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Black House Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, August 27, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 686 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Talisman Series

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Mass Market Paperback, Unabridged, August 27, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345441036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441034
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.4 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (686 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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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