Berkley, 1984, 768 pages, C$8.75 mmpb, ISBN 0-425-10533-4
People often ask me why I read so much Science-Fiction. Frankly, that’s a very good question that I haven’t got around answering yet. Oh, sure, there are the usual excuses: I grew up with it, I watched Star Trek for as long as I remember, I’ve always been interested in space, science and stuff, etc… Nevertheless, the best answer may still be that, frankly, what else would I want to read?
Other genres are boring or limited in numbers: Techno-Thrillers are fun but few, romance isn’t my cup of tea, mysteries are (usually) mind-fluff, general literature meaningless AND boring, horror usually cliched and fantasy-
I don’t usually read much Fantasy, and The Talisman reminds me why.
Begin by ignoring the names on the cover. Sure, Stephen King and Peter Straub are two terrific horror writers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that The Talisman is horror.
It smells like fantasy, looks like fantasy and reads like fantasy. To wit:
A young boy, wise beyond his years, discovers that he can access a parallel world. His mother’s analogue in this world is a queen, and he must cross America to retrieve a talisman that will heal both versions of his mother. Opposing him are a powerful dark prince and his real-world analogue, a lawyer.
If that’s not the essential Fantasy Plot, what is?
Surely, there are enough dark critters and evil persons to transform this in a dark fantasy, but it’s still the usual plot taking place.
Like most novels by King -even though I suspect Straub might have written most of the book- this book is pleasantly readable… if such a word can be applied to dark fantasy. Characters are well-presented, the adventures of the hero are told reasonably well.
There are a few deviations from the standard plot, mostly dealing with the dual-universe nature of the story, but the thrust of the novel remains the same as countless fantasy trilogies before it. And I can’t help but be ambivalent about a novel that is explicitly aware of hard-SF, yet grossly contradicts its own rules. Oh, and the finale is interminable.
I’ve heard people say this is the best book they’re ever read. On the other hand, some people have called this the worst Stephen King book, ever. As usual, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. In short: Average.