The Talisman (1984 novel)

The Talisman (1984 novel)

infobox Book |
name = The Talisman
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Stephen King, Peter Straub
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Fantasy, Horror novel
publisher = Viking Press
release_date = November 8, 1984
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 672 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-670-69199-2
preceded_by = Cycle of the Werewolf
followed_by = It

"The Talisman" is a 1984 fantasy novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The plot is not a reworking of the earlier Walter Scott book also titled "The Talisman", although there is one oblique reference to "a Sir Walter Scott novel."__TOC__

Plot summary

This book charts the adventure of a young teen boy named Jack Sawyer. The adolescent hero sets out from Arcadia Beach, New Hampshire in a bid to save his mother, who is dying from cancer, by finding an enchanted crystal called "the Talisman."

The premise of the novel involves the existence of a parallel world to Earth, called "the Territories" (a strange fantasy world with ties (though these ties did not exist at the time of publication) to King's "The Dark Tower"). Individuals in the Territories have "twinners," or parallel individuals, in our world. Twinners' births, deaths, and (it is intimated) other major life events are usually paralleled. Twinners can also flip, but only share the body of their alternate universe's analogue.

In rare instances (such as Jack Sawyer's), a person may die in one world but not the other, making them "single-natured" and giving them the ability to switch back and forth between the two worlds if taught how. Jack is taught how to "flip" by a mysterious figure known as Speedy Parker, who may be a gunslinger named Parkus in the Territories. In his world the beloved Queen Laura DeLoessian, the twinner of Jack's mother (a movie actress known as the "Queen of the B Movies") is also dying.

Various people help or hinder Jack in his quest. Of particular importance are the Werewolves, known simply as Wolfs, who inhabit the Territories. These are not the savage killers of tradition. They serve as royal herdsmen or bodyguards, and can sometimes under stress voluntarily change to wolf form. A sixteen-year-old Wolf, simply named Wolf, is accidentally pulled into America by Jack Sawyer and adopts Jack as his herd, serving as his companion. Wolf is extremely likeable, kind, loyal and friendly, much like a dog, though his wolf nature shows through on occasion. On the other hand, some have joined the antagonists who are trying to stop Jack.

As the story goes back and forth between the Territories and the familiar United States, or "American Territories" as Jack comes to call them, Jack escapes from one life-threatening situation after another. Accompanied by Wolf and later by his childhood friend Richard, Jack must retrieve the Talisman before it falls into the hands of evil schemer Morgan Sloat, Richard's father, who, we later learn, was Jack's father's business partner before arranging to have the latter murdered. He wants to seize their business from Jack's mother. Morgan Sloats's twinner, Morgan of Orris, also plans to seize the Territories once Queen Laura is dead.

King and Straub followed up in 2001 with a sequel, "Black House", that picks up with a now-adult Jack as a retired Los Angeles homicide detective trying to solve a series of murders in the small town of French Landing, Wisconsin. A third book is expected to follow.

Publishing history

The idea of writing "The Talisman" first took form when Stephen King moved with his family to London in early 1977. It was there he met Peter and Susan Straub, along with their children, and the two writers became friends, both being fans of each other's work. After a short friendship, King and his family left after only three months back to the United States. Straub and King had talked multiple times before about collaborating to write a book, but nothing ever surfaced until ten years after King moved back, when the Straubs moved to the United States as well. According to King, after Straub moved, "the talk got serious," and they began writing. Their literary friendship did not end after the publication of "The Talisman." In 1999 they began working on a sequel to "The Talisman," dealing with Jack Sawyer as an adult. It was published in 2001, entitled "Black House."


The Territories

When Jack "flips", he finds himself in a parallel world, which is physically smaller than the world from which he comes. Throughout the course of the novel, Jack uses the size differential as a method to travel quickly across the country. The central regions, roughly corresponding the American Midwest are a grain growing area known as "the Outposts." Beyond them the western region of the Territories is a destroyed area known as "the Blasted Lands." It apparently was wrecked by radioactivity and has dangerous mutants and occasional fireballs.

Alhambra Hotel

Where Jack begins his quest and meets Speedy Parker. It is a decaying building on the New Hampshire coast, at the end of the novel deserted except for Jack's mother. In the Territories it parallels the royal palace of the dying queen.

Oatley Tap

A bar in the western New York State town of the same name. The owner holds Jack as a virtual slave.

Sunlight Gardener's School

When Jack and Wolf are accused of mischievous "hitchhiking" and "trouble-making" by a highway police officer, they are sent by the court to a camp/school for troubled youths run by Robert "Sunlight" Gardner/Osmond. It is located in western Indiana and parallels a terrible open pit mine where slaves are used to gather iron for Morgan.

Thayer School

A boarding school for wealthy boys in central Illinois. Jack meets up with his friend Richard here. Wolves and gargoyle-like creatures try to stop Jack.

Agincourt Hotel

In the ruined town of Point Venuti on the northern California coast. It is a mysterious abandoned black structure similar to the Alhambra. It holds the Talisman and has many different incarnations depending on the alternate universe. In The Territories it appears as a black castle. It is through this building's shifting forms as Jack nears the Talisman that the reader learns of a multitude of other worlds of which the Territories and America are only two.


Because Straub and King were both immensely successful and popular horror writers in their own rights, anticipation of this book were extremely strong. The publisher financed a USD$550,000 promotion budget and several articles ran which hailed the collaboration of the two writers and speculated what would result would be “the greatest horror novel ever written”. [ "The Talisman"] from 20th-Century American Bestsellers database]

Actual popular and critical reception, however, were mixed and ran the spectrum from "worst" ("People": "Worst of Pages" list) and "best" ("Twilight Zone": Year's Best Novel). Many reviews were mixed, praising the characters and plot, but criticizing a "long-winded" "predictable" endingFact|date=September 2008. However, with the exception of "People", no critics recommended against it.

According to "Publishers Weekly", the final sales figure for "The Talisman" in 1984 was 880,287 copies. The original hardbound edition spent 12 weeks as #1 on "New York Times" Best Seller List with a total of 23 weeks in total on the list. "Publishers Weekly" listed it as #1 for 11 weeks, with a total of 26 weeks on the list.

The subsequent Berkley paperback edition spent 2 weeks as #1 on the "New York Times" best paperback list with a total of 14 weeks on the list. "Publishers Weekly" listed it as #1 for 3 weeks, with 13 weeks in total on the list.


The television network TNT recently announced it would be adapting The Talisman into a six-part mini-series, which is expected to air in 2009. Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy will be collaborating on the miniseries project. [ [ TNT and Steven Spielberg to Adapt Stephen King's "The Talisman"] from] [ [ TNT, DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg to make "The Talisman"] from]


External links

*imdb title|title=The Talisman|id=0384580

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