I had the oddest experience reading Black House. I have read it before. I remember doing it. I remember where I got it, I remember why I finally picked it up. But I didn’t remember the story. I figured I would as I read it — The Talisman was the same, I read it once, the same as Black House, in fact, right before I read Black House, but didn’t remember much. It came back to me as I read, and I figured this one would too. But… it did not. Even though I’m positive I read it before, it was like coming to a totally new book. And since I know it wasn’t a totally new book, it felt really strange, like having your memory erased but knowing there was supposed to be a memory there — which is the kind of thing that happens in a Stephen King book, actually. It was very strange. It never got any more familiar, either.
Anyway. I think I liked Black House better than The Talisman (something else I remember thinking after I read it the first time, though who knows why, since none of the story stuck with me, apparently. Jack Sawyer is not my favorite character in the King-verse — he always seems just a little too… charmed? That feeling fades some in this book. He’s still not my favorite, but I like grown Jack better than kid Jack, I suppose.
There are a lot of callbacks to The Talisman here (in the end, it’s his interaction with the Talisman that basically allows him to conclude the main story of the book, and saves his life — as long as he stays in the Territories — at the end.) I expected that. I don’t think I realized how closely this book was tied to the Dark Tower series, though. Even if I had remembered the story from my previous reading, I don’t think I’d read the whole Dark Tower series yet the first time I read this, so I may not have noticed or recognized things like the Little Sisters. But you would think I would have remembered Roland being mentioned so frequently, or the Crimson King. There’s a lot here.
The fact that there’s so much of the Dark Tower in a book that’s a collaboration, and one that quite obviously mixes in recurring King story beats with recurring Peter Straub story beats, makes me wonder if the Dark Tower multiverse is supposed to be not so much a King multiverse, but just a story multiverse. It’s an idea that feels remarkably big, but it sort of makes sense. King is a particularly referential author, but all authors — and storytellers of all kinds — make references to stories in other books or media, or are at least influenced by stories in other books or media. So in a way, aren’t all stories different levels and different rooms along the same tower of story? I may be going too galaxy brain here. But that thought does make me want to read more stories. I like it.
I have heard rumblings that the two authors of this story intended to turn this two-parter into a trilogy. Sometimes I hear that the third installment may still be coming, other times I hear that Peter Straub has expressed that he doesn’t want to do it. (This is actually in Straub’s Wikipedia page — that he said that a third book in the series probably won’t be coming because he doesn’t think he can keep up with King anymore. Which is… sort of an odd thing to put in a Wiki page, if you ask me. Also, these guys are only 4 years apart in age… which doesn’t necessarily mean that Straub, who is the elder, doesn’t feel like he can keep up the pace anymore. But it just seems strange, especially since it’s not a direct quote. I can’t help but wonder if someone’s just being prickly about that third book not happening.) I haven’t heard that Stephen King doesn’t want to do it, but that’s certainly another possibility — I can’t possibly hear all of the rumors out there. The end of this book certainly leaves a third open to possibility, but on the other hand, the end could be looked on as a perfectly satisfying ending in and of itself. (And honestly, the same could be said of The Talisman). As far as it goes, this set of books still isn’t my favorite — I don’t exactly dislike them, but they don’t feel as immersive to me as other King books. I have trouble getting into them. I don’t have any specific complaints — they’re just not quite what I want, and I really don’t know exactly why. But I’m not going to cry if we never get a third.
I did note that there’s no adaptation of this book, and I looked back — there’s no particularly notable adaptation of The Talisman either. There’s a short film that I couldn’t find any information on, and a graphic novel. Supposedly, there’s Netflix series in the works. For Black House, nothing at all. Which seems too bad, because it strikes me that this would look excellent on a screen. The actual black house, the bird feathers, the robin’s eggs — there’s some nice visual stuff here. Maybe if the Netflix series of The Talisman actually does happen, they’ll do a second season with Black House. I would watch it.