By Stephen King and Peter
Berkley Books, 769 pp, 1985
This is my second time through The
Talisman. I read it several years ago, and hardly remembered
anything, except for the general plot. Then King and Straub released the
sequel, Black House, so I figured I should reread this one to
enjoy the new one that much more. Since I remembered so little, it was
like reading it for the first time.
It's called a horror novel, or as the
cover says, "the ultimate experience in terror," but I think
it's more of a fantasy/adventure novel. There are certainly some
terrifying scenes, but they're more action-related. And the alternate
world of The Territories is certainly an element of fantasy.
But who cares, because regardless of
what you call it, it's a great book.
Jack Sawyer is twelve years old and
his mother, a retired "B" actress named Lily Cavanaugh, is
dying. With the help of a wise black man named Speedy Parker, Jack
realizes he must journey across the country to save his mother's life.
Somewhere on the Pacific coast is a powerful magical weapon called The
Talisman, and this will heal any sickness.
So Jack sets out, traveling through
America and The Territories, and running into all sorts of wonderful and
despicable people. There's loyal Wolf, best friend Richard, Speedy
Parker, Sloat, Sunlight Gardener/Osmond, and all kinds of terrible and
fearsome monsters. But, as you would expect, Jack does find the
Talisman, smites his enemies, and heals his mom. All live happily ever
Like I said, it's a great book, a real
keeper, a true classic, but there is one aspect of it that bugged the
heck out of me.
What problem does Stephen King have
In this book, Sunlight Gardener runs a
home in Indiana for wayward boys. He's a preacher, a real
Bible-thumpin', halleluiah-and-amen type. So naturally he's also an
evil, vile villain, a raging hypocrite who allows older boys to beat up
smaller ones, locks disobedient boys in a box, and kills any boy who
dare escape. Jack and Wolf fall into Gardener's clutches and spend a
couple months at this home before Wolf dies helping Jack escape.
I realized that in several novels,
King portrays his villains as Christians. There's Kurtz, the sneaky and
corrupt clandestine operative in Dreamcatcher, the infamous Annie
Wilkes in Misery, and Insomnia demonizes pro-life
Christians. I can think of only one King novel which casts a positive
light on Christianity - Desperation.
I know from On Writing that
King is a lapsed Baptist, and decidedly left of center in his politics.
That must have something to do with it. I also remember him saying he
believe in God but not organized religion, which is like saying you
believe in baseball but not Major League Baseball.
As a Christian and a King reader, this
really bugs me. Perhaps someone could enlighten me. I'd appreciate it.