The Talisman

  • The Talisman, Part 3

    Here we have Part 3 of our discussion on The Talisman.
    Click here for Part 1.
    Click here for Part 2.

    So far, Jack Sawyer has been flipping between parallel worlds, getting chased by were-goats, befriending and losing a werewolf buddy, imprisoned in a boys’ home run by a psychotic, murderous Christian, and, most recently, he was besieged by evil Wolfs on his old chum Richard’s boarding school campus. All to retrieve a thing called the Talisman, which has the power to cure his mother, who is dying of cancer back in New Hampshire, where medical talismans are illegal. When we last saw him, Jack and Richard had just escaped the Thayer School to a train station that exists in the same spot in the Territories, the parallel world tied to our own.

    Part IV: The Talisman

    Anders/Sloat In This World (IV)

    Jack and Richard end up in a train depot in the Territories with a dude named Anders, who recognizes Jack as the son of the Queen, the Jesus-like character Jason, who died as a child. Sure, why not? Anders is supposed to take a golf-cart-like train out through the Blasted Lands to Morgan of Orris’s Asshole Wolf camp, but Jack takes the train instead to surprise them.

    Pat: Then to the station!
    With Dude McDrinky Railman?
    Andrea: So they get on this fucking old ass train and Richard’s dad owned it? Or used to take him on it all the time? And he’s all bitchy as per usual and also he keeps thinking he has the flu even though he doesn’t even have a damned temperature.
    Freaking rich kids.
    Pat: Richard’s dad had it built because somehow it’s the same in both worlds? And that’s helpful for some reason.
    Andrea: Because they can jump back and forth while still on the train.
    Pat: Maybe because if it travels in the Territories, it has a shorter distance to go. But then, it also has to go through an IRRADIATED WASTELAND WITH RADIOACTIVE DEATH-DEALING FIREBALLS
    Andrea: Also the train is strong enough to plow through a damn wall apparently.
    Pat: I got the impression that it was a glorified golf cart. Maybe 30 miles an hour.
    Andrea: You mean, a glorified train of golf carts attached to each other?
    Pat: Well, like two carts.
    Andrea: I was picturing it looking like an old steam engine.
    Pat: OLD STEAM ENGINE? It was electric.
    Andrea: Okay, let’s be honest. I pictured it looking like Thomas the Tank Engine.
    Except without eyes and junk.
    Pat: Yeah, wait until you mean Blaine. You want to talk about a fucked-up Thomas the Tank Engine.
    SURPRISE he’s a train in a radioactive wasteland.
    Andrea: Hipp, I couldn’t even tell you what an electric train looks like compared to a steam engine. I am not what you would call “mechanically inclined.”
    Pat: The train station guy also freaks the fuck out over Jack being Jason, his whatever and savior.
    Andrea: That was weird. Didn’t they let him come along with them for a bit?
    Pat: No. He stays behind. He’s terrified of Morgan of Orris.
    But the point is, he sees Jack and knows he’s Jason because of the coin or somesuch. And his Other Side is like some sort of charismatic dynamo.
    Andrea: What happens next?
    Pat: They leave on a midnight train going anywhere.
    Pat: Knowing full-well that some will win, some will lose, and that some were born to sing the blues.
    Andrea: I hate you sometimes
    Pat: Look, you’re the one who said they were on a Journey.

    Richard is playing sick because he is a Total Bozo. Jack realizes that Sunlight Gardener and Osmond are twinners, flip sides of the same shitty coin. Sloat visits Lily, and she tells him to sit on a spike and spit.

    The Blasted Lands/Jack And Richard Go To War

    These lands are super blasted, and Jack’s little train crawls through it as mutants chase after them and nuclear fireballs bounce around the fucking place. Richard thinks he’s having a fever dream, and Jack discovers machine guns and explosives on the second car of the train. Apparently the depot is a place where things do not change between worlds!

    Pat: Here’s about the point where their journey starts to look and sound a lot like the last part of Gunslinger. And they even have guns.
    Andrea: Yes, totally. Except Gunslinger didn’t really have an old ass fucking spider castle part.
    Pat: No, nor did any oracles try to pedo-rape Jack or Richard.
    So they’re trying to get this train to California before it’s scheduled so they can surprise Morgan of Orris. Who, given the stuff on the train, is trying to arm bad Wolfs in the Territories with real-world machine guns and bombs and shit.
    Which, how did those remain guns on the other side??
    Andrea: I think that is a huge plot hole. Or Morgan is strong enough to make shit be whatever he wants it to be, who knows.
    UGH NEW RULES
    Pat: Maybe that’s what’s so important about this railroad that is the same on both sides. It means he can traffic guns.
    Andrea: Yes. It would have been nice if that was made clear but whatevs. It would have also been kind of cool if all the guns turned to slingshots
    Pat: What good would slingshots be???
    “Hey Queen Laura, we got slingshots now, your reign is over. GTFO.”
    Andrea: That’s why it would have been cool. Game-changer.
    Pat: THEY PROBABLY HAD SLINGSHOTS ALREADY
    Andrea: I mean the guns replaced with slingshots.
    Mid-shot
    Andrea: Maybe I just have slingshots on the brain cause Thinner.
    Pat: I’m fairly certain you don’t have anything on the brain.
    SO: mutated everything. I’m betting you were deeply creeped out by the mutants following them. And then the mutants in the hills.
    Andrea: Yeah I don’t like mutants. I always think of that part in the hills have eyes remake with the rapey mutant.
    Pat: They go through the, what, the mountains? And Jack fucking deals with these sniping mutants like a champion.
    LIKE JASON.

    They arrive in the Territories’ version of California and deal on the Wolf camp with alarming brutality. Osmond and Elroy are there! It’s a party and everyone’s been invited… TO DIE. Jack kills Osmond’s by pushing a burning hot coin with the visage of his mother on it into his fucking forehead. Holy titties at a taco stand. Jack and Richard escape their own killing fields just before Morgan rips through the world and arrives.

    Pat: Anyhow, speaking of electricity, Jack and Richard get to the end of the line, and Richard is still batso, but a little better. Sort of gets it now about his dad. BOOM THEY BARREL INTO THE CAMP OF THE BAD WOLFS
    And Osmond/Sunlight Gardener is there with his weird mutant kid.
    And Jack and Richard basically deal on them.
    A lot.
    Andrea: Right. They totally rectify in a fierce way, even though, let’s face it, Richard is a gigantic puss.
    Pat: He is, but that’s his foil-y nature.
    He kills Osmond’s kid by just pushing the pick or the coin into its forehead.
    Which was sick.
    Andrea: OH MAN THAT WAS GROSS

    Richard Remembers/End Of The Road/Point Venuti/Speedy On The Beach

    What he remembers is that the camp they were just at was a survivalist retreat in their world, and he and Morgan Dearest used to go there and, afterwards, Morgan would stare at this black-ass hotel. The same Black Hotel where the Talisman resides. Richie is now onnnnnnn board the crazy train with Jack as they pull into the last stop: Point Venuti.

    Pat: So that all happens. And they’re out, and then they walk to Point Venuti where the Black Hotel is, and Richard starts remembering shit.
    Andrea: Yeah, I really liked that part. Much needed backstory/context.
    Pat: Taking the kid to a fucking boot camp for survivalists and then spending whole days staring at a black hotel? Sheesh.
    Andrea: That was creepsville.
    I love-loved the dad went into the closet and disappeared thing, then cming walking back down the street later. I would have read a whole book just about that shiz.

    Pat: Yeah, total Narnia. And Richard went through, didn’t he? And it was one of those pits. Or something horrifying.
    “Seabrook Island stuff,” for sure.
    Andrea: Yuuuuuuuuuuuup
    I don’t understand how Jack didn’t beat Richard to the ground during his whole fake fever episode. He is a more patient man than I.
    Pat: Everyone is more patient than you.
    Andrea: That is a true fact, yes.
    Pat: But at least we get context on Richard’s disposition against anything strange or unexplainable. He’s protecting himself against the weirdness of his father. Well, the weirdness and the sinisterness.

    The Black Hotel is finally in sight, and the Talisman is talking to Jack telepathically, but too bad—there are all sorts of Morgan Sloat-approved lunatics canvassing the area, starring Sunlight Goddamn Gardener. They elude them and run into Speedy Parker, Now Apparently Dying, down on the beach. He gives them a raft, which is really helpful, what with the fact that Richard is actually sick now with radiation poisoning, and we all know that blow-up rafts cure radiation sickness.

    Pat: They do a pretty good job of eluding the guards, but maybe that’s just because I couldn’t get a handle on exactly what was going on.
    Andrea: CREEPSVILLE AGAIN. Is this the Black House in Black House?
    Pat: It’s something similar. This is the first of three times we will encounter houses almost exactly like this. I think the next is in The Wastelands. The third is Black House. The house on Neibolt Street in It is definitely a contender for Other Weird Houses That Are Possibly Related.
    We’re just at the periphery of the mythology of the Dark Tower here.
    Andrea: We are SO not finishing this today.
    Pat: We have like nothing left. Come on.
    Andrea: I said that only because I have so much to say about the gross dock. And that fucking spider.
    Pat: They get to the hotel, and it’s surrounded by bad Wolfs in the black cars we will see in Hearts In Atlantis. ALSO Osmond is there, ALSO Speedy is hiding on the beach dying for some unknown reason, ALSO Morgan is around and everyone is like, whut?

    They raft on out to the dock of the Black Hotel and slip inside. Morgan Sloat has Sunlight Gardener rifle-up, because Jack ain’t leaving that hotel alive, whether Richard survives or not.

    Pat: Was I wrong in thinking the sea creatures were HELPING Jack get the raft up to the dock?
    Andrea: I didn’t think they were.
    Pat: Because I was initially like, UH THERE’S LEVIATHANS UNDER THIS WATER
    Andrea: I might have been mistaken.
    Pat: No, they were lifting the thing. Pushing them towards the dock. AND blocking the gunshots from Osmond’s men. While Speedy is like, how did I even get here? Straub? King? How?
    Andrea: Yeah, I don’t even know why he was thrown in at the end. For diversity, I guess.
    Pat: The hotel was already the token black character.

    The Black Hotel/Jack And The Talisman

    The Black Hotel is not known for its hospitality. It wants Jack gone. It likes having the Talisman around, even though it does not pay its bills on time. Or ever. A spider with a speech impediment calls Jack a thief before he’s even taken the Talisman! Richard is super-fucked by now, and Jack leaves him safely behind in the hotel.

    Pat: SO WE’RE IN THE HOTEL. GO. IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE.
    Andrea: Oh snap.
    That fucking spider talking. I hated him so much. SO CREEPY. Possibly the creepiest thing SK has ever written.
    Pat: FUSHING FEEVES
    Andrea: And Richard lays there, and Jack gets the Talisman, and I kept expecting something to stop him, but nothing did.
    Pat: Except stomping, tromping suits of medieval armor.
    Andrea: Well, yeah, those.

    Jack faces down two or three livings suits of armor, beating them in pretty goofy fashions such as: using a guitar pick or a coin, and yelling “Get you off the skin of this world!” Sure thing, Jack!

    Andrea: Yeah, whatev. A child could do that.
    Pat: It would take a child to beat living suits of armor by continually realizing that things in his pockets are powerful. It just didn’t seem like there was much fighting him in that hotel. It should’ve warped around to keep him away from the Talisman, like the Overlook hotel.
    Andrea: That’s what I’m saying!
    Pat: It does kind of blow him through every reality ever when he gets to the ballroom, though. But that might’ve just been the effect of being in close proximity to the Talisman and not the hotel trying to keep him away.
    Andrea: And then he gets to his mom and they live happily ever after.
    Pat: You just skipped the last hundred pages of the book.
    I guess there might’ve been too many boss battles, because the real shit was with Morgan.
    Andrea: LOL @ BOSS BATTLES

    And now, finally, the Talisman. Jack is pretty much mostly Jason now, and whatever, he gets to the Talisman by flipping through infinity worlds, nearly probably colliding with Jake Chambers somewhere along the way. This is some Dark Tower shit right here, kids. It’s just a glowing fucking ball, probably made of glass. Oh and it contains ALL POSSIBLE UNIVERSES.

    Pat: So the Talisman is this crystal ball that is all things and somehow sort of not solidly glass or crystal but living glass or some such shit. And it cures people. He rubs it on Richard, and it’s all good.
    Andrea: Right. And then Richard wants to hold it and Jack is all like “MINE” at first but then he realizes that is not what the Talisman is all about.
    Pat: Then they leave the hotel, and pretty much everyone dies except Richard, Jack, and Morgan. I believe Osmond gets it in the eye because of a glint of magical light?
    Andrea: Yes! That was awesome!!!

    The Earthquake/In Which Many Things Are Resolved On The Beach

    Point Venuti experiences a motherfucker of an earthquake that kills a lot of Morgan’s men/Wolfs and sends most of the others running. Jack and Richard limp out of the hotel, where Gardener is waiting with his rifle. The scope reflects light, which hits the Talisman, which the Talisman sends back a billion-fold through Gardener’s sight. Gardener takes off after Jack, and there is a fight in which Jack realizes that Gardener killed his father. He uses the Talisman to melt all of Gardener’s skin off.

    Pat: On Gardener’s demise:
    The sunlight flashed off the shooter’s rifle-scope again. The ray of reflected light this time struck the Talisman. And the Talisman reflected it back directly at the shooter. This was what Richard later told Jack, but that was like saying the Empire State Building is a few stories high.
    Andrea: Yeah, I was picturing something like the Care Bear stare here.
    When they shoot the light out of their bellies and it gets reflected at the bad guy.
    Pat: Are you fucking serious right now?
    Andrea: That’s a LITERARY ALLUSION, chum.
    Pat: If you remove the intervening paragraphs, this is the exchange between Osmond and Jack in the Territories, after Gardener gets a face-full of super-sun and Jack flips to dodge his knife-charge:
    “Goat’s-penis,” Osmond said, almost lovingly.
    Andrea: snort
    Pat: Jack looked straight into Gardener’s crazily dancing eye. Yes.
    “You killed my father,” Jack said.
    Andrea: Oh man, the crazily dancing eye. That’s an image to behold

    Morgan goes after Jack, but Richard blocks him and ends up getting his head split open. Jesus!

    Pat: You’ve got Morgan out there with Gardener, right, and Jack comes out with Richard, who is still alive, and then like five minutes later, Morgan trips Jack and Richard goes flying and dashes his brains out on a rock.
    It’s like, come on, man, you’re not even trying to save your son now.
    Andrea: He outright said that he didn’t care if he killed his son in the process of getting to Jack.
    Pat: Yeah, but still, it’s not like Richard was standing in front of Jack, screaming, “NO YOU FUSHING FEEF.”
    Andrea: WTF WAS THAT????
    Pat: You know, the thing the spider said.
    Andrea: No, I know. I was marveling at its weirdness
    Pat: I’m just putting it in Richard’s hypothetical mouth here to weird you out.
    Andrea: Weirding out achieved.

    Now it’s time for Jack and Morgan Sloat/Of Orris to face off, and they do, with Uncle Funtimes side-stepping in and out of the world to reappear, strike, and disappear again.

    Pat: So this last battle with Morgan of Orris/Morgan Sloat: cool, super cool, eye-burningly cool, or Mentho-lyptus cool?
    Andrea: Yes. It totally made up for the castle where Jack basically walked right in and took the Talisman, hindered only by that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of a spider.
    Pat: That’s what I was saying about the hotel boss battle. If it had been this huge, epic thing with the three walking suits of armor, then this fight would be a secondary climax, and you’d be like, “Oh shit, I didn’t know Zak Snyder directed this book.”
    Andrea: I have never considered the word boss battle to apply to books before, but it totally fits.
    Pat: I can’t remember why it was smoky during the fight, though.
    Andrea: I thought it was just one of the castle’s tricks, as if the castle was the Overlook Hotel all of a sudden.
    Pat: You keep calling it a castle. Is it ever described as a castle?
    Andrea: No, but I pictured it as a big stone castle. I don’t know why.
    Pat: It’s a hotel made out of painted-black wood that is supposed to look sort of stony.
    Andrea: I think in my lizard brain stony = castle. I have no idea what fake stony equals.
    Pat: Okay, we lose visibility because Sloat fires the key at the sky and makes it dark and then it starts snowing ash or some shit.
    At this point, Jack has told Sloat to go hump a weasel, and Sloat’s response is “I’ll hump your corpse!”
    Andrea: That might have been my favorite part of the entire book. Wtf, Sloat?
    Pat: So this whole battle is really cool, with Jack having to figure out that Sloat is slipping back and forth between worlds to deke him out.
    BUT AGAIN
    I fear a sinful transgression against The Rules.
    Andrea: I think that you should just accept that there are no rules.
    Pat: Wait, hold on. I’ve solved it.
    Andrea: Or at the very least, that they are EXTREMELY flexible
    Pat: The problem I was having is: so both Sloat and Morgan of Orris are forced to flip to wherever the other is, right? If Sloat is in New York and Morgan of Orris is in the Territories’ version of California, Sloat will flip into Morgan’s body in California. It ain’t like when Jack flips and just ends up in the geographical analogue because he doesn’t have a twinner.
    BUT. OR, SO:
    When they’re having that final battle, and Sloat is flipping so Jack doesn’t know where he is until he flips back, attacks, and then flips again, I guess we have our answer: when Sloat flips into Morgan, or Morgan flips into Sloat, whoever’s doing the flipping must just disappear from the world.
    Andrea: Right. I think that we discussed that earlier but what we didn’t resolve is what happens if they are driving? Or talking to someone? etc. etc. and they just disappear.
    Pat: I think that’s why Sloat was like, “Hey, let me walk into this wardrobe and flip, so I don’t freak anyone out.” And proceeds to freak his son out for fucking LIFE.
    Andrea: Exactly.
    Pat: Anyway, I just find it kind of weird, because if Sloat disappears when he flips, does he come back to the same place when he flips back? Why? I guess he probably doesn’t, or else he’d have come out of that wardrobe?
    Andrea: I have no clue. I feel like this whole flipping/twinner business needs to be explained WAY WAY BETTER.
    In a way, I like SK better when he keeps it simple. Although his epics are great, they are usually full of entanglements like this.
    Pat: The key thing for me isn’t that it’s explained all the way—it’s that I can figure out the rules for myself because they’ve made sure nothing won’t jive. Which tells me they thought it all out, even if they didn’t tell us explicitly.
    Andrea: Do any of these rules play into later books?
    Pat: I’m pretty certain they don’t come up outside of Black House, if at all. Most people moving through worlds just move through them. Father Callahan, for example, who shows up in Wolves Of The Calla.
    Andrea: This explains why I totally couldn’t follow Black House at all.
    Am I wrong in remembering that grown-up Jack was a bit of a mofo?
    Pat: He was already a mofo at 12.

    Jack gets wise and gives Morgan some fuck-you to consider. Then he just gives Sloat the Talisman, who turns his key/lightning wand on it and gets repaid with a superblast of reflected energy. Morgan Sloat, In This World and The Others, burns alive.

    Pat: So Jack figures Morgan’s game out, and then Richard wakes up, and Daddy Dearest is like, fuck it man you want me to kill your best bud? And Jack’s like, whatever, you gotta be able to give something up to truly own it or some guru shit.
    The description of what happens when the Talisman absorbs the lightning and then goes dead and then just BLASTS IT ALL THE FUCK BACK is awesome.
    Andrea: I KNOW. This is probably the most sci-fi thing I’ve ever thoroughly enjoyed.
    Pat: …the altered geography of Point Venuti was lit up as if the God of All Universes had bent forward to snap a picture.
    And that’s curtains for Morgan Sloat, also known as Morgan of Orris, chief and principal shithead of The Talisman.
    Do you wish Richard had stayed dead?
    Andrea: Yes. He is useless.
    Although I thought the idea of Jack taking Richard with him back to his mother was interesting.
    Pat: You don’t think he redeemed himself in the end? He’s a convert, a devotee of Seabrook Island stuff.
    He’s basically Jack’s brother now.
    Andrea: I mean, he’s fine, whatevs.

    Another Journey/Journey’s End

    Richard and Jack have to get back to New Hampshire. Luckily there’s a fucking goddamn other Wolf, a brother of Wolf, to drive them there while blasting Creedence the entire time.

    Pat: The Richard and Jack: Brothers 4eva thing ties into the whole Hey Here’s Wolf’s Litter-Brother Wolf To Drive The Boys Back To New Hampshire? That was a cool little twinner of a situation.
    Andrea: Oh yeah, I loved that, even though it was kind of tying everything up in a neat bow. It was still pretty cool.
    Pat: I dug the part during the trip home where it goes:
    Here at the end of the day; here at sunset with color fanning up from the western sky in glory.
    Here:
    Right here and now.

    Pat: As in: that shit makes me tear up just typing it.
    Andrea: I don’t know about that but it is some nice writing.
    Andrea: EVOCATIVE SHIT

    Wolf #2 drops them off at the Alhambra and goes off to join a cover band somewhere in Western Massachusetts, probably.

    Pat: Anyhow, he gets back to the fucking Alhambra, cures Lily, the end.
    Which wasn’t a stellar ending, by the way. I like that the Talisman just flakes away to nothing, and I was misty-eyed the entire time, but that whole last page isn’t as good as the ONE-SENTENCE EPILOGUE.
    Andrea: AGREED. This is one of the few times, though, where SK truly nails the ending.
    Pat: Andrea.
    You literally
    seriously
    say that
    about every book we read.
    Andrea: I DO NOT
    Pat: You said it about Pet Sematary.
    “The ending is one of the few times that SK has really, truly stuck the ending.”
    Andrea: UGHHHHHH
    Fine. You win this round, Hipp.

    Over in the Territories, the Queen opens her eyes.

    Andrea: I just realized there were barely any female characters in this book.
    Except Jack’s mom and the ho-bag in Oatley.

    News From Everywhere

    Andrea: Are we done with this book cause I need some bugles to fuel my afternoon
    Pat: No, we aren’t. I purposely skipped over my favorite part of the book because it feels like the last thing we should discuss, even though it couldn’t have been the ending.
    Andrea: YOU’RE GOING OUT OF ORDER
    UNACCEPTABLE
    Pat: No, you can’t go out of order because you can’t remember anything.
    Andrea: Man, you call me bossy, but you are awfully bossy yourself.
    Pat: About this, sure. I can do as I damn well please because I’M THE ONE KEEPING TIME.
    Andrea: I hope you poop yourself. As Natalie Portman is walking by.
    Pat: “News From Everywhere” is probably the best part of the book. It’s just killer. And really well written.
    Andrea: Remind me what happens.
    Excuse me: “remind our readers.”
    Pat: This is basically the moment Jack touches the Talisman, in the instant before the earthquake comes and the Agincourt and the evil Black Hotel eat themselves.
    First, we go back to Lily, who feels better than she has in ages, and wakes from a doze gasping, “Jason?” It’s a short thing that ends with her saying, “I think I just quit smoking for the second and last time in my life, Jack-O… Hang in there, kid. Your momma loves you.”
    “And she found herself for no reason grinning a large idiotic grin.”
    Andrea: I thought that was super cheesy, in fact.
    However, it was necessary to check back in with her after MILES AND MILES of journey with no clue if she’s alive or dead.
    Pat: What’s it like HAVING NO HEART, TIN MAN?
    Then we get Donny Keegan, who’s in a new orphans’ home, shouting, “You’re right, I DO love him! He’s beautiful and I DO love him!”
    Andrea: OH YEAH. Man that is cheeseballs.
    You are a sucker
    Pat: And we’re told that who he’s shouting to is Ferd Janklow, although Donny’s already forgotten his name.
    Andrea: I’m sure Janklow appreciates that as he languishes in the pits of hell.
    Pat: You think that’s cheeseball? The clouds over the home split and a single ray of light illuminates Donny. And “one of the other boys would whisper to a close friend that night that for a moment Donny Keegan had looked like Jesus.”
    Andrea: UGH
    I cannot believe this was your favorite part of the book.
    Pat: What about the last paragraph, then?
    “The moment passed; the clouds moved over that weird clear place in the sky, and by evening the snow had intensified into the first big winter storm of the season. Donny had known—for one brief moment he had known—what that feeling of love and triumph actually mean. That passed quickly, the way dreams do upon waking… but he never forgot the feeling itself, that almost swooning sensation of grace for once fulfilled and delivered instead of promised and then denied; that feeling of clarity and sweet, marvellous [sic] love; that feeling of ecstasy at the coming once more of the white.”
    Andrea: OK, that gets me. I’m not totally soulless
    Pat: Okay, instead of cheeseballs, next we get Judge Fairchild, the dude who sent Jack and Wolf to Sunlight. He’s cleaning his nails with a pocketknife, then gets an itch to put it up his nose, says, “Oh shit. Why not?” and drives the blade into his brain.
    Andrea: Realistic? Could a human being actually go through with that?
    I shuddered so hard.
    Pat: Andrea.
    This is a world where keys shoot lightning bolts.
    Relax.
    Then Smokey Updike is at the Oatley Tap, and his computer says TALISMAN TALISMAN TALISMAN et al. The best part is after the readout of the calculator is typed out, the next line is just: “Then his eyes exploded.”
    Andrea: Okay, so the parts that you are listing now kind of ruled, but the sappy ones were dumb as hell.
    Pat: Then the Oatley Tap blows up, and we get one of my favorite things, a sly reuse of a Gardenerism: “No great loss, children, can you say amen.”
    Andrea: I was wondering what happened to Lori. Was that her name?
    Pat: Yeah. Well, I have to say that I strongly believe she was incinerated.
    Over at the Thayer School, Etheridge has a boner, Mr. Dufrey is circling his carpet and barking, Albert the Blob sees the white maggots and starts losing mad weight. “For the first time in his life he felt that he might survive his mother’s love.”
    Andrea: I LOVED that line.
    Pat: Then the bells start ringing out all over the campus, playing a song that they’re not supposed to know: “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
    Andrea: What do you mean they are not supposed to know it?
    Pat: The bells are computerized, and that song isn’t one of the ones they’re programmed to play.
    MAGIC
    Andrea: Ah.
    Pat: The Talisman is a really powerful Muzak transmitter.
    Then Wolf’s mom gets pregnant and has kids.
    Andrea: And they are all happy and warmy.
    Pat: Buddy Parkins has a revelation: “He’s there! By diddly-damn, he’s there, he made it after all, he’s there and he’s got it!” for no real reason.
    Meanwhile, the Sunlight Home, which has had its gas tanks pumped dry by the gas company, explodes at the exact moment the Oatley Tap blows up. Again, a Gardenerism: “Can you gimme hallelujah?”
    Andrea: I wish Gardener narrated all the books, Morgan Freeman-in-Shawshank style.
    Pat: It’s the sarcastic version of Gardener that I like. Can you say amen.
    And that’s it. News From Everywhere ends with the earthquake beginning. “It did not go to sleep for the next seventy-nine seconds, according to the Institute Of Seismology at CalTech.
    “The earthquake had begun.”
    Andrea: I give News From Everywhere 2.5 out of 5 stars
    Pat: I’ll give you five out of five stars circling your head cartoon-style.

  • The Talisman, Part 2

    None of this will make any sense if you haven’t read part one of our Talisman discussion.

    When we last saw Jack Sawyer, he was on a mission to cross the country in search of a magical bit of knickknackery called the Talisman, which has the power to cure his mother’s cancer, as well as whatever’s wrong with Queen Laura, his mother’s twin in a parallel world, which Jack can travel to and from at his leisure. His evil Uncle Morgan is after him, though, because Jack’s mom and the queen surviving will Fuck Up His Chances To Rule, and Jack and his new best friend, Wolf, are on the run.

    Wolf Goes To The Movies/Jack In The Box

    Wolf is freaked out by our world because: everything stinks. The air sucks, cars smell like awful, places are small and closed and have crappy artificial lights. Also, fake butter flavoring on popcorn.

    Pat: You didn’t even have any sympathy for Wolf when he flipped out at the movie theater?
    Andrea: I had sympathy, yeah. Because that part was so AWKWARD
    What a bunch of jerks they were. But the thing was, I thought it was kind of bad writing because I could never put my finger on exactly what Wolf was supposed to look like or why it was so shocking.
    Pat: He looked like a tall, gawky kid with John Lennon glasses.
    Andrea: Maybe that’s just because we now live in a society where lots of dudes are unfathomably beardy.
    Pat: I can put my finger on it because I read where Stephen King describes what he looks like in our world.
    Andrea: Yeah exactly, so what was the big deal at the movie theater?
    Pat: He doesn’t get unfathomably beardy until he nears the Change, which I kept reading as menopause. The big deal is he was flipping the fuck out because he’d never seen a movie before, and the smell of the theater itself was gross and smelled like popcorn butter/pee.
    And I believe he howled. So that Midwestern mom thought he was the devil-spawn.
    Andrea: Oh yeah. I think everyone in the world just acts like that now. Cause everyone sucks.
    Pat: Everyone acts like they’re oppressed by the smells of a movie theater and then howls like wolves?
    Andrea: No, everyone acts like a bunch of animals.
    Pat: You didn’t even like that he helps sharpen the comparison between the worlds? Like, augmenting the whole thing about Jack realizing how awful our world smells with the processed foods and the car exhaust and whatnot.
    Andrea: Yeah, that was cool. I mean, it is an overstatement to say I hated him. I just found his speech patterns and his similarity to Tom Cullen annoying
    The magical dummy is second only to the magical black person in SK lit.
    Pat: When they flip back and Wolf is just apologizing and apologizing for making Jack leave, it’s kind of heartbreaking.
    Andrea: Yeah, I don’t like that. It’s too sad and childlike.
    STOP MAKING ME FEEL FEELINGS, BOOKS

    Jack notices there’s way more hair on Wolf’s body. There’s a bad moon on the rise! Instead of Jack locking Wolf up in a shed during the Change, Wolf locks Jack up for three days.

    Pat: So Wolf’s first transformation, with the shed and all.
    It’s kind of odd that it doesn’t occur to Jack that a padlock isn’t going to hold a werewolf.
    Andrea: Why the damn hell he didn’t just bring food and water in with him?
    Pat: There was no time. Wolf just sprung the idea on him.
    Andrea: Okay, I liked the tension in that part and the idea that as gentle as wolf was, he was also a ticking time bomb.
    Pat: Say what you will about our dim-witted friend, he’s got a very developed and innate sense of what’s right.
    Andrea: That’s part of the problem. SK is always endowing idiots with magical sensitivity and kindness. Some people are just dumb and that’s it.
    Pat: In this case, I think you’re wrong. He’s part animal. These are instincts. It’s no more magical than a dog or cat acting protective around a newborn.
    Andrea: Maple was terrified of Avery when she was tiny.
    Pat: Well, Maple’s stupid. She makes Wolf look like Harold Lauder.
    But to the point: Wolf brings Jack food. And he knows enough not to try to blast through the shed to get at him.
    “DO NOT HURT THE HERD.” The Book Of Good Farming strikes again.

    Wolf doesn’t kill any humans, but the rabbit population is SERIOUSLY COMPROMISED.

    Andrea: So Jack survives. The creepiest was when he could see Wolf looking at him like he was food.
    Pat: The idea of “running with the moon” gave the whole werewolf thing this tone you don’t get from werewolf stories. Granted, you’re rarely in the werewolf’s shoes. Except, uh, the American Werewolf series, and probably, Twilight?
    Although I assume that if the vampire glitter in Twilight, then the werewolves must all have poodle tails.
    Andrea: I didn’t even know there were werewolves in Twilight.
    Pat: The love triangle is the girl, a vampire, and a werewolf.
    Andrea: I also didn’t know there was a love triangle.
    Pat: Even Wolf would have thought Twilight was retarded.

    Part III: A Collision Of Worlds

    Taken By The Law/The Sunlight Home/The Sermon/Ferd Janklow

    Safely on the other side of the Change, Wolf and Jack set off again across these purple mountains majesty or whatever. Then they get picked up by the cops and dropped into a state-subsidized, Christian house for wayward boys run by a dude named Sunlight Gardener (yeah, sure) who is convinced he’s seen Jack somewhere before. HE hasn’t, oh no, not exactly him.

    Pat: Anyway, Sunlight Gardener’s Home for What The Fuck Is Up, You Are Actually Osmond!
    Andrea: OH MAN THAT PLACE
    When they got arrested my heart just dropped. Also kinda felt like Jack needed a better backstory.
    Pat: He’s a fucking kid. Of course his stories weren’t iron-clad.
    Andrea: Rehearse that shit, fool! HE’S A KID WHO IS HITCHHIKING ACROSS THE COUNTRY. He needs a story.
    Pat: Yeah, but he just acquired a HUMONGOUSLY TALL NEW BEST FRIEND WHO IS ALSO A WOLF
    Andrea: Oh right. “Oh hey, this is my cousin from Omaha.”
    Pat: The whole situation is intensely unlikely, long-term imprisonment in a religious house for wayward bros. Even for a story about werewolves and parallel universes and magical lightning rods. I guess in the 80s, that kind of shit could happen, and now it can’t, because: the internet.
    Andrea: You mean the arrest? Or the Sunlight Home?
    Pat: The collusion between the police and the Home, the kickbacks and the state funding. I mean, this place sounds fucking HUGE.
    Andrea: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s not that different than what went on at Penn State or in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
    Pat: I suppose, but we’re not just talking about diddling little boys. In fact, there wasn’t any mention of boy-diddling, which may be the first time there was opportunity for that in an SK book and he DIDN’T use it.
    We’re talking about a fucking Christian home for wayward boys funded by the state. And there are kickbacks going around, totally corrupt, and kids are dying and no parent seems to be much bothered by it.
    Andrea: It was the 80s. These things happened.
    Pat: OH BUT DID THEY REALLY
    Andrea: I guess. No. There was that whole daycare Satan sex ring thing and then it turned out the kids were coerced into testifying.
    Pat: I don’t even want to know.

    Pat: Right around here, K & S start slipping bits of Gardener-speak into the prose, which makes me think it’s King doing it. Because it’s so King it’s nearly a chess piece.
    Andrea: Gardener-speak?
    Pat: When they end a sentence of exposition with something like, “can you say hallelujah.” All flat-like. The “All boys are bad, it’s axiomatic” thing was creepy as fuck. And it was like that one line from Osmond was the thesis statement for all of Sunlight Gardener.
    Andrea: I know. It sort of reminded me of that really bad Kevin Bacon movie Sleepers. Which was based on a memoir that was later found out to be largely fabricated.
    Pat: Whatever, that movie didn’t even have Billy Crudup in it.

    Trouble looms because Sunlight is fucking loony tunes, and his favored cadre of Home inmates are just a bunch of homicidal bozos.

    Pat: So we’ve basically got Buddy from Christine‘s gang here in the Sunlight house. Who we will also meet again in It as Henry Bowers.
    Andrea: SK loves his 50s greaser motif.
    Pat: But these are greasers… FOR CHRIST
    Andrea: This again begs the question of whether there is such a thing.

    There’s enforced confession and obligatory-attendance sermons, all of which reek of the batshit Bible Belt getting a little too tight and cutting off circulation to the brain. Worse than that: this place has some mysterious shit going on. Ferd Janklow, whose name makes Sunlight Gardener’s sound like “Michael Smith” by comparison, was the Home snark-bucket, a real chuckle-giver and defier of authority, and he hips Jack to the Shawshank reality that this place is a money machine for ol’ Gardener. Then his ass just disappears.

    Pat: Oh hey, check it out, I found my Literary Hat. With it firmly poised on my head, thoughts come to me. Like this one that is so deep it’s in the Marianis Trench: is there some play between the way these kids act at the school and the larger world?
    SO LIKE the microcosm would be Sunlight having this totalitarian police state in the Gardener Home, and the shitheads thrive because they are in with the Big Guy. Which is sort of what Sunlight is in the macrocosm. Sunlight and people like him, which I guess is to say religious fanatics?
    Did I just blow your fucking MIND?
    Andrea: Wait. So.
    What is the macrocosm? The regular world and the territories?
    Pat: You know, the United States, the world itself. That people can get power in corrupt systems by being corrupt. And that essentially people like Sunlight Gardener are just children acting out.
    Corruption runs straight down to the bonnnnneee.
    Andrea: Yes. I agree. I think that is kind of a given though. Power corrupts.
    Pat: Yeah, but like, yeah.
    Where’s my Pulitzer?

    Wolf gets into a fight and gets put into the Box, a solitary confinement sort of metal shack out in the yard.

    Pat: So Wolf goes in the box. I can’t remember why.
    Andrea: I think cause he fights back against the gang?
    We should call this Alzheimer’s readers.
    Pat: Does he break Singer’s fingers?
    Andrea: Yup.
    Pat: So he’s in there until Jack tells Sunlight where he knows him from. And Jack doesn’t want to be all, “WELL SIR I MET YOUR PSYCHOTIC TWINNER IN A MAGICAL OTHER WORLD WHERE MY FRIEND IN THE BOX IS ACTUALLY A HUMANOID HUSKY WITH A MILD CASE OF DOWNS.”
    Kudos to King and Straub for writing like three characters in this book who you actually want to PUNCH THROUGH THE SPINE and throttle by the fucking throat.
    None moreso than Sunlight Gardener though. I think his religious sanctimony makes him more hateable than Osmond.
    Andrea: Yeah, he was infuriating. But then when he got his comeuppance—oh man. I got up and did a karate kick.
    Pat: DID YOU ACTUALLY?
    Andrea: Yup.
    I like to do karate kicks
    They just burst out of me

    Jack Names The Planets/Jack And Wolf Go To Hell

    Gardener, who is by now Tired Of This Shit, interrogates Jack about Where The Hell He Knows Jack From.. It is clearly time to get out. So when Wolf comes back from solitary, he and Jack go to the bathroom and FLIP. Except they flip to the edge of a FUCKING HELLPIT where PRETTY MUCH DEMONS are whipping the fuck out of people. One of those people is Ferd Fucking Janklow, and one of those demons is Osmond the Infernally Nutso.

    Pat: I like the symmetry of them trying to flip over, without any of Speedy’s magic juice, and going from the bathroom of the home to the edge of one of Morgan of Orris’s fucked-up slag pits.
    Andrea: That was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. OMG the slag pits. WTF SK you sicko!
    Pat: Did you get that these are basically mines where they’re digging for radioactive material?
    Andrea: No, not really.
    Pat: It ties in with the wasteland. Or whatever they call it. The Blasted Lands.
    Andrea: Does that tie in with the wasteland that comes later in the Dark Tower series? Isn’t one of the books called that?
    Pat: Yeah, but keep in mind that in all likelihood, there was no connection when they wrote this.
    Because even if SK had written most of Drawing Of The Three, he hadn’t written The Wastelands yet. Although he may have thought that far ahead.
    Andrea: Oh, true.
    Pat: But it seems more likely that the Blasted Lands in Talisman might have inspired the wastelands in The Wastelands. There’s no real direct connection, which I guess I had imagined before rereading it. I think in Black House, it’s basically like, “Uh, yeah, look, all of this shit is Crimson King stuff.”
    I mean, it’s about two worlds where the barrier between them is paper thin. And the Talisman is a perfect analogue to the rose later in the Dark Tower series.
    Andrea: I like the name “Blasted Lands” better.
    Pat: It sounds like something a prospector would say. “THESE DAGGONE BLASTED LANDS.”
    Andrea: People keep stopping by my desk. Don’t they know I am busy with important things??
    Pat: Oh fuck. And they see Ferd Janklow in the Pit. Poor Ferd Janklow. It’s rough being an intensely likable secondary character in a Stephen King book, what with the COMPLETE CERTAINTY that you will die.
    FERD. FERDY. I WILL MISS YOU AND YOUR STUPID FUCKING NAME.
    Andrea: That was awful. Possibly one of the most affecting scenes he has written.

    They flip back in time for the Sonny Singer Boys’ Choir And Beatings Brigade to catch them in the same bathroom stall, where they were Clearly Probably Doing Homo Stuff, and decide to beat them. Wolf decides otherwise.

    Pat: Wolf and Jack have been spotted in a bathroom stall, possibly blowing each other but totally not.
    Andrea: But everyone thinks they are so they might as well have been.
    I liked that they were constantly getting in situations like that. It was suspenseful as hell.
    Pat: In situations where they get called gayboys?
    Andrea: In situations where they were suddenly in danger
    Pat: Don’t tell me you didn’t warm to Wolf when they came back to their room and the gang had pissed all over their mattresses, and Jack forced Wolf off his bed so he wouldn’t sleep in it, and they huddled together on the floor.
    Andrea: I GUESS IT WAS FINE. I was not all like bro-down sobfest like you.

    Wolf In The Box

    Wolf goes back in the box, and Jack is taken unconscious to some basement garage, where Sunlight has finally Figured It The Fuck Out and sent for Morgan Sloat. The interrogation runs concurrently with Wolf freaking out in the box. Fun WOLF fact: stress can bring the Change on early, motherfuckers.

    Pat: IIIIII’MMMMMMMM THE WOLFFFFFFFF IN THE BOX
    You’d think SK would’ve been tired of werewolves right after Cycle.
    Andrea: True, but Cycle was basically a graphic novel. It probably took him two hours to write it.
    Pat: The whole sequence of Wolf breaking out of the box and murdering the whole school is basically Cycle but way, way better.
    Andrea: I LOVED that sequence. And would love to see it on film. There isn’t enough good werewolf stuff.
    Pat: I don’t know if it’s been used anywhere else, but I definitely have seen it done that I can remember: the deal with Wolf being pushed towards the change is really clever.
    There’s that gradation throughout the month in Cycle, but as far as we know, in that world, stress and the like don’t bring it on faster like it does in Talisman.
    Andrea: Yeah. I like the motif of the change as an illness, and he’s getting worse and worse.
    Pat: It’s a little weird that in the Territories, Wolf is a humanoid husky, but when he changes into a werewolf in the real world, he’s just your standard werewolf.
    Andrea: What do you mean? He isn’t the same kind of werewolf in each world?
    Pat: Well, he isn’t a werewolf in that world anyway. He’s a Wolf. No were about it.
    Hell, he isn’t even a wolf Wolf, he’s a husky Wolf.
    Andrea: Right. Maybe there are no werewolves in the Territories?
    Pat: It’s sort of like Jack’s world forces a way starker dichotomy on the character. He’s a Wolf in the Territories, changes into a hungry Wolf during the Change, and it’s not clear how drastic the change is over there.
    But in our world, he’s a tall gawky doofus of a kid and a snarling, monstrous bipedal wolf killing machine.
    Andrea: Right. And that’s reflected when Jack thinks of himself as Jason, too.
    Pat: It doesn’t seem like there’d be as much of a difference in the Territories. He’d just be SUPER HUNGRY WOLF. The difference is kinda similar to the difference between Sloat and Morgan of Orris. Or Sunlight and Osmond.
    Like, Sloat is bad, but Morgan of Orris is pure fucking evil. Ditto Sunlight/Osmond.
    Andrea: Right. What SK should have included is some kind of diagram to keep this all straight, especially the rules of changing over and such. Although I’m sure some nerd out there has done it. Probably you.

    Wolf breaks out of the box and goes on one of the coolest Werewolf Rampages ever.

    Pat: So whilst Wolf is wolfhandling all the shitheads in the Home, Sunlight Gardener is trying to burn Jack’s balls.
    Andrea: There was a lot of freaking torture in this book. So while that’s happening, they start to hear a chaos from above or whatev. Does Jack realize that it’s Wolf and he is saved?
    Pat: Oh, he knows. He can hear Wolf in his head, remember?
    Andrea: Can you imagine how freaking glorious he must have felt when those dudes are trying to burn his balls and he knows they are about to get chomped by a fucking werewolf?
    Pat: I can, but, you know, he can’t have complete confidence in Wolf’s ability to discern the herd from the prey.
    Andrea: MMM GOOD point. Still, I’d rather have my throat ripped out by a werewolf than have my balls burned.
    Assuming I had balls.
    Pat: Well, you’d live in one, and die gurgling your own blood in the other case.
    At some point, the nerve endings in your balls would fry and you wouldn’t feel anything.
    Andrea: You think so? I never thought of that before.
    Pat: That’s what Science tells me.
    Pat: And then Wolf gets shot to death, although he gets to give them all a bit of the ol’ death before he dies. And Sunlight Gardener bolts.
    Andrea: Right. And Jack escapes thank Christ.
    Although I was worried about him out in the world without Wolf, it was also good that he can now travel unfettered.
    Pat: I love that the police show up and are more surprised at the conditions in the home than that a hundred kids were torn into tiny fleshy pieces.

    Wolf kills fucking everybody, including the Sonny Singer Interrogation Ball-Burners, and ends up with a gut full of bullets while Sunlight gets away. Wolf dies. FUCK.

    Pat: On a scale of one to ten, how wrong were you about not liking Wolf?
    Andrea: I appreciate him as a character, but he annoyed me.
    I don’t dislike him as a person—I just am annoyed with him as written with the verbal quirks.
    Pat: Right here and now?
    Andrea: I liked Wolf’s brother better.
    Pat: THEY’RE INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM EACH OTHER
    Andrea: No, Wolf’s brother liked rock music. That is why I liked him better. Also he only said “Wolf” for no reason a couple times.
    Pat: That is a fucking patently idiotic reason to like him better. He says wolf less because he’s only around for twenty pages. And I don’t know if you know this, but Wolf’s brother didn’t DIE TO SAVE JACK, HIS BEST FRIEND EVER.
    Andrea: OMG I GOT THAT
    That doesn’t mean I have to love him as a character!
    Do you love every book character that ever did something heroic?
    Pat: Do you love every character that likes rock music, the way nearly every character written in the last seventy years does?
    Andrea: No. I just enjoyed him more than Wolf.
    Pat: He doesn’t even like good music.
    Andrea: This is the dumbest argument ever, which for this blog is saying a lot.
    Pat: You are Morgan Sloat to my Phil Sawyer.

    The police arrive, and eventually, some digging is done. What do they find? THE BODIES EVERY KID THAT DISAPPEARED BUT DIDN’T GO TO THE ORE-PITS!

    Andrea: They start excavating, and the shit hits the fan.
    In a spectacular way.
    Pat: I would say the shit and the fan had already met and parted ways by then.

    Jack Lights Out Again/Jack’s Dream/Richard At Thayer/Thayer Gets Weird/Thayer Goes To Hell/’Send Out Your Passenger’/Richard In The Dark

    Jack glooms his way west again without Wolf. It is kind of heartbreaking. He’s still on his way to see Richard Sloat, his Best Friend and the Son Of Morgan “Shitbag” Sloat, noted pursuer of Jack’s White Ass.

    Pat: And so, after a brief interlude at a Burger King with a guy that buys Jack food and gives him a coat and then says, OH SHIT I’M NOT HUNGRY BECAUSE I’M A PEDOPHILE and bolts, Jack reaches Thayer School, where Morgan Sloat’s super-logical son, Richard, boards.
    Andrea: Richard is a pussy. If there’s a worse name than Richard, I don’t know what it is.

    We learn that Richard doesn’t not brook any magical, illogical shit, and so Jack’s story is discounted out-of-hand, at least until the school starts to SUBTLY SHIFT INTO THE TERRITORIES, and BAD WOLFS (not to be confused with Doctor Who’s Bad Wolf) prowl the suddenly empty campus, telling Richard to give up his passenger.

    Pat: The whole “give up your passenger” thing was weird. Why passenger?
    Andrea: I just assumed it was because they are traveling together? Because Jack was carrying Richard on a journey?
    Pat: They were still in his ROOM.
    Andrea: The metaphorical journey you wonk-ham.
    Pat: That’s stretching it. Even for this book.

    Richard does not oblige, although he does LOSE HIS FUCKING GRIP. Which, good on you, Rich, this whole campus is going bonkers.

    Pat: There’s something inherently spooky and macabre and cultish about boarding schools anyway. They always seem like the kind of place where a nice aspiring actor like Robert Sean Leonard would off himself with his disapproving father’s gun.
    Andrea: We all get your jokes. MOVING ON
    Pat: This is easily the weirdest fucking part of the book, and the least comprehensible.
    Andrea: Are you serious, I thought this was the most comprehensible. I also dug how it was like, boarding school gone mad.
    Pat: Yeah, but the school going mad seemed to break most of the rules. I WILL HOWEVER GRANT YOU that in a Dark Tower, there-are-places-where-the-membranes-between-worlds-is-thin sense, I guess it jives.
    Andrea: That’s why I liked this part so much. cause the rules can suck my left one. TM Bikini Kill
    Pat: The implication is what, that the Thayer School is being pulled INTO the Territories? Because the fucking Bad Wolfs shouldn’t be Wolfs if they’re still in our world. And the weird maggot thing. That sticks with the story until the bitter fucking end, unfortunately.
    Andrea: Ugh that grossed me out so much but when the school started deteriorating? SO FUCKING AWESOME

    We learn that Richard once saw his dad disappear into a wardrobe for hours, only to come back home in his own car and through the front door later. This is about when Richard stopped being at all cool about weird shit.

    Andrea: Man, Richard was such a wiener with the stupid fever.
    Pat: This is it, though. This is another tent pole of the story’s symbolism—Richard’s denial and uber-logic. I have a hard time believing anyone would react that way, but then, that’s because I’m not a closed-off person who shies away from “Seabrook Island stuff.”
    Andrea: Me either. He seemed just willfully obtuse. I was so frustrated and annoyed the whole time. Good thing Jack is a more patient man than me cause I prob would have left him
    Pat: It was really frustrating, but in a way, I eventually sympathized with him.

    They’ve got to get out of this place, Jack realizes, and they make a run for the Depot, where the headmaster of Thayer, now a shaggy wolf-dog, tries to eat their faces.

    Pat: SURPRISE your headmaster is a Wolf.
    Andrea: That was when they were switching back and forth to wherever happened to be safest, right?
    Pat: They hadn’t even tried it yet. They were getting to that one building and about to be attacked by the headmaster Wolf or whoever, and THEN Jack flipped them both over. And Richard proceeds to freak out even more.
    Because WOLFS
    Andrea: Right. That headmaster wolf was fucking gnarly.

    But before Dean Greywolf can get to them, Jack flips!

    Sloat In This World/Orris In The Territories (III)

    A big problem for Morgan Sloat is this: when he flips to the Territories, he’s bound to wherever, geographically, Morgan of Orris is, and vice versa. It makes chasing Jack sort of a bitch. This was, however, super handy when, for example, Sloat needed to murder someone—Orris would just slip into Sloat’s body and do the crime, including such #1 hits as Phil Sawyer’s Death In Utah and Attempt Pillow-Smothering Of Jack Sawyer In D Minor.

    Pat: This is also around the time we learn that small things happening in the Territories have exponentially larger effects on the real world. Sort of like the geography of the Territories is a fraction of what it is here.
    Andrea: We learn that early on, when the hotel where Jack changes over explodes.
    Pat: That’s a different thing. I’m talking about when Jack Sawyer is killed. Or Jack Phillipsowhatshisname. It causes like a small war in the Territories, and World War II breaks out in the real world.
    Andrea: Oh right. That is an important distinction.
    Pat: Although the Blasted Lands are completely irradiated, which means either it would’ve had to have been a huge, world-destroying nuclear Armageddon to cause that much damage in the Territories, or the use of that big a nuclear bomb would have wiped out the real world.
    Andrea: Right. Or it is just a natural part of the Territories?
    Pat: A naturally irradiated wasteland?
    Andrea: YES WHY NOT
    Pat: BECAUSE THAT SHIT IS NOT NATURALLY OCCURRING.
    Andrea: I WILL ACCEPT ANYTHING SK INTRODUCES TO ME
    EXCEPT FOR LISEY’S STORY
    Pat: NOW YOU’RE JUMPING WAY AHEAD
    Andrea: WHICH OMG HE SAID WAS HIS FAVORITE BOOK OF HIS WTFFFFFF
    Pat: Okay, so we also learn about Phillip Sawtelle getting the ol’ death by Morgan of Orris’s hand. Which is also the death of Jack Sawyer.

    Pat: Coming off of Christine and Pet Sematary, I have to say, the rules in this book are way more clear than fucking LeBay and the useless Victor Pascow.
    Andrea: I disagree. Maybe because PS only has like 5 characters and this has a million
    Pat: But the RULES are clear. There’s really nothing that isn’t explained at some point. Although for the longest time, I thought Jason was the Territories’ Jesus, which I guess he is, but it made it confusing when it was revealed that A. Queen Laura’s kid was named Jason, B. that even though he’s dead, Jason is who Jack turns into when he flips to the Territories, except that it isn’t like Sloat and Morgan of Orris, where only one consciousness can be in control at a time, and they have to flip over to where the other person is instead of just flipping to the geographical analog of where they are.
    Andrea: Yeah. I would never have figured out any of this if you hadn’t outline it for me. Not that it’s critical to my enjoyment of the book, but you know.
    Pat: Wait, you didn’t figure out the Jason/Jack/Jesus thing?
    I mean, he isn’t JESUS, but he’s supposed to be some sort of savior, some messiah that is supposed to come back and save everyone from something. It’s like, “Hey, something bad will eventually happen, dunno what, but then a kid will return from the dead and fix everything. So, uh, basically when he shows up, it’s all going to start going to hell.”
    Andrea: No, that I got. I meant the rules about switching over and others and what not.
    Pat: It’s all explained!
    Andrea: Yeah, but it’s not consistent.
    Pat: In one of the Sloat in this World interludes, he’s remembering when Morgan of Orris popped over for a visit WHILE HE WAS DRIVING.
    Speaking of which, the way Sloat is described when he comes through the barrier between the worlds is bone-chilling. Especially near the rest stop, when it’s basically described as the fabric of the universe being raped violently.
    Andrea: Yeah, I sort of got a chill of dread whenever he bounced back into the story.
    Pat: But it also kind of broke the rules. Because Morgan of Orris would have had to be there already for Sloat to come through.
    Andrea: Right. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not consistent
    Pat: That’s the only time I can think of though, and when he does that, the violence of it makes me think that it’s because he’s breaking the rules. And it seems like every time he does it, he doesn’t come through, he just stands in the doorway and yells, while slowly pulsing back and forth between his own features and Orris’s.
    Andrea: That makes sense, that the world-raping is because he is breaking the rules, not that he is an exception to the rules.
    Pat: WHICH IS COOL.
    I’M COOL WITH IT.
    THAT COUNTS AS A RULE.
    Andrea: I AGREE WITH YOUR COOLNESS
    Andrea: WE ARE IN CONSENSUS

    Continue to The Talisman, Part 3.

  • Talisman, Part 1

    Part 1: Jack Lights Out

    The Alhambra Inn And Gardens/The Funnel Opens

    Jack Sawyer is the twelve-year-old son of Lily Cavanaugh, a former B-movie actress who picked up and left with Jack, moving him from Los Angeles to New York to Arcadia Beach, a resort town somewhere on New Hampshire’s coast. She’s running from something, but Jack doesn’t really know what. A guy named Morgan Sloat is trying to track her down, which sounds sinister and all, except he’s also Jack’s uncle. Jack’s other uncle, Uncle Tommy, is dead. Jack’s dad, Phil Sawyer, is also dead.

    Pat: This is probably dumb to say, but: Jack Sawyer and Lily Cavanaugh Sawyer, too unbelievable a setup? I say ” probably dumb” because we’re talking about a book where people can shift into an alternate world by drinking green juice at a New England version of Ocean City’s WONDERLAND PIER.
    Andrea: In what way is it too unbelievable a setup?
    Pat: She’s a B-movie queen? Dying of cancer and on the run?
    Andrea: I mean, somebody has to be the child of a B-movie queen. I didn’t find that unbelievable at all. And I assumed there was a reason she was on the run that would be revealed as the book unfolded.
    Pat: Where you getting a Shining vibe from the hotel?
    Andrea: I didn’t notice.
    Pat: There was. USE YOUR EYES, WOMAN.
    Andrea: Pffffff.
    Pat: There is something intensely unsettling about a summer town in New England that’s been abandoned by tourists for the season.
    Andrea: Any abandoned shore town/amusement place is automatically creepy
    Plus, clowns. And carnies. And dead carny clowns.

    And Lily probably has cancer, at least according to the voice that came out of the sand vortex on the beach, the one that sounded suspiciously like Uncle Morgan.

    Pat: By the way, that dead-voice talking thing he finds on the beach, the little vortex of sand with the gum wrapper in it? The one that speaks in his dead father or uncle’s voice?
    Andrea: UGH FUCK THAT DEAD VOICE
    Pat: It made me realize that “voice of a dead person telling you the future” is pretty much a mechanism of every King book.
    Andrea: You think so? I can’t remember another instance, besides Pet Sematary, of course.
    Pat: The jawbone at the Way Station in Gunslinger. Pascow in Pet Sematary. Roadwork he’s talking to his dead kid in his head. The Stand is pretty much dead people talking all the live-long fucking day. The Shining speaks for itself.
    Andrea: I think this is a common device in all genre fiction.
    Pat: A good half to two-thirds employ it.
    Andrea: Right. I mean, I don’t really see it as lazy storytelling except when it’s poorly done. Your beef with Pascow is already well-established.
    Pat: I guess part one doesn’t have much a whole lot going on in it, discussion-wise. We’re just getting started.

    Jack doesn’t go to school—his mother has moved him around too much—and he’s got no kids his own age to play with, so he just wanders around the hotel and the beach and the amusement park.

    Pat: I don’t know if you get this, because you’re A. not a boy, and B. not an only child, but Jack’s whole interior voice is startling accurate.
    Andrea: I mean, it definitely rings true, but since I’m not a boy I don’t know for sure. I like him as a character so far. The mom was pretty formless, too.
    Pat: She doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to her on purpose. She wants to be left alone all the time. The only real sense of her we get is when Jack says he’s got to fuck off to the Territories.
    Andrea: Right. And by being bullied by Morgan Sloat. Which is not the greatest villain name if you ask me.
    Pat: His name is better on the other side, I think, but I’m not there yet.
    Andrea: And she doesn’t really put up any kind of true fight. Whether because neglectful or she is just exhausted from cancer? IDK
    Pat: I think it was what Jack said: she knows on some level that he has to go, that his father went all the time and always came back safely. And probably even that it might save her and her twinner, if she even knows what a twinner is.
    Andrea: So I got that he was going to save her, but I didn’t really get how/why? And I kinda got the sense that he didn’t really know either, but he’d know when he saw it.
    Pat: Well, he has to go west and get the Talisman. That was as specific as Speedy got.
    Andrea: I got a kid-from- Gunslinger vibe from Jack. Like immediately.
    Pat: Jake Chambers. “Agreed.” And there’s a reason for that.
    I’m basically the Speedy Parker of Constant Readers. I vaguely know what’s going on in the larger King universe, and you ain’t know shit. Also, I am just as down-home as you like.
    Andrea: IKNOWLOTS
    Pat: Yeah, but The Talisman is deeply connected to the Dark Tower. At best, you might know the creepy guys in cars who tried to abduct Jack. But you probably haven’t realized they’re the low men from Hearts In Atlantis.
    Andrea: I haven’t. Because I am not a total nerd.
    Pat: You’re most of one.
    Andrea: The two books have a really similar tone/vibe.
    Pat: There is no book more closely related to the Dark Tower series than this one. Which you might have had inklings of since you’ve already read Black House, because you are a dumb. But not so much because you haven’t read Wastelands and Drawing Of The Three yet, where the connections are made to this and Black House.
    Andrea: I had no idea the two were connected. I also read that the summer I worked at Eastern State, so I have warm nice memories of that book even though it made no sense.
    Pat: Well, you’ll see.

    Speedy Parker/Jack Goes Over/Jack And Lily

    Jack is bored as fuck in his hotel existence until he meets Speedy Parker, a Magical Negro who does maintenance on the amusement park pier near the hotel. Jack finds nothing odd about hanging out with a strange dude in a closed amusement park, even though it is a Dateline episode waiting to happen.

    Pat: Speedy may be the worst Magical Negro yet. I don’t understand why, to a person, these characters always have to have homespun accents.
    Andrea: SK LOVES to write dialect. It’s his major weakness.
    Pat: It’s as if black people just didn’t speak normally before 1995.
    Andrea: Well, he is from Maine. I wonder if he has ever met a black person?
    Pat: Hold on, let me look under the “Did You Seriously Just Ask That Question?” heading in his Wikipedia page.
    Andrea: I liked Speedy, though.
    Pat: Of course you did. You are a sucker for all of his Magicals.
    Andrea: I hate that his name is Speedy. I like that later, Jack sees another black guy and assumes he is Speedy, and dude is like “I don’t know no Speedy, you racist.”
    Pat: I’m fine with Speedy, he’s just a bit caricaturish.
    Andrea:
    Well, yeah. I feel like the more fantasy a SK book is, the more cartoonish the characters. Like, he feels like he can go balls-out when he’s slightly outside genre.
    Pat: The whole setup of the shadowy, unknown business with the Territories is great. The whole magic/physics thing, trying to sell them electricity.
    Andrea: Yeah, I really like that. And when he actually gets to the Territories which I know is in the next part, holy shit. So cool. And the butterfly effect type deal of what happens in the territories having a directly relationship with what happens in the real world
    Pat: Although, for fuck’s sake, the Uncle Tommy, Uncle Morgan thing got fucking confusing. Richard Sloat is Jack’s friend, but then there’s Uncle Morgan Sloat, so are they actually cousins? No, it’s that weird friends-of-your-parents thing, then Uncle Tommy’s dead, but you don’t immediately associate him with the Tommy Woodbine that comes up in the phone conversation between Lily and Uncle Morgan.
    Andrea: I found this very confusing. I think I need a character chart but I haven’t been able to find one online.
    WHERE ARE YOU, HELPFUL NERDS?
    Pat: There’s Lily and Jack. Jack’s father, Phil, is dead. His business partner, Uncle Morgan Sloat, who is father to Jack’s best friend Richard Sloat, is a money-hungry business man and real estate mogul, and is chasing after Lily for her controlling stake in Sloat and Phil’s business. Uncle Tommy Woodbine was their lawyer and also went to Yale with Phil and Morgan. Meanwhile, Speedy Parker rams poles up carousel horses’ b-holes.
    Also: Tommy dead. Tommy real dead and probs gay.
    Andrea: Got it.
    Pat: That’s it for characters on this side, for the most part. Leaving out creepy desk clerk, who Jack has that Gordie LaChance exchange with halfway through the first part.
    Andrea: Does he come up later?
    Pat: The desk clerk? I have no memory. Maybe when Jack has to come back to the Alhambra, if he even has to do that.

    Speedy calls him “Ol’ Travellin’ Jack.” This is FORESHADOWING because Speedy is about to set Jack to travelling. But first, he has to tell Jack some things. First off, there’s this place called the Territories, an alternate world which Jack had and has dreams about.

    Pat: Are you okay with the whole Territories shpiel? That seems like something that would annoy you.
    Andrea: No I like it

    Second, the Territories have a queen. Third, Jack has to save both his mother and this queen because they’re TWINNERS, doubles from both worlds that are essentially the same person. Queen Laura DeLoessian and Lily Cavanaugh are twinners. And ol’ Morgan Sloat and Phil Sawyer, they had twinners too!

    Pat: The beginning kind of lags for me. He gets to the Territories, and it’s slow going. Necessarily, I guess, since we have to get comfy there, but still and all.
    Andrea: Yeah, it really picked up during the parts I read yesterday.
    Pat: Forgetting, of course, the fact that Jack could’ve just asked him mom to buy him a plane ticket to California.
    But then he wouldn’t have FOUND HIMSELF and BECOME SORTA JASON.
    Andrea: I don’t know if it because I have been kind of dragging on reading this, but I feel like it needs more stuff with him and his mom interspersed. Like, flashback memories or something. Cause as it stands I keep forgetting why he’s on this damn journey
    Pat: He does call her. And Sloat is constantly bringing up his mom.
    Andrea: Sloat doesn’t even pop up that often.
    Pat: He’s constantly calling. Didn’t you get to the part at the rest stop where he forcibly rips through the worlds?
    Andrea: No, not yet.
    Pat: So you probably ALSO don’t know how twinners actually work, which was a big mistake they made, not explaining it earlier. That it’s not two separate people; when Sloat goes over to the Territories, he’s possessing Morgan of Orris’s body, while the twinner’s mind just kind of hangs back.
    Andrea: OH! That makes so much more sense.
    Pat: Yeah, it’s crucial information you just don’t get. Phil Sawyer and Phil Sawtelle aren’t the same people.
    Andrea: Soooo… what do the people around the left behind twinner think when he’s just sitting there without consciousness
    Pat: That’s a great fucking question to which we never get an answer.
    And they also don’t bother telling us until WAY WAY later that, when someone goes into their twinner, they flip to wherever the twinner is. If Morgan Sloat is in California, and Morgan of Orris is in equivalent of New York, Sloat will flip into the New York of the Territories.
    Unlike Jack, who is singular, and can just flip from one place to the geographically consistent place in the other.
    Andrea: You would think that SK is just making this book up as he goes along.

    Since things aren’t yet creepy enough, Speedy gives Jack a bottle of skunked wine, and Jack drinks from it. He wavers right on into the Territories, where a gull tells him his mother’s dying. You can’t make this shit up!

    Pat: Should I be reading into the fact that, at first, Jack needs booze to shift himself into the spectacular, magical world of the Territories? And later, he realizes the MAGIC WAS IN HIM ALL ALONG?
    Or am I just looking for excuses to find allegories for alcoholism?
    Andrea: Is this pre- or post-SK rehab? I think pre, since he was supposedly all coked up when he wrote The Tommyknockers.
    Pat: I’m talking booze here.
    Andrea: Yes. I think this is an allegory. Although I think the “in him all along” is kind of weak. I mean, it’s so “there’s no place like home.”

    Jack discovers one of the most important distinctions between the Territories and Our World when he returns: a hundred and fifty feet over there translates to about a half a mile here. He heads off to tell his mom he’s got to go. She’s oddly okay with it, but maybe that’s just good acting. Probably not! Jack fucks off to the Territories again.

    Pat: And not for fucking nothing, but the scale we get between the two worlds is roughly 1/20. Do you know how wide, coast to coast, that makes the Territories?
    Andrea: No?
    Pat: 160 miles.
    Andrea: So which is bigger, our world or the Territories?
    Pat: Our world.
    Andrea: Oh, got it. Wow.
    So how is everything all crammed together? This is stupid.
    I assumed they were the same size
    Pat: Just to give you a bit of perspective on that number, 160 miles from the part of New Hampshire that’s on the Atlantic coast, going due west, would barely get you across the Vermont border and into New York.
    That’s about 50 hours of walking.
    Andrea: So, why doesn’t he just do the walk in the Territories and then spirit himself over to save all that walking?
    Pat: Great question! HERE’S A MORE FUN FUCKING FACT: he only covers about 50 miles of Territory by walking.
    Pat: So, basically, it takes him like three months to get 50 Territory miles.
    Andrea: Did you do all these calculations?
    Pat: Yes. 3,100 miles from the New Hampshire coast to Mendocino, California, which is as close to the non-existent Point Venuti as I’m going to get.
    That’s about 155 miles, figuring that each mile in the Territories is twenty here.
    Andrea: Does the nonsensical nature of the logistics of the two worlds dampen your enjoyment of the book?
    Pat: I didn’t bother with the real calculations until just now. But I did always SUSPECT.
    Andrea: Sooooo does it dampen your enjoyment?
    Pat: I suppose not. 155 miles in a world as thrown-back as the Territories would probably be huge.

    Sloat In This World (I)

    Here’s an ongoing series of interludes to help us understand What The Fuck Is Going On, since this shit is cray. Morgan Sloat is a powerful, rich man who was college friends with Phil Sawyer. The two went into business together after Yale, and Morgan was always kind of a sneaky, evil shit, while Phil was basically James Potter, Coolest Kid Around. We learn about them discovering the Territories and Phil showing Morgan how to “flip” and Phil meeting Lily, which helped start their soon-to-be-booming talent agency. The long as short of it: the Morgan of Now is after Jack and Lily for control of the company.

    Pat: The first Sloat interlude answered some questions about Jack’s father and the business, at least. We already knew he was kind of a shitheel, but that solidified it.
    Andrea: Right. It lays the groundwork. Which I enjoyed, but when I got to part 2, I couldn’t put it down.
    Pat: It does ramble, but this is one of those instances where I don’t think it’s wasted, spending all that time in Jack’s head.
    Andrea: Yeah, I think that was important.

    Part 2: The Road Of Trials

    The Queen’s Pavillion (sic)/Farren

    Jack reappears in the Territories. His clothes have changed, and he’s basically walking through a living Renaissance Fair, only without as many virgins and basement-dwellers. He has to find Captain Farren, notable Dude With A Scar. He does! He hands over a guitar pick Speedy gave him, but in the Territories, it has turned into a fucking tooth, of all things, and Captain Farren doesn’t know any Parker—he just knows a Parkus. And anyhow, Jack has to feign being Farren’s bastard to escape any suspicion in the palace. They get in, have a good look at the Queen, who is the spitting image of Lily, and get out with no problems. Until the head of the Outer Guards, a weasley fuck named Osmond, stops them. He ain’t buying the act, but Jack is the son of an actress, and turns in a hell of a performance, so Osmond just gives him a slight whipping that is interrupted by a crisis on the Outpost Road that causes Osmond to call one of the guards a “dripping penis.” AND MORGAN IS ON HIS WAY

    Pat: Osmond has got to be the fucking most batshit character ever. It was torture being introduced to him.

    Farren gets Jack out of town and sends him on his way along the Western Road ahead of Morgan’s arrival—that is, Morgan of Orris, Sloat’s twinner. He jukes into the Living Fucking Woods to escape Morgan’s “diligence” when it passes, but man oh man does Morgan know Jack’s out there somewhere. Jack flips back home.

    The Oatley Tunnel/Jack In The Pitcher Planet/Elroy

    Jack approaches a tunnel that seems the only way to pass along to where he’s heading. He has never read The Stand, apparently, and there is something in there with him, it seems—something FUCKING EVIL.

    Pat: The Oatley tunnel was pretty badass. And spooky.
    And very Larry-Underwood-escaping-New-York in The Stand.
    Andrea: Um, yeah. SK borrowed from himself a lot in this book it seems.
    Pat: To be fair, this is as related to the Dark Tower as The Stand is, so it makes sense that the journeys would be similar.
    Jack is almost the Jake Chambers of this world. And he thinks about the Territories’ Territories, and all the way through, just like the worlds held together by the Dark Tower. Which, fuck off and say thank-ye, The Talisman has an analogue in, I believe, The Wastelands, the third Dark Tower book.
    Which also
    involves
    a thing
    that is
    the axis
    of all worlds.
    And GUESS WHAT ELSE?
    An electric train and radioactive wastelands. But you’re not there yet.
    Andrea: NOPE!
    Pat: Doesn’t really ruin anything.

    The tunnel lets him pass into the town of Oatley, where he becomes the beleaguered keg-monkey of one Smokey Updike, inveterate asshole and beater of women and children.

    Pat: I don’t know if I bought that Jack would just not fucking book on out of there. Also: IT’S A BAR. MAGIC SPEEDY JUICE EVERYWHERE, JACK-O.
    Andrea: Yeah what was keeping him there? As far as I could tell, nothing.
    Pat: I mean, there’s the fear of Smokey ratting him out to the local cops, who, I believe it was intimated, would probably do him in the butt.
    Andrea: I felt bad for the barmaid chick. Donna?
    Pat: Yeah, she’s the first sort of female cypher that you’re like, “Oh, yeah, this works.”
    Andrea: Because you don’t really need her for much except to be beaten down.
    Pat: Because she’s in the background, with her he-hit-me-and-it-felt-like-a-kiss crap.

    Some evil person keeps calling for Jack on the payphone at the bar and a cowboy dude named Elroy is menacing him with mouthed entreaties to GO ON HOME, and Jack is like, uh, fuck all this noise, I better run, even if Smokey is threatening to have the local constable—Digger, his name is—bugger me into another dimension.

    Pat: But those phone calls Jack keeps getting from the payphone are chilling.
    In conjunction with the guy who Jack refers to by the name of the cowboy he looks like.
    Andrea: OH YEAH
    That creeped me out so much. Do you think phone-related horror/creepdom will die down in this age of caller ID?
    Pat: There will still be payphones, I imagine. Or something.
    Nothing will ever be as scary as the mouthpiece of a payphone.
    Andrea: Uhhhhh
    When was the last time you saw a payphone?
    Pat: I live in a city, I see payphones.
    Andrea: I saw a news article the other day with a picture of this dumping ground in Manhattan where they send all the old payphones.
    Pat: “Buy a piece of New York history! Also, get hepatitis!”

    Fair enough, Jack, but the second you burst out of that emergency exit, Elroy is going to turn into whatever beast he really is and HAVE AT YOU. That’s what happens!

    Pat: The thing with Elroy though: whew.
    Andrea: Who was Elroy again?
    Pat: Elroy is the Territories name of the guy who looks like the cowboy, the dude Jack is scared of running into when he’s about to bolt.
    Pat: The guy who turns into what I gathered was a were-goat and chased him through the parking lot.
    Andrea: Oh yeah! That was gross.
    Were-goat might be my #1 DO NOT WANT

    The Death Of Jerry Bledsoe/Jack Goes To The Market/The Men In The Sky/Buddy Parkins

    Jerry Bledsoe is a dude. WAS a dude. He is now dead. Back when Jack was six, his father and Uncle Morgan were discussing trade with the Territories—Morgan wanted to send all kinds of modern-world stuff over, and Phil was like, dude, remember that small war that started with an assassination over there? Yeah, that was the same day Hitler invaded Poland. So the Territories have an exaggerated effect on the real world! COOL. Back to Jerry Bledsoe, though: he died in a freak electrical accident. OR DID HE????
    Pat: We unfortunately did not discuss Jerry Bledsoe at all, apparently.
    Andrea: I don’t remember who that even is.
    Pat: He was the maintenance guy who gets mysterious electrocuted in the lobby of the talent agency. Because of Morgan’s key/lightning rod?
    I can’t tell you how much it annoyed me that they kept calling it a lightning rod.
    Pat: THAT’S NOT WHAT LIGHTNING RODS DO. THEY ATTRACT AND CHANNEL LIGHTNING TO THE GROUND. MORGAN’S KEY SHOOTS IT OUT
    Andrea: You get annoyed by really weirdthings
    Pat: You mean “science” and the “correct use of words and phrases”?
    GUILTY AS CHARGED
    Andrea: No, I mean “nitpicky details in fictional stories.”
    Pat: Here’s a detail: I hate you.

    Back in present time, having escaped from Elroy by flipping into the Territories, Jack gets a ride from a family that is all like OH SHIT WAS YOUR FATHER A POLITICAL DUDE? BYE and visits a market town where things are RUSTIC but also MAGICAL.

    Pat: I think that’s when he starts doing a lot of traveling in the Territories and sees the dudes flying around the tower with birdsuits or what-have-you
    Andrea: What was that all about? I felt like it was just to show exactly how different the Territories are. In the earlier part with the stick money and the meat carving guys, they just seemed like the renaissance faire
    Pat: I think that’s the same part. He gets the ride into town from that family who asks where his parents are, and then they’re like, WERE THEY POLITICAL? GTFO!
    And he gets himself a nice mirror in the market that makes him look like various cuddly were-creatures.
    Andrea: OH yeah. Imagine what acool toy that would have been to have
    Pat: Also, all the food is better there, don’tchaknow.
    Andrea: I thought they were implying that it was human meat but then they didn’t quite go there.
    Pat: I didn’t get that at all, but I suppose that’s possible

    Then he saunters off down the road a ways and sees a tower where a bunch of flight-suited dudes fly around.

    Pat: He goes along until Morgan of Orris’s diligence or whatever they call it roars by. And apparently, that destroys a place called the Rainbird Towers with an earthquake, which I assumed was the US analogue to the flying birdman tower.
    Andrea: OH, I didn’t even catch that clever SK play on words.

    He flips back Home and meets Buddy Parkins, a guitar-playing bum who Jack thinks is basically Speedy. Jack figures out that every time he flips shit to another world, an earthquake or some other freak catastrophe strikes. He calls his mom, and Morgan cuts into the conversation. Jack has a bad time at the mall, then has several Adventures With Guys Who Give Rides And Maybe Are A Little Bi-Curious.

    Andrea: I liked that one farmer dude who wanted to take him home.
    Pat: And the pedophiles.
    Andrea: Refresh me about the pedophiles.
    Pat: There’s the guy who makes a pass at Jack, and Jack says he’s “strictly AC.”
    Then the guy FLIPS SHIT and starts calling Jack a queer.
    Andrea: Oh yeah!!! UGH nasty dudes.
    Why are they everywhere?

    Wolf/Sloat In This World (II)/Wolf And The Herd

    Back in the Territories, Jack meets a six-five-and-change humanoid husky who knows Jack by his scent: he apparently had known Phil Sawyer back in the days. The Days When Phil Was Not Dead A Lot. This wolf’s name is Wolf.

    Pat: So you hate Wolf. Because he is Tom Cullin.
    Andrea: I appreciate the idea of him and his selfless nature and blah blah blah, but as a character, he is the pits.
    Pat: He’s a hole in the ground filled with fire and bad Wolfs whipping people that were stolen from the real world?
    Oh, you meant he is the pits, not he is the Pits.
    Andrea: Ugh yes. Because we live in a dictatorship where figures of speech are not allowed
    Pat: They describe Wolf as a sort of friendly looking husky
    Andrea: I could not get a clear mental picture of him at all
    Pat: King is fucking bonkers, he makes the most evil creatures out of the most friendly looking things.
    Andrea: All I could picture was Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf

    Meanwhile, Sloat is still chasing after Jack while fiddling with this key he has that turns into a lightning wand in the Territories, which totally definitely is what fried Jerry Bledsoe! THERE IS A TERRIBLE RIPPING SOUND AND MORGAN SLOAT/OF ORRIS APPEARS IN A RIFT IN THE WORLD, FIRING OFF LIGHTNING BOLTS.

    Jack flips, bringing Wolf back with him into the Real World: Talisman.