The Talisman is the 19th book published by Stephen King, co-written by Peter Straub; it was his 16th novel, and the twelfth novel under his own name. The book was released by Viking on 8 November 1984. It is one of few novels not to be set in Maine or New England; it is set in Wisconsin, Peter Straub's trademark. King and Straub would collaborate again on the novel Black House.
This book charts the adventure of a twelve-year-old boy named Jack Sawyer. The adolescent hero sets out from Arcadia Beach, New Hampshire in a bid to save his mother, who is dying from cancer, by finding a crystal called "the Talisman."
The premise of the novel involves the existence of a parallel world to Earth, called "the Territories", a strange fantasy world with ties (though these ties did not exist at the time of publication) to the Dark Tower series. Individuals in the Territories have "twinners," or parallel individuals, in our world. Twinners' births, deaths, and (it is intimated) other major life events are usually paralleled. Twinners can also flip, but only share the body of their alternate universe's analogue.
In rare instances (such as Jack Sawyer's), a person may die in one world but not the other, making them "single-natured" and giving them the ability to switch back and forth between the two worlds if taught how. Jack is taught how to "flip" by a mysterious figure known as Speedy Parker, who may be a gunslinger named Parkus in the Territories. In his world the beloved Queen Laura DeLoessian, the twinner of Jack's mother (a movie actress known as the "Queen of the B Movies") is also dying.
Various people help or hinder Jack in his quest. Of particular importance are the Werewolves, known simply as Wolfs, who inhabit the Territories. These are not the savage killers of tradition. They serve as royal herdsmen or bodyguards, and can sometimes under stress voluntarily change to wolf form. A sixteen-year-old Wolf, simply named Wolf, is accidentally pulled into America by Jack Sawyer and adopts Jack as his herd, serving as his companion. Wolf is extremely likeable, kind, loyal and friendly, much like a dog, though his wolf nature shows through on occasion. On the other hand, some have joined the antagonists who are trying to stop Jack.
As the story goes back and forth between the Territories and the familiar United States, or "American Territories" as Jack comes to call them, Jack escapes from one life-threatening situation after another. Accompanied by Wolf and later by his childhood friend Richard, Jack must retrieve the Talisman before it falls into the hands of evil schemer Morgan Sloat, Richard's father, who, we later learn, was Jack's father's business partner before arranging to have the latter murdered. He wants to seize their business from Jack's mother. Morgan Sloats's twinner, Morgan of Orris, also plans to seize the Territories in the event of Queen Laura's death.
- Jack Sawyer
- Morgan Sloat
- Speedy Parker
- Lily Cavanaugh Sawyer
- Richard Sloat
- Sunlight Gardener
- Phil Sawyer
The audiobook version of the Talisman is read by Frank Muller, who had read most of the Dark Tower books before suffering a motorcycle crash which proved to be fatal in 2001.