Thursday 16 January 2014

The Talisman

I actually started this book by beginning to read "Black House". Then I remembered reading somewhere that it's the second 'Territories' book and I switched to "The Talisman". I guess it was a good idea as the former seemed hard to get into with different than King's normal language and many references to places than I didn't know.
I was curious about the effects of King's cooperation with another writer - Peter Straub. These two go way back. They met in England in the late 70s and quickly became friends. The fact that each was a fan of another's works helped a lot for sure. Their cooperation created a lot of hype and the expectations for "The Talisman" were great.

The novel reads differently than other King's works. This is particularly noticeable in rich descriptions and the style of narration also feels different.
The plot is centered around the character of a twelve-year old boy, Jack Sawyer. He lives with his mother, a former star of B-class movies. They travel together, seemingly without purpose. We learn that she is terminally ill and there's little hope for recovery. Jack soon meets Speedy Parker, a mysterious character, who tells him about the Territories. It's a world parallel to ours but far less advanced (something like the Middle Ages). What makes the Territories really interesting is that this world is inhabited by "twinners" - beings that are parallel to characters from our world. I turns out that Jack is unique in that his twinner (son of the queen) has died, which makes travelling ("flipping") between the worlds much easier for him. Not surprisingly, the twinner of his mother is also seriously ill and Jack has to embark on a quest to heal both of them.

Jack's travels are obviously full of adventures as he travels across his world and the Teritories. Both worlds are completely different and lack of technology is just one of the distinguishing features of the Territories. When Jack visits them for the first time, he is struck by how clean the air is. People also talk and act differently. This is contrasted with the "American Territories", which are for the most part a dark, corrupted place. There are some strikingly beautiful descriptions along the way. My favorite part was when Jack was observing the "flying people" and his growing feelings of terror, confusion, and joy. The most memorable description of America for me was that of Sunlight Gardener's School. It made me think of "One Flew over Cuckoo's Nest"...

I mentioned earlier that Jack meets different people and creatures on his journey. I thought he wasn't a very well-developed character and lacked depth to his personality. However, I could see him evolving as he spent more time with his companions. First it was the Wolf - a lively, happy creature he met in the Territories and accidentally brought to the real world. Reading about the struggles of this creature, (who perceived Jack's world mainly through the sense of smell) to stay sane was interesting. It also shed more light on Jack's caring nature. The same goes for Richard the Rational. Both of these characters, through their shortcomings and their inability to adapt to entirely new situation, reinforced Jack as the protagonist of the book and helped in making this character much more interesting.

The novel is definitely not a horror tale. It feels more like a fairy tale with a dark side that makes it more suitable for older readers. It's hard not to mention King's fantasy tale "The eyes of the Dragon". However, "The Talisman" seems to be more polished and by far more entertaining. It's going to be interesting to see how "Black House" continues the story of two parallel worlds.

There are many interesting versions of cover for this book and here are a few of my favorites:
French version - no school like old skool ! Makes you think of the classic 90s sci-fi movies
Probabl;y my favorite by Vincent Chong for the Polish edition, you can check out his blog here
Simple yet dark and atmospheric, perfect for this type of tale

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