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168 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like spending the day with an old friend
I was extremely excited when I first heard this book was being released, but as the release date grew closer I began to have feelings of trepidation. The Talisman has been one of my favorite books since it was released when I was fourteen. Jack Sawyer has always been one of my favorite of Stephen King's characters (ok, I realise that this is a collaboration, but I tend to...
Published on September 17, 2001 by Frazzled Glispa

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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It'll Do
For those of you out there who are huge Stephen King fans like myself, you will buy and read this book regardless if every review you can get your hands on tells you it sucks like a vacum. That's just the way we are. But the truth be told, this is not one of the best, and perhaps not even one of the better. The Talisman, part 1 of this story, was great. It had fantasy...
Published on October 15, 2001 by Lauren Scaravelli


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168 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like spending the day with an old friend, September 17, 2001
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
I was extremely excited when I first heard this book was being released, but as the release date grew closer I began to have feelings of trepidation. The Talisman has been one of my favorite books since it was released when I was fourteen. Jack Sawyer has always been one of my favorite of Stephen King's characters (ok, I realise that this is a collaboration, but I tend to view it as more of a Stephen King creation. This is probably grossly unfair to Peter Straub, but there you have it.)
My great fear was that I wouldn't like Jack as an adult. That there was no way that these two could top the marvelous quest that was The Talisman. Then I heard that Black House would be tied into the Dark Tower series. I wasn't sure how to feel about this either. While I feel that the Dark Tower will prove to be the greatest of Stephen King's works, I have always viewed The Talisman as something altogether seperate, and magical.
My trepidation increased.
Then I decided to just let it go, made a concious effort to view Black House as something unto itself, to not hold it up to the Talisman, or anything else for comparison. I am very glad I did this.
I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning reading this book, and let me tell you it was wonderful. Jack Sawyer, a little older, a little wiser, a little more lonely and scared, but still the boy with the good heart, grown into a man of integrity.
I will not give away plot points in this review, but let me just say a couple of things. The connection to the Dark Tower series is done very well, revealing some important information without taking you to far afield, and making this into an actual Dark Tower book. It is more akin to Insomnia - related, but not overwhelmingly so.
The characterisations in this book are wonderful. I was a little afraid there, because I was disappointed in that aspect of Dreamcatcher. These characters are like people you would meet on the street. They have their strengths and weaknesses, fears and hopes. At the top of the list is Jack, who after all of these years remains someone I would really like to hang out with.
This is not a rehash of the Talisman. The Talisman was a quest novel, while this is something different. There is a questing element in this novel, but it lies within Jack. His quest is to come to terms with himself and his past. Outwardly, this is more of a crime novel that veers into alternate realms with great effect.
I had great difficulty in putting this book down. Until I realised that I less than 100 pages left, at which point I became afraid to finish. I didn't want it to end, you see, and to me this is the greatest compliment I can give a book.
This was a wonderful addition to the Talisman, and to the Dark Tower pantheon. It has whet my appetite for more of both. Hopefully the wait will not be too long.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It'll Do, October 15, 2001
By 
Lauren Scaravelli (Halifax, NS, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
For those of you out there who are huge Stephen King fans like myself, you will buy and read this book regardless if every review you can get your hands on tells you it sucks like a vacum. That's just the way we are. But the truth be told, this is not one of the best, and perhaps not even one of the better. The Talisman, part 1 of this story, was great. It had fantasy and suspence and childish innocence to a tee. Blackhouse goes through the motions, in reality it seems like a murder mystery that added the Territories as an after thought so it could be a part 2.
Don't get me wrong it's not a bad book. It has some great story telling in there and some awfully likeable characters like Henry the blind radio announcer with several on air peronalities, and in places it really shines.
For the fans I was talking about earlier there is some insight into the Dark Tower and what might be dealt with in the future Gunslinger books which makes it a worthwhile read.
I guess the singular most annoying thing about this novel, and it is something that I have never seen in a Stephen King Book ever before and hope to never ever have to read through again in one, is that in parts of the book the narritive is described as if the reader is a watching third party to the story. example, "and now we float up away from this scene and go to visit another important character blahdy blahdy blah" believe me this gets mighty annoying mighty quickly. Perhaps its not Stephen King who wrote this way, although I admit it is unfair to blame what I don't like on the one who isn't one of my favorite authors, but oh well.
To sum up, In the absence of other Stephen King writing, any Stephen King is better than no Stephen King.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's About Time!, October 2, 2001
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
I've been waiting for this book ever since I finished "The Talisman" -- way back when it was first published.
Now Jack and I are both in our early 30s. For me, reading "Black House" felt like seeing an old childhood friend again after far too long. But we barely had time to catch up before the story took off, like an inexorable dark train carrying us to parts unknown.
"Black House" was totally absorbing. I didn't want it to end, and yet I couldn't resist staying up until 5 a.m. finishing it. The characters are great -- especially the motorcycle gang who help Jack solve the crime, and his friend Henry, a blind DJ. King and Straub are both masters when it comes to creating a wholly believable place, and they've done it again, both with the small Wisconsin town and its mirror image in the Territories.
The ending suggests that King and Straub have more stories to tell us about the Territories and its' inhabitants. I hope they don't wait another 20 years to give us the next story ... but "Black House" was worth the wait.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hello, my name is TreeRider and I'm a Stephen King-aholic., November 23, 2001
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
If you're a casual Stephen King (or Peter Straub) reader, or just a fan, this book may disappoint you. Likewise if you're expecting further adventures of Jack Sawyer in the Territories. Jack spends very little time in the Territories in Black House, and most of that comes near the end of the book. I prepped myself for Black House by rereading The Talisman. If you're planning on doing this, too, I won't tell you to reconsider, because it's a very entertaining way to spend your time. And it can help you to understand the authors' otherwise obscure references to events of twenty years ago and their use of seemingly odd phrases like "right here and now" that appeared in the first book. But most folks can get their money's worth from Black House without spending a week (more or less) reading the 700+ page prequel to this novel. And if you're a hardcore horror nut, neither Talisman nor House is up your alley anyway.
Another caveat: King experiments here with a different style of writing that may be off-putting to many readers. (It may not seem so different to Straub fans. I don't know; having read only The Talisman and Koko, I don't consider myself an authority on his works, but I can say I sensed more of his presence in House than I did in Talisman.) The authors use the simple present tense throughout Black House, and yet refer to past events in the past perfect tense, whereas simple past seems more correct to some of us English teachers. (King himself taught English before making a name for himself as a writer, so not all academicians will agree with me on this admittedly minor point.) And I found that their constant use of the first person plural, far from getting me personally involved, kept me from losing myself in the story. Reminded me of King's derogatory remarks about Harold Lauder's writing (second person present tense) in The Stand.
Technical matters and other sniveling complaints aside, Black House is a great read. If you read King for his humor, as I do, you won't be disappointed here. His wry wit comes through on every page. And those of you who, like me, are bizarrely fascinated by his knack for the gross-out also will not feel left out. This story revolves around Jack's attempts to track down the serial killer of children in a small Wisconsin community who eats parts of his victims' bodies and then leaves notes to their parents describing the joy he had in consuming them. The Fisherman is one of Stephen King's sickest creations to date.
For those of you die-hard King addicts (we know who we are) who are going through withdrawal while waiting so impatiently for your next fix of Dark Tower, wait no longer! See your local "dealer" (i.e., bookstore proprietor) today and shoot up with House. Not an official installment of his Dark Tower series, Black House is nonetheless a vehicle for King to give us some background info on gunslingers and the Crimson King. If you were secretly pleased (as I was) when King left horror behind in the late '80s to write modern-day myths, you will love this book. Don't imagine that his letting Mr. Straub into his private Dark Tower world is a sacrilege. The two together have some intriguing philosophical things to say about the metaphysics of that world-indeed, about all worlds. (And in a nod to the late great mythologist Joseph Campbell, their suggestion that a minor character is using alcoholism to "follow her bliss" is a hoot!)
The best reason I can give you for buying Black House is that no one in their right minds would loan it to you. We know we'd never get it back!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Want it to End, September 20, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Black House" was a wonderful journey for me. I loved "The Talisman" and read it once a year. I actually made the hair stand up on my neck in several places. I was so happy that Straub and King decided to bring Jack back. I fell in love with him, silly as it sounds, but he has turned into the man that only a boy who experienced what he did could be.
I enjoy trying to see where King wrote and where Straub wrote. Straub is not as macabre as King, but it all went together so nicely I couldn't really tell.
I loved the references to the "Dark Tower" series and actually was moved to pick those up again. I kept looking to see how many pages I had left and feeling bummed cause I was going through it so fast.
Oh yeah, I loved the smart bikers and Henry. I could picture all of their faces so clearly.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not really "a sequel" to The Talisman, October 9, 2001
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
I'm a Stephen King fan and I liked "The Talisman" a lot. I liked "Black House" and I think most Stephen King fans will too.
One caution up front. As Amazon's description of the book makes clear, the villain in this book is a serial child killer who eats his victims. There may be more than a few people who find this idea so disturbing that even my mention of the theme bothers them. It probably will not help these people if I say "it's just a STORY, it's almost comic-book stuff, it's not THAT graphic, they don't MEAN it."
I read fantasy and horror to escape from reality, so I am glad to report that "Black House" has no references in it to airliners, explosions, or tall office buildings. It served me well as a welcome distraction during the last few terrible weeks.
"Black House" is not really a sequel to "The Talisman." It's an independent book with some loose connections to "The Talisman." (And almost as many to the Dark Tower series).
True, the central character of "Black House," Jack Sawyer, is the central character of "The Talisman,"--but so much time has passed that he is almost a different person. A few other characters from "The Talisman" make what might be called cameo appearances.
To me, this book felt like a "typical Stephen King novel." It did not really evoke the feelings and mood of "The Talisman." (I don't mean to slight Straub here; but I will say that the collaboration is seamless--and the result reads like King).
Unlike "The Talisman," most of events in "Black House" take place in this world. It is "about" a cop chasing down a serial child killer in one of Stephen King's black, ironic, inverted "Our Towns." More like the world of "It" than the world of "The Talisman."
(I've enjoyed trying to figure out where "French Landing" is. My guess: Prairie du Chien).
The authors imply that there may be a trilogy in the offing, with the third book taking place mostly in the Territories... but part of the charm of "The Talisman" was Jack Sawyer's strange balancing act between the two worlds.
This book has what I'll call the "usual beloved faults" of King's writing. Unlike a J. R. R. Tolkien or a Robert Heinlein, the writers never convince me that the story is taking place in a real, consistent world with well-defined rules. They're making it up as they go along, and they (and you) know it. Some of the "cross-references" to other characters and events feel like the sorts of things you get in a detective series. You know, "Lance Sterling called Edna Redstone, the librarian who had helped him solve in 'The Mystery of the Haunted Windmill." Then he drew out the pocketknife that had served him so well in 'The Secret of the Red Lighthouse.'"
What this means to readers new to King is, no, you don't need to read "The Talisman" or the Dark Tower novels first. You'll probably get the feeling that some mysterious things would make more sense if you'd read them, but it's not really true. There's no grand unified story to figure out, and it's OK to come in the middle.
For those to whom the title "Black House" instantly calls to mind Dickens' "Bleak House," the authors are aware of the similarity and work it into the story. (Whether there's supposed to be an intentional connection, I can't say--I've often suspected that if editors notice things in King's writing that are uncomfortably derivative of other books, he disarms cricitism by deliberately acknowledging them ).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book. Did any of these other reviewers get it?, October 9, 2001
By 
Kelly "Adamsfan" (St. Louis, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
First off, I must admit I had trouble getting through the Talisman. I tried numerous times to read that book and just couldn't get through it. Once I heard Black House was coming out, I knew I had to give it another effort. I am so glad I did. Once I got on the coaster, I couldn't help but roll with it.
I think Black house was a much easier read. I identified with the people, places, and events so much better this time around. The twists and turns had me going from the first word. This book has adventure, horror, friendship, love, romance, honor,........I could go on and on. I especially love the mention of Big Mac (I live in St. Louis), Roland, the beams, and the Dark Tower (as I am eagerly awaiting the next in the Dark Tower Series!) In the Talisman, Jack was just a small boy. In Black House I found myslef falling in love with his loyalty and heroism while visiting places he just did not want to revisit, just as I have done with Roland in the Dark Tower Series.
Stephen King and Peter Straub make a wonderful pair. Both their styles shine through. If you have not read the Talisman, start there. Then move on to all of their respective novels. You will not be disappointed. And if you have only seen the movie(s) made from their book(s), go on and read the book(s). The movies limit their creative geniuses. For example: you know what the dog (Cujo) is thinking as he goes rabid in Cujo, not just what we can imagine while viewing. This makes for a terrific read. As a rule, I never see the movie.
Ignore some of these bad reviews and taste it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A leisurely stroll..., August 29, 2002
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The Talisman is one of those books I read again and again. In fact, I've bought several hardback copies as one after the other wore out from being dragged to the beach or on vacation.
So, you can imagine how delighted I was when I saw a sequel was coming out. I saved reading the hardback until I had a long weekend, savoring the anticipation. And I must say that I did enjoy the book. And yet, and yet...
To enjoy this book you must have patience. Be ready for a leisurely stroll. I think the fact that I read the Talisman first means that I was more patient with Black House because I knew something good was coming and I didn't mind looking out the window and enjoying the scenery on the way. If you can enjoy the character development and description without being irritated that the plot doesn't move along very quickly, I think you will like this book. Straub and King are a great team, and the characters in this book are among the most vivid and well drawn of any I've read.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come on in. You'll be glad you did., October 26, 2001
By 
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
Black House is Stephen King's best book in the past ten years, granting the exceptions of Hearts in Atlantis, which I think might be his best book ever, and The Green Mile, which probably comes in a dead heat with this one. Black House is also easily the best Peter Straub book since 1993's The Throat. In fact this new collaboration, a sequel of sorts to King and Straub's 1984 fantasy epic The Talisman, is nothing short of a horror fiction tour de force, the dark literary equivalent of the Beatles getting back together.
You don't need to have read The Talisman to enjoy this new book, however. In fact, the tone of this new one is sufficiently darker than the first book that it feels not so much like a sequel, but rather an updated re-imagining of the life of the main character, Jack Sawyer. If you've read any of King's Dark Tower books, or the many books that tie in with the Dark Tower cosmology (practically anything King's written in the past ten years) you'll be right at home in Black House.
You could actually consider Black House book four-and-a-half in the Dark Tower series. Anyone who's been waiting patiently (or not so patiently as the case may be) for the fifth installment owes it to themselves to read Black House. This book offers you a glimpse of how King might actually finish the Dark Tower series for once and all. In many ways, this book feels like the volleyball equivalent of a set-up for the final smash over the net that the last installment in the Dark Tower story promises to be.
Aside from its Dark Tower connections, Black House also happens to be a hell of a tale on its own merits. The story concerns the grown up child Jack Sawyer, who once traveled across an alternate version of our country known as the Territories in order to save his ailing mother in The Talisman. Twenty years have passed since that adventure unfolded (The Talisman was released in 1984, but set in 1981) and Jack now resides in the idyllic town of French Landing, Wisconsin, where he has no conscious memory of the fantastic events that befell him as a boy. Jack's now a prematurely retired police detective in his early thirties who has moved east from Los Angeles to try to find some peace in his life.
Jack is soon enlisted by his friend, the Sheriff of French Landing, to help track down a particularly brutal child murderer known as the Fisherman. Some odd things have been happening in Jack's personal life recently. Once he unofficially joins the investigation of the case he begins to see how these strange events might have some bearing on helping him find the identity of the Fisherman. He also realizes that the roots of these strange events might lie in the long-forgotten events of his childhood. He discovers that in order to solve this case, he's going to have to remember what it was like to be a child, and he's going to have to be able to believe again in places and things that he hasn't believed in for a long, long, long time.
What makes Black House particularly satisfying is the breadth and depth of rich thematic subtext that lies just below the story's surface. It soon becomes clear that the role of the imagination in our lives is the book's controlling metaphor. Everything feeds into the idea of imagination as a means of transport from where we find ourselves to where long and ache to be. As Jack remembers the first time that he ever visited the Territories, while listening to old jazz records his father was playing when he was a young child (you can't get much more Straub than this), it becomes obvious what it really means to be transported to the Territories. It doesn't happen often, surely, and most adults have willfully forgotten how to do it. But as Jack's new adventures in Black House make it clear, it's only by having the faith to travel that you're going to end up where you need to be.
Another interesting angle to the imagination subtext lies in the ever-present symbolism of borders. Everywhere you look in this book you find borders of one type or another. From naturally occurring borders, such as the great river that French Landing lies on, the Mississippi, to the Black House itself, an eerie, headache-inducing border between worlds. There's also a reference to the "night's Plutonian shore," Edgar Allan Poe's term for the great border between life and death. There are also the social borders that abound between many of the characters, as well as the borders of personality that exist in our own minds There's a great passage towards the beginning of the story that describes the "slippage" that often occurs along borders. In places where two worlds meet, there's bound to be a powerful friction.
All of this makes perfect sense in light of the way Black House was written: two separate imaginations coming together to travel to a common place that neither could have gone to on its own. And there's a great heat generated by this collision of imaginations that sets the story on fire and keeps it burning brightly to the very last word on the last page. There's no problem of the wandering aimlessness here that has plagued some of both King and Straub's recent longer works. Black House is a long book, but it doesn't read like one. Straub and King seem to be good for each other, strengthening one another's occasional weaknesses and compounding one another's strengths. When I first heard about this book, I was a little worried that it might not live up to having both authors' names on the front cover, but believe me, it does. Black House manages to be truly creepy, compelling, and at times moving and profound while never outstaying its welcome. Imagine that.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thankee-sai, September 16, 2001
By 
This review is from: Black House: A Novel (Hardcover)
Absolutely blew my mind. I knew that the Talisman was a precursor to the Dark Tower series (like an experiment, your toes slipping into the cool, dark water of the lake, before you plunge in to the depths). This is really an installment of the Dark Tower series - not revolving around Roland, although we do hear of him in passing - but this book answers many of our questions and introduces us to what I believe will be one of the key players in the upcoming showdown with the Crimson King: little Tyler. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him, or of Jack and Sophie for that matter. I bought this book yesterday when it was released, and read it almost completely in one sitting - I stayed up until 4:00 AM, and only went to bed because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. In preparation for the release I reread the Talisman, finishing it on Thursday night. So I have only one little tiny exception to make: "When I was six, when Jacky was six..." Jack didn't begin migrating to the Territories (or the Daydreams, as he called them then) when he was six; he had already been there by that time. When Jack was six, he discovered that his father & ole Bloat knew about it. But this is not a story about the Territories anyway, this is about the Crimson King and the Dark Tower. Thank you, SK & PS for writing an incredible page-turner and taking my mind of the horrors of OUR world for a day. Sorry if this review is a little disjointed; I'm still reeling. But for those of you on the fence, BUY THIS BOOK! It will thrill you, terrify you and leave you gasping for more.
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Black House by Stephen King (MP3 CD - November 6, 2012)
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