Archive for Peter Straub

Review of The Talisman for the #Talismanalong

Posted in books, pop culture, Stephen King with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Paxton

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Well, the Talismanalong I started with Trish at the beginning of August has ended. We’ve all read the book. We had some good discussion on Twitter under #Talismanalong about the book. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed reading and talking about the book with the participants.  It’s always fun to do these things especially with Trish, she’s just so much fun.  And, she’s due for a tiny human to come out of her at any moment, so let’s all hope that goes well.

Now, though, I guess it’s time to talk about what I thought about the actual book.

The Talisman The Talisman

Going in, I was not overly excited to read this book. I honestly had no idea what type of story to expect as I knew very little about the book other than the fact that it existed.  I think I was also colored by my “meh-ness” about King’s The Stand.  And the beginning of this book did NOT allay my fears.  The first 80 pages or so are rough (ie boring as ballz).  I was concerned that I may have made a huge mistake.  Then we are introduced to Speedy and The Territories.  And the story takes off.

This book reminds me a lot of The Stand.  The long, epic journey.  I said before that The Talisman is The Stand as written by Neil Gaiman.  Speaking of Neil Gaiman, another book that this reminds me of is American Gods.  One, central “evil” character that must be defeated.  Long, epic journeys, climatic final battles.  Many fantastical elements.  Another book this reminds me of?  Odysseus by Homer.  A hero must fight trial after trial on a long journey to find his way home.  So, yes, this is classic storytelling by two masters of genre storytelling.

Things I liked?  I said this book reminds me of The Stand a little bit, but unlike The Stand, this book has a manageable cast of characters and a much more focused story line.  I didn’t feel like I was drowning in characters and plot throughout reading the book.  I also love the idea and execution of The Territories.  I liked the hero Jack.  I liked his companion Wolf.  For the most part, I think Morgan Sloat is a good villain, but he’s surprisingly not that fully developed considering the length of the story.  I also actually like the final confrontations and wrap ups in this book (unlike, oh, I don’t know, THE STAND).

What didn’t I like? Again, I hate to harp on this with King, but, the story is just too damn long.  This book could have edited out at least 100 pages and not really lost anything.  There is A LOT of naval gazing throughout the different parts of this book.  Especially towards the end.  While it’s more focused than The Stand, it still needed some judicious trimming.  I found “story fatigue” setting in around page 550-600 (there were 770 pages in this book).  Even though I liked the book, I was sort of ready for the final act and wrap up.  It really felt like it took a week to read the last 150 pages or so.  But to be fair, part of that is my inability to find time to read outside of work and on weekends.  With a 2 year old and an 8 month old, reading at home is a rare occurrence.

So, overall, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  And that is a surprise to me.  Will I read the sequel, Black House?  A week ago, I was gung-ho to read it, yes.  But now, I think I’ll eventually read it, but not anytime soon.  Plus, the stuff I hear from people about the sequel is not exactly glowing.  And I hear it has a thin connection to the Dark Tower series of which I am not a fan.  So, we’ll see.  But I can definitely recommend The Talisman as a good and interesting story, with good characters and a lot of imagination.

And now that I know I like this book, I definitely be reading Straub’s Shadowland sooner rather than later.

Thanks, Trish and everyone else for joining me on this Talismanalong. I had a lot of fun.


Vintage Stephen King/Peter Straub interview from Fangoria magazine (1986)

Posted in books, Fangoria, magazine, nostalgia, Stephen King with tags , , , , on August 21, 2013 by Paxton


So here I am, just past the half way point in my reading of the King/Straub fantasy epic, The Talisman.  I’m going to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t totally looking forward to reading this book.  I love King, but the book is kinda long and I kept flashing back to my reading of The Stand.  And after the first 80 pages I just kept thinking, “I’ve made a horrible mistake.”  But the book quickly started getting better and I’m much more comfortable now.  I’m very much enjoying the book at the halfway point.  It’s also getting me excited to read the sequel, Black House, as well as that Shadowland book I bought on a whim several months ago.

While trolling through my old Fangoria magazines, I found an article from The Bloody Best of Fangoria Vol 5.  The Bloody Best was a compilation of previously published articles that Fangoria released at the end of each year.  Essentially, it’s a reprint magazine.  This particular volume was from 1986.  The interview I’m sharing is with both King and Straub around the time of the release of the book.  Like I said, the article was reprinted in 1986 for the compilation, but the article itself is from sometime in 1984.

You can click each of the images to see them BIGGER on Flickr.

Fangoria interview 01 Fangoria Interview 02

Fangoria interview 03 Fangoria interview 04

For those that don’t want to read the article, there are a few interesting tidbits.

* King and Straub can no longer remember who wrote what. And the parts you think are King probably aren’t because they each tried to put tricks in the story and use each other’s style to fool their readers.
* Universal bought the movie rights to the book in 1984 and Spielberg was attached to direct. Even going as far as having a script commissioned. Obviously, nothing came of that.
* At this point in time, George Romero was set to direct a film adaptation of The Stand right after he finished filming Day of the Dead. King had written the script and whittled it down to a 2.5 hour movie and says in the article that “everything is in there”. But I’m not sure how that’s even possible.
* After The Talisman, Straub is mostly done with supernatural horror. He wants to focus on more crime and mystery. Which is what he does. His next three books are his famed Blue Rose Trilogy (Koko, Mystery, The Throat).

I mentioned Straub’s next few books after The Talisman above.  Conversely, the next published book for Stephen King after The Talisman was Thinner, but that was originally under the Richard Bachman alias.  The next KING book was the short story collection, Skeleton Crew.  Which is one of my very favorite King books.  But Thinner is rather good as well.

It seems like this article just ends.  I guess the interview is concluded in the next issue.  A bit disappointing as I wanted them to discuss any ideas for the sequel we wouldn’t see for like 20 years.

Another thing I thought before reading up on The Talisman was that King and Straub hated each other.  That they started off as friends but the writing of the book drove a wedge into that friendship.  That’s why it took so long to get a sequel.  However, that’s clearly not the case at all.  These guys were friends for years before The Talisman and they’ve been friends ever since.  Interesting the ideas you overhear other people say that have no basis in reality.

So yes, I’m enjoying the book and I’d recommend it to anyone that is curious and already a fan of either author.  However, since this is just the halfway point, there is still plenty of time for this book to go completely “off the rails”.