"She's beautiful, but he senses that beauty is one of the least important things about her."
Black House is the sequel to The Talisman that nobody asked for. I'm sorry, let me rephrase that- the sequel to The Talisman that I didn't ask for, and I didn't want. This is an extraordinarily grumpy start to a post, I realise, but good lord did I dislike The Talisman; and so Black House wasn't exactly a Stephen King book I was looking forward to getting to. But, it is here, it is done with, and you know what? It wasn't half bad.
Before we even talk about the book, shall we talk about the title? Black House sounds an awful lot like Bleak House, WHICH I JUST READ (weird!) and I thought this was just a coincidence and nothing would come of it. BUT in this book, two of the characters read Bleak House, and while I think it's still pretty much a coincidence, it's pretty cool that the similarity of the titles is at least acknowledged and mentioned and whatnot.
Now. The story. We left Jack Sawyer after his really long boring journey and something about some kind of talisman and saving his mother and blah blah blah, as a twelve year old boy on the East Coast. Now living in Wisconsin, Jack is a retired LAPD homicide detective, and in my brain, he is now SMOKING hot. I don't know why, there's definitely nothing to suggest that he's especially the most handsome man in the world, but in my particular world of the story, he's pretty fine. And I would marry him. That's your first indication that I maybe didn't hate this book that much.
So. Jack is retired from police work, but children keep being murdered near him and he's coerced into helping with the investigation into that. OF COURSE it's not just a case of simple child murder, since Jack's all special and there's this whole other world (The Territories) that he hardly remembers but to which he is still important, and both of these things tie in together and make it so that Jack is the only one who can solve the case. On the whole, I BY FAR enjoyed all the police-work-biker-gang-reality stuff more than the fantasy-talking-there has to be a supernatural element to all this cause I say so stuff. Which is fairly rare for me, but the latter stuff reminded me that The Talisman existed, and that just pissed me off.
HOWEVER. The stuff in The Territories in this book related A LOT to The Dark Tower series, and so I was kind of in hog heaven over it. Seriously- I may have mentioned before that I kind of like those books, you know, no big deal, they're just King's magnum opus, whatevs, and so any extra information I can get about that world, I am all over. I'm always impressed with how carefully it's crafted, too- it's just enough about The Dark Tower so you stay interested in it, but not so much that it cuts off any storylines that might be about to happen in that universe. It's very well done, basically, and I'm hugely impressed that King made Straub agree to include those connections. Because hey, it's Straub's book too.*
So there's that. I read quite large chunks of this book in single sittings because it was both well written and compelling, but (but, but, but) just like in The Talisman, there was so much build up (TOO much build up) for the inevitable rushed and disappointing damp squib of an ending. The entire book feels like it's building up for something incredible to happen, but... It doesn't. Not really. STUFF happens, and it's alright, but it's over in about 3 pages and then there's just the explaining what happened to the townsfolk who don't understand the supernatural. You know what I would have liked? More of the supernatural to explain. It definitely did a lot to how I feel about the book as a whole, but there's still a lot I like about it in the end.
Like, the characters. The characters are so much better than in The Talisman, even Jack is better than in The Talisman, and I cared about each and every one of them. There's the kindly and surprisingly well educated biker gang, Jack's blind but brilliant best friend, the put upon police chief, the extraordinary boy and his equally as extraordinary mother... There are a lot of characters to care about here, and even a few to love, and on the other side, there are just as many who are fun to hate (the bastard newspaper reporter comes to mind here, plus, you know, the child murderer...). It's all good where they're concerned, really.
One final thing though. This is not ok:
"Esther Summerson begins to chirp away in the first person. Our friends decide that the appearance of Esther demands a small libation, if they are to get through much more chirping."
*Although maybe there are connections in it that relate to some of Straub's work too. I dunno, what, do have to read all his books now, too?!