's father's business partner, Morgan Sloat."
"Journeying alone at the outset, Jack is soon aided by allies, most notably Wolf (a childlike werewolf from The Territories whose mission becomes saving Jack at any cost) and Richard, a childhood friend... Additionally, the mysterious Speedy Parker appears early on to provide the tools and knowledge Jack will need on his journey. "
For this cowpoke, the trail's difficulty was too disproportionate to its personal enjoyment. Many people love this novel, but I just couldn't get into it. More on that below. I gave it 200 pages and then read a summary of the rest. Speedy Parker struck me as a lazy cliche, and then he gives a "magic potion" to our main character... that was about it for me (although I stuck with it for much further than that). I don't know why, exactly, that rubbed me the wrong way, but it really did. (I had the same problem with The World of Tiers. I just disliked the opening/ dimensional bridgeway so much I couldn't access anything else. I'm very picky when it comes to how people get to and fro other dimensions in fantasy. One man's back-of-the-wardrobe is another's magic potion, I guess.)
(It's actually kind of funny. I never had a problem with how the JLA used to hook up with the JSA, regardless of how it was done, but something like a magic potion or Tiers strikes me as "totally wrong." Go figure.)
So, I didn't read this one.
It's okay, though. I like having certain blank spots on the map to fill in later. I wouldn't want to live in a world where I've drained every last bit of text from an author whose work I enjoy as much as King's. (For the same reason, I refuse to read The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, or Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald until my 60th birthday. You've got to save some things for rainy days in old age. Or the after-life. Where, hopefully, they'll have books.)
The idea of "reviewing" a book one hasn't read is ludicrous, of course. (A side note: a few folks have told me how much they hate King's writing in response to my telling them of my work here on the King's Highway... right before telling me they haven't read any Stephen King. How is it possible to respect someone's opinion of an author he/she's never read? It boggles the mind/ buggers comprehension. Yet, people expect me to. It doesn't work like that, folks.) So, this particular blog should not be seen as a review, more as an admission of failure to get into it. Was it the characters? The "third" writer's voice created by the synthesis of King and Straub? Or was it merely that I was reading the Dark Tower books at the same time, and this was one mystical-quest-through-unknown-lands-too-far for me?
Whatever the reason, I'll see you in later years, Talisman. I intend to read Black House, though, when I get to it a few blogs down the road.
|I had a few of these magazines, I think, back in the day. Wish I still did.|
Let's see what George "Path of the" Beahm has to say in The Stephen King Companion...
"After discounting the Stephen King sycophants - everything King writes is just simply wonderful, doncha think? - and the natural animosity of mainstream critics, you're left with the only ones who matter: those who bought the book and what they think.
These people are divided into two camps: those who read the story and loved it, and those who, for whatever reasons, couldn't get into it.
Try as I did on several occasions, I just couldn't get into the story. Having read (and reread) virtually all the King novels and a number of Straub's novels, I find that The Talisman remains an oddity on my King bookshelf: the unread book. (I might add that I felt the same way, initially, about Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. On the third try, I got into the story and it swept me away. When I finished, I was sorry that the story had ended.)
I'll try again, of course, but what's interesting to me is that I'm not alone. I've talked to other people who read widely and deeply in and out of this field, people who have read all of King and all of Straub, and they either loved The Talisman or couldn't get into the story.
It happens. So read the book and tell me what you think."
I wrote George and asked him if he'd ever finished this. No response at press-time. That happens a lot. :-)
In William Goldstein's round-table with the authors from Publisher's Weekly, it is revealed they were working from a much longer outline, then just scrapped the second half. That's very telling. In other words, what stands as the published version of The Talisman is where the story was more or less abandoned mid-route. Unfair? Perhaps. Like I said, this story has plenty of admirers, so I'll just assume it works the way it is and the fault is mine and move on.
As for our purposes here, i.e. how it relates to Roland and his ka-tet:
"Following the young adult fairy tale The Eyes of the Dragon, King would continue to explore and expand the mythos of the Dark Tower. As Dragon - as well as books as diverse as The Stand, Insomnia, and The Regulators - was folded into the larger landscape of the Dark Tower, so too were the Territories. Following a suggestion by Peter Straub, Black House would be set firmly in the Dark Tower universe, retroactively putting The Talisman into that continuity. The Black Hotel Jack must conquer in the novel's climax can now be interpreted as the structural analogue to the Dark Tower itself, much as the properties of it and the Talisman - "the nexus of all possible worlds" - seem to be."
Also: isn't the Talisman one of Maerlyn's Globes? I'm asking you, internet - I googled it and got this result, but, as I haven't read the last three Dark Towers just yet, didn't want to chance any huge spoilers.
(Interestingly, as well, during Kevin’s nightmare in "The Sun Dog," reviewed here, he dreams he is a bum in Oatley, the same town where Jack Sawyer works while traveling across America, here.)
|The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands|