Black House are Books I hate that the first thing you see of a review is the number of stars it s given Someone s feeling about a book is not easily reduced to a five point scale And e
Black House are Books I hate that the first thing you see of a review is the number of stars it's given. Someone's feeling about a book is not easily reduced to a five-point scale. And even once that is done, how do I know what five stars means to you? How do you know what five stars means to me? For me, a five star book is a book that I believe is worth the time and energy you're going to spend reading it. If, (and this is key) you're into that sort of book. (Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Hardcore Gothic Gypsy Steampunk.) A six-star book, is a book that I believe is worth your time and energy even if it's *not* the sort of thing you're into. (Generally speaking, this is the sort of book I'll give a promotional blurb for.) Unfortunately, there isn't a six star option here on goodreads. Generally speaking, a four star book is one that irritates me or disappoints me in one or two moderate ways. A three star book has several moderate irritations, or one big one, or or something that was irritating all the way through. Keep in mind that I can be extraordinarily critical of my books. Things that irritate me might not ever even show up on your mental radar. Further complicating things is the fact that sometimes I'm willing to give a book a bonus star due to extenuating circumstances. If the writer is doing something new and exciting, for example. If they're trying something really difficult or if it's their first book, I'll often give an extra star. So. To the point. Did I enjoy this book? Yes. I didn't know there was a sequel to the Talisman until I saw this in an airport a week ago. I enjoyed reading it. Held my attention. Pleased me with its craft. Is it for everyone? No. So here's the breakdown. ** What I personally liked about this book:It was told in present tense, and done well. Not a lot of folks can pull that off. The narrator was almost an active character, almost like a tour guide through the story. He/she speaks directly to the reader at points, saying things like, "Let's see what's going on over at the old mill..." Again, it worked well. Extra points for that. Also, it was set in Wisconsin. Which is kinda fun for me. **What you might like about this book:Everything that you normally like about Steven King's stuff. Interesting characters. Alternate worlds. Nice tie-in with the Talisman and the Dark Tower stuff. Nice description. Nice special effects. Nice tension and suspense. Nice characterization. **What you might dislike about this book:It's a large, rambly story. A lot of the book is spent in atmospherics, developing non-essential characters, and digressions, rather than action and moving the story forward. The Talisman was a cool adventure story. A young boy goes out, explores a strange world on a quest to save his mom. This book isn't that. There's no real adventure. They don't even get into the other world until the last 80 pages or so. Children in danger. (I'm sensitive to this, having a kid now myself. It can be a dealbreaker for some folks.) Extreme potentially even gratuitous violence and gore. (But again, we're in the horror genre, so....) So there you go. Isn't that better than some arbitrary number of stars? Now you can make your own choice about whether you want to read it. Or not. It's up to you. . Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories twinner from a premature and agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, WI He has no recollection of hTwenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer travelled to a parallel universe called The Territories to save his mother and her Territories twinner from a premature and agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, WI He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories and was compelled to leave the police force when an odd, happenstance event threatened to awaken those memories.When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin that are reminiscent of those committed several decades earlier by a real life madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed The Fisherman and Jack s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help his inexperienced force find him But is this merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town What causes Jack s inexplicable waking dreams, if that is what they are, of robins eggs and red feathers It s almost as if someone is trying to tell him something As that message becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past, where he may find the soul strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted track of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.. Bestseller Kindle Black House (This review was originally published in the Washington Post in 2001.)Black House is a novel of slippage. We learn about slippage (a secondary definition of which, we are told, helpfully, in the text, is the feeling that things in general have just gotten, or will shortly get, worse) at the beginning of the book as we travel, invisibly through the town of French Landing, Wisconsin, early in the morning, winding up in an abandoned shack where “limp flypaper ribbons hung invisible within the fur of a thousand fly corpses” and it is here that we encounter the mutilated body of ten-year-old Irma Freneau, and watch a dog attempt to eat her severed foot out from its running shoe.Irma is the latest victim of a serial killer whom the local paper has taken to calling the Fisherman, after Albert Fish, a real-life child-killer and cannibal. Not far from the shack, down a road, behind a no entry sign, is a house all painted black; and that house is a gateway to somewhere else.Slippage is what happens on the borders of things and places, and the town of French Landing is on many borders, one of which is the border between Stephen King country, and Peter Straub country.The plot itself will revolve around the struggle between two men: the murderous Fisherman, and our hero, Jack Sawyer, known locally as “Hollywood”, a retired homicide detective from LA. Jack Sawyer retired young and came out to Wisconsin in search of peace and quiet. It is a truism and a genre obligation that retired cops in novels, even novels with slippage, must come out of retirement for their last case, and Jack does, although, as we know from the off, this will not be a simple police procedural or even a whodunnit (the identity of the Fisherman is given to us early in the text -- the “hook of his nose” followed by the “wormy lips” are a dead giveaway, if we’ve missed the hints about his awful deeds and secret pleasures); and it will have its roots in a previous novel.Those who remember The Talisman, Straub and King’s first collaboration, have already met Jack Sawyer as a 12 year old boy who travelled a long way, across the US and across a distorted, magical version of America called the Territories, to find the Talisman that would save his dying mother’s life. The Talisman was a fantasy with dark elements: a fat book that could comfortably have been even fatter, with a winning young hero named after Tom Sawyer. Black House is a sequel of sorts to The Talisman, although it also draws upon the mythology that King has been building in his Gunslinger sequence, and which surfaced most recently in his Hearts in Atlantis. It is a book that exists on the borders of genre – it’s not a serial killer romance, although the Fisherman is unquestionably a superhuman serial killer possessed of (and by) strange powers. It is too dark to be a fantasy but too light, too deeply sunny, to be, at its heart, a horror novel. Here also we experience slippage.It can be a mistake to play hunt-the-author in any collaborative text. Collaborations work when two authors find a single voice for a story, and fail when they do not, and King and Straub create a mutual style that is clean and effective. It is knowing without being arch, and it does not read like either King or Straub. That there are dead giveaways in the text – the obscure jazz references that Straub delights in, for example, or some splattery scenes with a hedgeclipper that could only have been penned by King – is no help in the who-wrote-what game. (In fact I’d be willing to bet that most of the jazz references come from King, out to amuse his co-author and confuse reviewers, and that Straub took his turn at wielding the clipper.)Initially, I found Jack Sawyer uncomfortable in his role as the book’s hero as he is in his retirement: surrounded by a magnificent supporting cast of colourful characters, Jack comes off as almost too pure, too perfect; he might have wandered into this July Wisconsin-Hell-on Earth from a better place. But as I read on, I began to realise that in many ways Black House (only one vowel away from Bleak House, the foggy opening of which is quoted in the text) is a Victorian novel. The authors cited, quoted from, glossed, in the book are popular writers who once were read and are now both read and respected, particularly Dickens, Twain, and Poe. The characters, too, have a Dickensian quality to them. They are the forces of darkness – The Fisherman, Wendell Green the grasping newspaperman, Lord Malshun (Sauron as used-car salesman); forces of light – Jack Sawyer himself; Henry Leyden, the blind man with the many voices; the magnificently filthy brewer biker gang who call themselves the Hegelian Scum; brave Judy Marshall, who is being driven mad by her visions of the truth, and her son, Ty, who will become the Fisherman’s victim, and on whose rescue the fate of the universe, quite literally, depends. And the plot, which roller-coasters forward through the Wisconsin July, has the easy comfortable quality of something built by two authors who are perfectly well aware of how good they are, even to the point of referring to themselves as a couple of “scribbling fellows” in the text. (“Always scribble, scribble, eh Mr. King?”)Sometimes the collaborative process has its downside; on occasion the characters feel like counters being pushed back and forth across a board, and there is a final plot twist which smacks less of inevitability than it does of the authors checking off the last item on their to-do list. The use of the present tense, which could too easily get wearing over 600 pages, for the most part keeps the narrative voice supple, informal, and fresh, although it can, on occasion, make one feel as if one is reading a film script – and there is a sequence when Irma’s body is found, and the authors retread the same half hour from a number of points of view, in which it actively becomes a handicap. Such quibbles aside, in Black House one is watching two master-craftsmen, both at the top of their game, collaborating, with every evidence of enormous enjoyment, on a summery heartland gothic. The book is hugely pleasurable, and repays a reader in search of horror, adventure, or of any of the other joys, both light and dark, one can get from the best work of either of these two “scribbling fellows”.Whether King and Straub will reconvene for a final installment in another fifteen years, or whether Jack Sawyer’s tale has been subsumed into King’s Gunslinger series only time will tell. Either way, it is hard not to look forward to the eventual outcome.
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