In the seemingly paradisal Wisconsin town of French Landing, small distortions disturb the beauty: a talking crow, an old man obeying strange internal marching orders, a house that is both there and not quite there. And roaming the town is a terrible fiend nicknamed the Fisherman, who is abducting and murdering small children and eating their flesh. The sheriff desperately wants the help of a retired Los Angeles cop, who once collared another serial killer in a neighboring town.
Of course, this is no ordinary policeman, but Jack Sawyer, hero of Stephen King and Peter Straub's 1984 fantasy The Talisman. At the end of that book, the 13-year-old Jack had completed a grueling journey through an alternate realm called the Territories, found a mysterious talisman, killed a terrible enemy, and saved the life of his mother and her counterpart in the Territories. Now in his 30s, Jack remembers nothing of the Talisman, but he also hasn't entirely forgotten:
When these faces rise or those voices mutter, he has until now told himself the old lie, that once there was a frightened boy who caught his mother's neurotic terror like a cold and made up a story, a grand fantasy with good old Mom-saving Jack Sawyer at its center. None of it was real, and it was forgotten by the time he was sixteen. By then he was calm. Just as he's calm now, running across his north field like a lunatic, leaving that dark track and those clouds of startled moths behind him, but doing it calmly.
Jack is abruptly pulled into the case--and back into the Territories--by the Fisherman himself, who sends Jack a child's shoe, foot still attached. As Jack flips back and forth between French Landing and the Territories, aided by his 20-years-forgotten friend Speedy Parker and a host of other oddballs (including a blind disk jockey, the beautiful mother of one of the missing children, and a motorcycle gang calling itself the "Hegelian Scum"), he tracks both the Fisherman and a much bigger fish: the abbalah
, the Crimson King who seeks to destroy the axle of worlds.
While The Talisman was a straightforward myth in 1980s packaging, Black House is richer and more complex, a fantasy wrapped in a horror story inside a mystery, sporting a clever tangle of references to Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, jazz, baseball, and King's own Dark Tower saga. Talisman fans will find the sure-footed Jack has worn well--as has the King/Straub writing style, which is much improved with the passage of two decades. --Barrie Trinkle
From Publishers Weekly
Today's literature is plagued by sequelitis; plagued because many of the offspring are abominations. But here's a marvelous exception. Seventeen years after King and Straub's first collaboration, The Talisman, comes an immensely satisfying follow-up, a brilliant and challenging dark fantasy that fans of both authors are going to love. Page by page, the novel reads as equal parts King and Straub, with the Maine master's exuberance and penchant for excess restrained by Straub's generally more elegant (though no more potent) approach. But the book, far more than its predecessor, is set explicitly in the King universe, with particular ties to the Dark Tower series. Its primary hero is The Talisman's Jack Sawyer, now retired from the LAPD and living with no memory of his otherwordly Talisman exploits, alone in French Landing, Wisconsin a town surveyed by the authors in an unusual third-person plural narration that buoys the book throughout. Terror stalks French Landing in the form of the Fisherman, who's been snatching, killing and eating the town's children. We know that the Fisherman is a resident of the town's elderly care facility, but Jack doesn't; when yet another child, Ty Marshall, is taken, Jack enters the hunt for the killer and the boy. He's joined by an array of locals, notably a gang of philosopher bikers and blind Henry Leyden, a 50-something cool cat whom every reader will adore. Jack is going to need all their help, and more, because The Fisherman is controlled by a malignant entity from End-World, where the Crimson King aims to unravel the fabric of all the universes. It's to blighted End-World, via the portal of the Black House a creepy local house painted black that Jack and others travel to rescue Ty, in the novel's frantic conclusion.The book abounds with literary allusions, many to the King-verse, and readers not familiar with King's work and particularly with The Talisman may feel disoriented, especially at first. But there's so much here to revel in, from expertly excuted sequences of terror, awe or passion the novel is a deep reservoir of genuine emotion to some of the most wonderful characters to spring from a page in years, to a story whose energy is so high and craft so accomplished that most readers will wish it ran twice its great length. What is probably the most anticipated novel of the year turns out to be its most memorable to date, a high point in both the King and Straub canons. This will be a monster bestseller, and deservedly so. 2 million first printing. (One-day laydown Sept. 15)
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