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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2001
From page one, through to the final sentence, this book had me enthralled.
"Black House" is the second collaboration between King and Straub, and is the sequel to their first novel, "The Talisman".
If you've read "Talisman" and if you're one of King's "Constant Readers", "Black House" answers lots of questions ("what happened next to the Talisman's characters ?" ; "who or what is the Crimson King ?") and it also, tantilisingly, raises lots of new ones, primarily relating to King's Dark Tower series.
However, if you're new to Stephen King, don't despair ! "Black House" is also rewarding in its own right, perhaps best described as a supernatural thriller, which keeps the reader turning pages as ex-cop Jack Sawyer races to find a young boy kidnapped by a serial killer. Sawyer must fight his personal demons, work with the town's residents and challenge a few bad guys (from this world and others), if he is to save the victim (turns out there could be a bit more at stake too...)
Set in a small Winsconsin town, the novel features some superb characterisation and truly great narration - with this latter perhaps originating from the pen of Mr Straub.
As a sequel, I believe "Black House" is superior to its predecessor (it's roots are not as firmly set in the fantasy genre). As a "stand alone" novel, the book has a great plot and fast paced storyline. As a Dark Tower book, King will have all his readers desperate for more - roll on Dark Tower V.....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2005
Having been an avid fan of Stephen King for many years, I admit it had been a while since I had picked up one of his books. When I started on Black House, I was first struck by the beauty of the style. King's starkly vernacular prose seemed to have been softened somewhat by the collaboration. I was immediately drawn into the story, irrespective of the curious position of the narrator (where the narrator speaks from only becomes clear towards the end). The characters were realistic - those which were to be liked, were endearing, those which were to be hated, once again in a characteristic style of King's, were truly evil.
It started like an ordinary detective novel - who had committed these heinous murders and were they going to strike again? Although, being aware of both King's and Straub's penchant for the supernatural, I was waiting for the story to change. When it did, I was pleasantly surprised. The first time Jack Sawyer crossed over to The Territories, there was no ambiguity. I have found in the past that as King enters his supernatural worlds, his creative logic can be difficult to follow. Not in Black House. From beginning to end, whether one is in this world or a parallel one, the story continues to grip the reader.
I appreciated the authors telling me towards the end that, if I wanted a happy ending, I could put the book down at that point. I didn't, but it was as if they had taken a bet either way on the conclusion. I found both alternatives equally as good, although the second was a little more unexpected and perhaps less coherent. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed either Stephen King's or Peter Straub's books in the past. I, for one, will be reading it again.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2001
A welcome return to the fantasy world visited in the Talisman and Dark Tower series, because make no mistake these two tales are interwoven. The book shows Stephen King and Peter Straub's talent for writing in tandem (the seems are even harder to detect than in Talisman)and they produce a book that is impossible to put down. The story itself is disturbing and revealing of the ongoing saga of Dark Tower and the insights into the back ground of the aforementioned story, but this is not at the sacrfice of telling a horror story. The characters are superb, and I have no doubt that most people will fall in love with Jack Sawyer's innocence and determination (one of the heroes of the piece). I would fully recommend this to anyone whether they have read Talisman or not, it is a captivating tale in its own right. And to those who have read not only Talisman but the Dark Tower series this is the book for you, a lot of background information is divulged and the picture gets a lot clearer no doubt paving the way for another Dark Tower book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2001
I went into this book not quite sure what to expect. Its been quite a while since I read The Talisman and even contemplated reading this again. I decided against it and went straight the way into this book... from page 1 I was completely hooked. The opening 30 pages grabbed me and the scene was set. Its difficult to see the joins in Kings/Straubs writing.. I think the more visceral is King whereas the scene setting is Straub -- Maybe? Anyway the writing is superb and you soon delve into the minds of the character. The reader is often taken on a tour by the Crow Gorg. The narrative is 'movie script' like and I wouldn't be surprised to see a film on the way.
Anyway - What of the story? Well on one hand it is a murder story - very Silence of the lambs etc- on the other its as near to a Dark Tower enstallment were likely to see for a few years. The main character is Jack Sawyer, but to be honest there are so many in this epic read (Fisherman, Henry aka wisconsin rat etc). We are dragged along as each portion on the story is linked togther and the tale unfolds. The plotline is tight and the conclusion edge of the seat stuff.
I have enjoyed some of Straubs earlier work - Ghost Story, Koko- but Stephen King his where it is for me. I also think is earlier novels are the stronger with the possible exception of Hearts in Atlantis, but this book is an absolute treat. This is vintage stuff, its easy to say but I think this will be my top read of this year. It had everything for me. I wouldn't advise anyone who hasn't read any of Kings/Straubs work previously to try this one first because the extra dimension of the Dark Tower adds to the experience. Start at the begginning and get the full deal from this superb book. What more can I say -- Brilliant. Thanks Guys!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2001
If fans were eager to get some more information on the deep mystery surrounding 'The Dark Tower', Black House is it. King and Strabb combine in this book a magical web of mystery and horror that seems to automatically turn the pages without the reader being aware. We pay another visit to Jack Sawyer, as we know was the young boy who traveled to 'The Terrortories' in King's earlier book 'The Talisman'. This time Jackie-Boy faces a very tough challenge, although Black House is not as much of a sequal as people may think. Indeed, the penchant for the mystical qualities of The Talisman are there, but King seems to have had the major influence on Black House through the ever looming questions surrounding The Dark Tower series. We visit a small town in Wisconsin named French Landing. This town is home to a monster, indeed it is home to alot of monsters, the epi-center being the Black House and the forces that surround it. Children are disappearing in French Landing - at the hands of a serial killer aptly named 'The Fisherman'. Jack Sawyer is called in and finds himself once again facing the Terrortries....and why he must return to them to save a young boy...a very special boy. It is as almost King intended this to be an appetiser to his readers, providing a little information on The Dark Tower while still keeping them guessing. All in all, Black House is an excellent read, a must for King fans and a definate buy for Dark Tower fans.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2004
Welcome to French Landing, Wisconsin a bucolic back water haven where communities are close-knit and front doors are never locked. In this idyll in the heart of middle America a killer of incomparable callousness, the self proclaimed 'Fisherman' has been taking children from under the noses of their unsuspecting parents.
We join the action aware that two children have already been taken and from evidence and notes left at the crime scenes that the 'Fisherman' promises to continue the blood let and that he is indulging in cannibalism to boot.
Pressure is mounting on the local police chief and his subordinates to apprehend this monster before another lamb is abducted from the peaceful streets and taken to the slaughter. Whilst competent as a small town police chief, Dale Gilbertson is being out-smarted and out-witted by this mastermind.
Having recently helped (solely) incarcerate a less vicious and somewhat dubious French Landing local murderer, Jack Sawyer is fresh in the minds of the locals, who on the brink of a revolt are looking for a hero. Jack 'Hollywood' Sawyer, the golden boy of LAPD homicide seems to fit the bill perfectly. Not only has he recently moved to the area, after falling in love with the serenity of the place and feeling an inexplicable affinity and bond to it, he also has been tipped for the very top his career has to offer. There is one *minor* inconvenience however, he is retired, at 31. He has quit, for good. Indefinitely. Get the picture?
Can Jack really turn his experienced mind and eyes away from this offence against humanity? Moreover will the public let him? Add to the melting-pot the worrisome waking dreams and hallucinations that Jack has been habitually suffering, it all seems preordained, connected. He must lend a hand.......mustn't he? Surely just scratching the surface won't hurt....will it?
Come and enter into this world, come and meet the overly-large talking raven named 'Gorg' who speaks to the children before they disappear. Do you want to find out what 'abbalah doon' means and why 'Mr Munshun' must in someway have a hand in this?
Most importantly how does Black House figure into all this? Why is it that no matter how hard you try to find the Black House, no matter how close you're standing to it, you just can't seem to see it and why your life is in danger if you do?
So join the posse, brace yourself and more importantly, enjoy the ride into the Black House.
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Two words shone from the airport shop book shelf, like neon lights on a dark night: KING and STRAUB.
6 years earlier these two undoubted masters of the supernatural genre, joined literary forces to bring us the talisman that was the 'Talisman'. (Pardon the pun!) The book was effortlessly and beautifully written and was a No.1 bestseller worldwide.
This picks up where the action left us, we revisit Jack Sawyer, now 18 years older at 31 with only the smallest residual traces of his previous experiences are retained.
The characterization in this novel is both astounding and mouth-watering. Upon reading just one descriptive paragraph about a character you know their life story and, depending on the character, have either a close affinity with them or in the case of the 'Fisherman' feel instant vitriol.
They provide us with a whole host of paradoxical protagonists. Jack Sawyer: extremely wealthy, Hollywood homicide detective who appears untarnished by the ways of celebrity and fortune has an uncharacteristic depth, compassion and understanding to him. Henry Gilbertson: great friend to Jack Sawyer who has the most amazing perception and extraordinary vision, but it blind. Armand 'Beezer' St Pierre: beer-brewing, Harley riding man-mountain father of one of the abducted children, who, with his posse, are very dangerous adversaries, but are all versed in the best literature has to offer and have a smattering of PhD and degrees between them.
These oxymoronic characters sound laughable but in context they work perfectly, you meet them, you get to know them and you don't want to let them go.
Also impressive was the descriptive narrative and the viewpoint from which we view it as readers. We take the journey through the book as a particle on the breeze, a molecule perhaps that has the free reign to travel hither and thither. We can be as close to the action as we need to be and infinitesimally small if necessary. We do not have the travel in the body of another and be restricted by its parameters.
The way that King & Straub describe the back drop and setting is also perfection to the nth power. If I were to accidentally wander through middle America tomorrow and stumble on French Landing I would instantly know that I was there (not that it exists).
Moreover, on an emotional level, I like to think myself of having the very British (I am) restraint and stiff upper lippedness to be able to resist the charges of emotion that books throw at me. However in one particular chapter I found myself physically having to put the book down so as not to spoil it with my tears.
That is the real reason; I would like to believe, that people write books. To invoke emotion from a reader. To cause changes in a reader that the author felt when they were writing it.
So in conclusion I would strongly urge you, if you are deliberating, to putting hand to mouse or hand to wallet and forking out for this book. You will not be disappointed and at over 800 pages long, it's great value for money as each page is littered with genius.
For those of you who have had the good fortune to read this book I hope you join me in raising a glass to the authors. I can only envy, as I'm sure you all do, the talents that these men have at their fingertips.
Enjoy.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2001
If there is one thing that I am glad of it's that I didn't read THE TALISMAN on its release in 1984. The anticipation left by the storytelling of that novel was to such a great degree that the sequel couldn't come soon enough (but those nice people Mr King and Mr Straub insisted there would be no sequel!). So had I waited the seventeen years between the novels, I might not have survived. Instead, it was a considerably short amount of time I had to wait.
So with much expectancy I picked up BLACK HOUSE. As the tale of a killer in small town Wisconsin unfolded, with the emergence of previous protagonist Jack Sawyer developed, and as the dark goings-on grew that much darker, I found myself hoping more and more for the other world, the Territories, to play a larger role. But whereas THE TALISMAN dealt itself evenly between the two worlds, BLACK HOUSE is definitely more firmly settled in the real world.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing. King and Straub capture the mindset and idiosyncrasies of the characters well, creating a great deal of intensity, and the narrative deals well with the modern-day evils of murder, paedophilia etc. For neither is this a weak novel. As readers we are drawn to the tale, lapping up every detail, but it is just this niggling feeling in the back of our minds (occasionally pushing to the front, it has to be said) that the element of fantasy that made THE TALISMAN such an enjoyable novel doesn't really emerge until the last act, which is accompanied by the wish (for King's regulars at least) that we could be submerged back to THE DARK TOWER series which is touched upon here. Roland of Gilead has a lot to do, but should we be thinking of that as we read this novel?
However, one thing needs to be checked here, and that is the fact that this latest outing is a stand-alone book. If we had really wanted the same components we could simply have gone back to our battered copies of THE TALISMAN and reread it. BLACK HOUSE may not be exactly what we want, but credit should be given for it being different!
This may have seemed like a negative perception of the novel but I must admit to having lapped up the novel again. There is just something about the writing style that makes me want to read and read again. BLACK HOUSE still delivers, and with such a background, this is an achievement in itself.
This may not be the best, but it is worth reading. If you haven't read its predecessor, you'll probably get more enjoyment here. Which in itself indicates that this is a good stand-alone novel.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2004
I am a fan of King novels and have read and enjoyed Ghost Story by Straub. I read The Talisman and enjoyed it for the descriptive journey and the identifiable characters but found it lacking in any depth of story.
In my opinion, Black House is a bombastic powerhouse of descriptive content and lovable characters, as was The Talisman, but this sequel delivers a much appreciated bonus with its exciting storyline and laterally shifting narration.
I had no trouble following the unusual style of story-telling found in this book unlike some of these other readers and I feel for those that were unable to enjoy the book because of this [refreshing] change.
I am sad to say that the final confrontation was a little disappointing (in my opinion King has never been able to finish a story as well as he begins) and I got the familiar feeling of a head-on collision ending a long pleasant drive. I didn't think the ending was poor enough to subtract a whole point from the 5 stars I am giving it though.
In conclusion I would heartily recommend this book to all King fans (if they are able to tear their hairy talons and blood-shot eyes from the horror section and snap their necks over into fantasy a little).
I also recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-told story with a few thorns in its spine. You would do well to read The Talisman first (and some Dark Tower if you have a couple of months to spare).
I am now just beginning the final book of The Dark Tower series... all my fingers are crossed in hope that the end justifies the means this time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2003
I bought this book in the xmas rush. I have always enjoyed reading books by Stephen King, but unlike all his other books it took me a while to finish the book.
The thing that struck me about this book is that it cannot stand on its own. Having not read 'The Talisman', I was always confused by references to Jack Sawyer's childhood and his experience in the 'territories'. Many of the characters were shallow and mentioned only in brief. It left me unstatisfied.
My advice to anyone considering reading this book is to read 'The Talisman' first, so that they can get the jist of what is going on, I intend to so soon too.
I also thought the ending was too abrupt, an anti-climax to an otherewise ok-ish story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2001
It has indeed been over 20 years since we last heard from "Jacky-Boy"Sawyer,this time he is back as a very succesful LAPD homicide detective who remembers nothing about his rather eventful adolesence. He decides to retire from the police at the grand old age of 31!and moves from L.A to French Landing (where he helped solve some killings previously). He starts to get a lot of requests for his assistance in solving the brutal "Fisherman" killings of young children in French Landing,after futile resistance and some gentle reminders of his previous journey he does eventually agree to help the embattled police chief.
The story centres around the kidnapping of Tyler Marshall(we only find out that he has been kidnapped later on in the story!)and how Jacck Sawyer has to go to the Territories to find out how special this boy is to the dark forces that work in this other world.
As usual with any King novel the characters have great depth,you instantly despise Wendell Green and yet feel sorry for him.Henry Leyden is somebody you would want as your best friend and as for our hero Jack he has grown up as you would of hoped.
I would love to know how the two authors go about writing the book, you do one chapter and i'll do the next!!
The book is truly excellent with many twists and turns along the way,and you even get the option of two endings which I thought very novel.
Please do not keep us waiting twenty years for the next installment.
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