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Black House
By Stephen King and Peter Straub

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Black House

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Black House
Large Print Edition
By Stephen King and Peter Straub
Random House Large Print, (2001)
ISBN: 0-375-43151-9
Genre: Mystery - Science Fiction

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - May 14, 2002

Black House is a murder mystery / science fiction horror book that was co-authored by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The book revolves around Jack Sawyer, a retired homicide detective who once traveled to a parallel universe to save his mother, and her 'twinner' from death. Jack, who is from Los Angeles, is asked to come to Wisconsin to help investigate a series of grisly murders. (The killer has a taste for human flesh, the younger the better.) Murder is not the only thing amiss in the small Wisconsin town, things just seem slightly out of wack. Is something from the Territories, the parallel universe that Jack once went to, seeping into our world?

This is not the first book that Jack has appeared in. He was also the hero of The Talisman, which was also a joint project between Stephen King and Peter Straub. Jack's original adventures in the Territories where chronicled in this book. To enjoy this book, you do not need to have read The Talisman first, as all the information from that book, which you need to understand the plot in Black House is provided.

Now, for my opinion of this book...

I hated this book, yet I loved it. Please, let me explain. Black House is infused with marvelous imagery, the characters are real (sometime too real), and the plot is well wrought and intriguing. So, where does all this hate come from? The problem I had with this book was the way it was written. In some sections, the narrator of this story is an omnipresent apparition that follows the characters about. For example, "Bobby Dulac opens the unmarked door and enters, with us on his shiny heels...."(pg 12). At other times the story is simply told in the third person. "Wendell cannot quite make out the faces peering at him through the windshield, but he has the feeling that at least two of them are familiar." (Pg 409).

This jumping back and forth between narrative styles is annoying enough, but the sections narrated by the omni present 'ghost' is frustrating to read, in part because it is hard to ignore the fact that the narrator in omnipresent. When I read, I like to immerse myself into the story, making it an 'interactive' experience. With this narrative voice hanging about, I felt as if I was on a group tour and the narrator was our tour guide - we got to watch, but not play along. Yet while I did not like this form of narration, I also have to admit that these sections are written in a disarming descriptive prose that is pure art. Best yet, the plot is that wild mix of science fiction, mystery, and horror that we have all come toe expect from Stephen King. Are you getting the idea of why I both hated and loved this book? In short, you have a phenomenal story, intertwined with an intriguing prose style that just doesn't seem to ever fully integrate with the story. Perhaps this discordance is due to this being the work of two authors? They are both excellent writers, but unfortunately, on several planes, their work just does not seem to mesh.


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