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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Talisman (The Talisman, #1)The Talisman by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly wondrous. My memories of my first read of The Talisman definitely do NOT do the original justice. The re-read also comes on the heels of a vast re-read of all the other SK reads with their connections to DT and the fact that everything follows the beam.

Of course, I may have judged this book entirely on its merit compared to all the other SK books I had read up to that point by 1989 when I read this last.

The obvious: this is a straight adventure novel that takes place half the time in 1980s America, following a 12-year-old's fraught adventure across the dark continent from coast to coast, and half the time in a magical mid-world version that was just as dark as our side. All of this makes this book a bonafide Epic Fantasy to me. Only, it's called the Territories, here.

Dark forces, heavy magic, the erosion of reality and goodness, the whole quest structure, much bigger in fact than Jack Sawyer trying to save his mother, is just as classic a fantasy as you might imagine, but it's not derivative.

Indeed, between the YA core, the better treatment of Holes, the true nastiness of the human spirit, and the feel of On the Road mixed with dark doppelgangers, twinners, everywhere, I have to say I like this BETTER than most modern YA by a long stretch.

But here's the best part: It was written with Peter Straub and SK and published in 1984, exactly two years after SK's first Dark Tower came out. Back in the day, I would have only been able to make a tentative stab at the connections. The Blasted Lands are the Wasted Lands, both quite an accurate representation of middle America, the Territories resemble Midworld, and the references to MANY Territories are also a giveaway.

But here's the really fun part: from the rest of the DT series, we get all the references to the train, wizard and glass, a different representation of The Rose, chittering spiders on the Tower itself, and so many other aspects that make THIS novel, the Talisman, almost a straight prototype for the full epic of The Dark Tower.

I do NOT recommend reading this book before the full epic of DT, mind you. I love the easter-egg hunt and the analysis too much.

BUT, if you're a big fan of SK's new book, Fairy Tale, this is a great follow-up and continuation and a slow build-up for everything else. Or as any fan of SK knows, everything follows the beam. It doesn't really matter where you start. It all builds and gets you to the same nexus in the end. ;)

My appreciation for this novel is, however, vastly improved. I'm kinda geeking out over it now. Other than the DT, itself, it is the closest we get to the full saga, and I wonder if that was kinda how it had to be. The publishing industry didn't really want to give DT a chance at the time.

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