The Talisman – Stephen King and Peter Straub

Posted 4 September, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 13 Comments

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Title: The Talisman
Authors: Stephen King and Peter Straub
Narrator: Frank Muller
Published: 1984 Pages: 768
Audio Duration: 28 hours
Genre: Fantasy/Horror (more fantasy)

In Short: Twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer must journey through our world and a parallel world in search of The Talisman that will save his dying mother.

Why I read The Talisman: For the #TalismanAlong! Paxton of Cavalcade of Awesome and I hosted an informal readalong of The Talisman in August. You can read more about the origins of the readalong on the original post.

Thoughts in General: If you’ve been reading my blog over the past year you’ve probably noticed I’ve developed a bit of a crush on Stephen King. The Talisman was a side of King that I haven’t necessarily seen before–with the fantasy world and the grotesque horror bits. Ok, ok, all of his books have had fantastical elements but The Talisman takes place in part in an entirely different world and there are elements that are an absolute stretch of the imagination. Sometimes my brain doesn’t comfortably wrap around fantasy–I have liked fantasy books in the past but it isn’t a genre I naturally gravitate towards. And the horror bits weren’t scary–just gross. Probably more scary in a movie, but in the book it was just gross.

What else is different about The Talisman than some of the other King books I’ve read? Well, the fact that it’s co-written with Peter Straub, and author I’ve never read nor know nothing about. Ooops. Paxton wrote up a great post about an interview article with King and Straub in the 80s when the book was published. I’ve read a few co-authored books in the past and I find myself constantly wondering who wrote what and how co-authorship works. Can you tell I’m stalling because I don’t have much to say about the book?

What will you find in The Talisman? A coming of age story, survival of the fittest (mentally), and pure and deep love between friends. A devoted son and purely good kid. Terrible and wretched bad guys who will stop at nothing to achieve their domination. The mystery and mystique of parallel worlds and the traveling between them. Good conquering evil but not before a whole heck of a lot of damage is done. All good things in a book–but possibly a book that is a couple hundred pages shorter.

Bottom Line: My mom asked me if I would recommend The Talisman to her as she’s enjoyed several of the other King books I’ve read the past year. My simple answer? No. It’s hard for me to pick an audience for this book because so many people love it and it came highly recommended to me, but ultimately this one didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was the fantasy, maybe it was a plot that plodded along rather slowly? It’s not one that will stick with me.

A Note on the Audio: In desperation to keep up with the readalong I decided to listen to The Talisman while on my commute in addition to reading the book. I say desperation because I was not thrilled with Frank Muller’s narration. By the end of the book I grew used to his tonal inflections but while listening I often found myself too distracted by Muller’s cadence and tendency to draw out the last words of his sentences to really grasp the actual story I was listening to. I’ve been told he’s one of the audio narrator greats but he didn’t do it for me at all.

Am I just a grumpy reader lately? Not likely as I deeply loved A Prayer for Owen Meany but part of me wonders if I’m being too hard on The Talisman.  Good news is some of the other readers, including my fair host Pax, enjoyed the book much more than I did. If you read it (now or then) and have a blog link, please leave it in the comments section so we can see your thoughts.

Curious about a time when you’ve gone out on a limb for a genre you don’t normally read and were pleasantly surprised–tell me!

13 Responses to “The Talisman – Stephen King and Peter Straub”

  1. I am finally reading this now, and I’m loving it. It is very Dark Tower-ish kind of fantasy, and since I LOVE the Dark Tower series, well…

    But I know a few people who aren’t really into the DT series. They’re not for everyone (just like any book).

  2. Trish, you’re not a grumpy reader, this book just sucks. I really can’t even deal with how much I didn’t like it (and there’s a sequel that I’m aware I’m going to have to read soon and noooooooo!) But yes, we’ve discussed this. I’m still of the opinion that you might still like The Dark Tower though! I’d give the first two books a try, at least! (2 because the first one is kind of not-that-great. Or, too fantasyish, if you will.)

  3. I’ve never read this particular King and now wonder what I would think of it. I generally love fantasy. I do own The Dark Tower series and hope to read and enjoy it soon. But now I’m worried. I’ve also never heard of Peter Straub and generally never like co-written books.

  4. I had such a crush on King’s books in late grade school (the result of reading It in seventh grade). I often wonder if I shouldn’t re-read some of the books now as I am sure the stories will mean so much more as an adult. I didn’t ever read The Talisman though, so no comment on that one.

  5. I don’t think that book is for me. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple books that I went out on a limb for that I ended up loving – 11/22/63 and Ready Player One.

  6. Great review. I too have quite the SK crush going on, though I do tend to shy away from his more fantasy-oriented books. Honestly, the closest I’ve come is probably The Stand, but it had enough other elements going on that I didn’t mind it. I do want to try this one though, and the Dark Tower series…eventually.

  7. I think you’ve nearly read all the ones I’ve read- just need Pet Sematary, Cujo, and Christine to round it out. And the Tommyknockers, but I hated that one.

  8. Sadly, I didn’t get to read along. Time got away from me. I will read it though. My sister loved it. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea. I have a few SKs that I’m not fond of. Pet Sematary really bothered me and I HATE Christine. I also was not fond of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Stands outs for me have been Duma Key, The Shining, Bag of Bones, The Green Mile, and Misery. We’re reading Joyland in October with my TuesBookTalk group and I’m hoping I like that one. I’ve heard good things about it so far.

  9. I’m planning to read my first Stephen King novel since high school (which was uhhh.. several decades ago…)! I’m going with Joyland because it’s new and short. LOL. Hopefully reading in October for RIP VIII… I’ll let you know what I think!

  10. Les

    Hmmm, now I’m not sure I should bother with this. Maybe I’ll just wait to read (make that re-read) Bag of Bones whenever you’re ready. I also enjoyed Hearts in Atlantis, although I don’t remember a lot of the details. Not King, but another great read is Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. At least I remember it being great. Time to re-read that sucker, too! :)

  11. I finished the sequel Black House over the weekend. It really is very different from The Talisman. Very little of it even takes place in The Territories. The tone was completely different too, although it did still drag in places. The King book it actually reminded me the most of was Lisey’s Story. Much like with The Talisman, though, the bad guys are all bad and the good guys are all good. There’s really no gray in either of these books. I enjoyed doing the read-along with you guys – I ended up reading two books that I probably never would have read otherwise.