The Talisman

By: Stephen King & Peter Straub

Jack Sawyer’s mother has begun the slow and painful march of death. Rather than passing comfortably in her sleep at a ripe old age, Lily will spend her final days losing her personal battle to cancer. Yet she endures this inevitability with an actress’s grace and without a single complaint. In fact, she would prefer to ignore her situation entirely choosing instead to spend her final months in peace at the Alhambra Hotel with her son.

However, the only way to accomplish that momentary peace was to pack up and disappear without telling Morgan Sloat where they were going. Morgan Sloat, the only man capable enough and persistent enough to darken the last days of Lily’s life and threaten Jack’s future. But running away won’t hide them.

Jack knows that Morgan is coming, and he understands why. His mother’s life is the most valuable in both the seen and unseen worlds. Her recovery is the only way to save both realities from complete ruin and calamity. Jack, a young boy of only twelve, must venture alone where his mother cannot venture or protect him in the hopes of finding the only thing that can save her life.

After diving into this novel, it doesn’t take very long to notice that this was definitely a collaboration between King and someone who distinctly isn’t King. Now, I have never read anything written solely by Peter Straub, and, based on what I’ve seen here, I’m not really sure I want to.

Predating the 90’s, King’s writing can be easily described as rambling or wordy. He admits in old interviews that he has a tendency to write long. Any Constant Reader knows that he enjoys savoring backstories and exploring his characters in all facets of their lives from the past to the present. However, The Talisman was a whole new level of meandering.  Somewhere deep down, I got what the story was trying to do. I saw the potential. I loved the premise. I came for the story and stayed for the ending, but I wasn’t happy through large chunks of that journey to page 735.

There was a point buried somewhere in those lines and lines of text. A moral cried out to be understood but was crushed under an avalanche of mundane, repetitive passages that had me thinking “This again? Oh please, not this again.” I experienced the same scenes and intense déjà vu through most of the story not because I lost my mind but because the word patterns and paragraphs seemed to say the same sentence but in a slightly different way over and over and over and over again.  This story could have been cut down by about 300-350 pages and had a more powerful impact if the authors had just been concise.

The time jumps, in the beginning, gave me a headache and some plot points didn’t make sense even if you take the existence of magic into consideration. I hate convenience in a story. It’s boring, and therefore doesn’t make for compelling literature.

The writing at the end felt sloppy and rushed to me like they were trying to find some way to wrap it up while making sense. In doing this, the authors missed some of the finer details that to me stuck out like big flags.

I don’t rate this book very highly, and I had already bought the sequel before reading The Talisman. I guess I’m going to have to read that but will probably take a short break before I do.

Overall rating: 2.5

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