Recently I reviewed the first two books within Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series (which you can read here). Having completed these installments, nothing was going to stop me from devouring the rest. Like Roland, readers themselves become immersed in the quest for the Dark Tower, and I found myself just as eager to continue the journey. As always, these books are increasingly hard to review. There is so much to comment upon as a whole, but so little to actually say that does not spoil the twists and turns of the plot. However, I will give it my best shot.
Book Three: The Waste Lands
After feeling slightly disappointed with the lack of location within Roland’s world in the previous book, I started this next installment eager to once again be surrounded by the gunslingers life. I was not disappointed. This book follows our main travelers a few weeks after the events of the second book, as they make their journey away from the Western Sea where Eddie and Susannah were drawn, and into the woods of Out-World. After quickly discovering one of the six mystical beams that leads the way into the nexus of the Dark Tower, the rest of the book details what befalls the friends on their ever perilous journey. As always, I do not want to spoil these events for you, but they are truly worth the read.
Perhaps my favourite element of this third book was the way in which King creates a blurring of worlds. Whilst we may be back in Roland’s world as he continues his quest, there are increasingly creepy undertones of the world that Eddie and Susannah, as well as readers themselves, would be familiar with. As the adventure continues, we can gather further small details about Roland’s world, details that add to the eerie similarities between different places in both time and space, recalling an almost post apocalyptic-esque world. Something that resonated particularly well for me was the comparison made between this world and the infamous Bermuda Triangle. The idea that there is a link between the comforting safety of Eddie and Susannah’s New York, and the brutal life of Roland’s home creates an unsettling, almost sickening feeling. King explores this further with appearances made by objects such as Nazi fighter planes, objects which are already drenched with connotations of evil, and turn an already fearsome place into a hybrid of the evil we already know, and the new, unknown evil we will see.
I would say that the first half of this book focuses upon the unification of the characters, resolving events that have led them to where they are now. Once established as a much more cohesive unit, readers are able to sense that finally the true path to the tower is about to be journeyed upon by our group. In contrast the second half of the novel is much more active and plot driven, with the arrival of newer characters and new circumstances to navigate. I was never going to be able to do this review without acknowledging the appearance of my now favourite character – Oy the Billy Bumbler. In the midst of a world crumbling into ruin and decay, we meet Oy, an animal described as a mixture of a raccoon, woodchuck, and dachshund. Oy may seem like a trivial arrival, but he really will steal your heart and become part of the valuable ka-tet Roland shares.
The ending of this book is also very powerful, creating a suspenseful conclusion . . . but that is all I am able to say regarding that!
Book Four: Wizard and Glass
The fourth book within this series starts where the previous book ends, satisfying the cliffhanger which reader were left hanging precariously on. After this episode, we follow the group as they travel through a strange version of Topeka, Kansas, of the 1980’s. The group experience the uncanny nature of this location, eventually realising that they have somehow left the path of the vital beam. As they continue their journey to try and right their pathway, Roland finally, and painfully, divulges a crucial chapter of his past.
Though in many ways this book is limited in the events we see from Roland’s present day ka-tet, it is actually drenched in action and plot for the much younger Roland whom readers follow as the Gunslinger recalls his past. Whilst this might seem disappointing for fans of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and of course Oy, it is by far my favourite book of the series so far! What we learn of Roland’s past, and how he has come to be in the position he currently is, truly helps to begin to flesh out Roland as a character other than the man who is obsessed by the Dark Tower. We are taken from being held at a tactful, carefully planned distance, to becoming emotionally invested and included in Roland’s life. There is something almost comforting about the idea and the presence of a young, wild Roland. We see he is not only the haggard, ruthless man which time will make him, but also a multidimensional figure of past love and tragic grief. Roland, in brief, is made human.
Just as book three establishes a much more cohesive blurring of worlds, so this book similarly continues this phenomena, not only in the massive portion of the book which focuses on the past, but also within the books current day framing device at the beginning and conclusion. As quoted ‘There are many possible worlds, and an infinity of doors leading in to them’ p. 96. In light of this assertion, how do we know where Roland and his group really are? And how do we know which location, time, or even world their quest will place them? The point is, we don’t know, and perhaps never will. That is what keeps the mystery and integrity of King’s work; we are constantly left without the complete picture. And we read on in the very slim hopes that things will one day become illustrated for us.
On a side note, if you have already read this book, how great was the ending. Can we take a moment to appreciate the inclusion of . . . lets just say, a pair of red shoes and the city of Kansas. As a particular fan of this iconic book and movie, I really did appreciate the creepy, yet rather comic, inclusion. (I completely understand how confusing this might appear to those of you who have yet to read this book, but all of its brilliance will soon be revealed to you!).
Rating for Book 3: 4*
Rating for Book 4: 5*