Stephen King: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) (review)

wizard-and-glass2So after having loved the third volume in Stephen King’s amazing The Dark Tower series, I just continued straight on with the fourth book, Wizard and Class. The third book, The Waste Lands, sees the ka-tet fully formed with Eddie, Susannah and finally Jake (and Oy) as Roland’s partners on his quest to reach the tower. And it ended with a cliffhanger so I just needed to keep on reading – even though Wizard and Glass is the longest in the series with it’s 845 pages (my edition).
And it continues right where The Waste Lands left off. Our group of unlikely heroes have boarded Blaine the mono rail and are ready to try their luck at outsmarting him in a game of riddles, thus preventing him from killing himself while they’re still on board. Not an easy task since Blaine has seen it all and heard it all – he knows any and every riddle. Luckily – and necessarily because otherwise this book would not be 845 pages long – they manage to outsmart him and after having stepped out of the train, they find themselves … in Kansas, of all places.
But our group decides not to press on on their quest but instead, sit down, take it easy and listen to Roland tell the story of his youth, the story of why he is emotionally stunted and unable to love, the story of Susan.
And that’s pretty much the rest of the book. As young teenagers, Roland and his two best friends, Cuthbert and Alain, are sent away from home to keep them safe. But of course, they find themselves in even greater danger because they end up in a city strongly supporting the good man, John Farson; the man, the boys’ hometown Gilead is fighting against. The boys pretend to be send to count horses, fish nets and other things that can support in the battle against John Farson and quickly finds out that they are lied to by just about everyone in town.
Except Susan.
Roland and Susan meets accidentally one night and Roland walks her home – and that’s it. Roland is lost and in love. But Susan isn’t exactly free to fall in love and she comes with a past which may be important in the job, the boys are trying to do. So pretty soon, the young teenagers are sneaking off and making love all over and Susan is helping the boys with their attempt to prevent John Farson for getting what he wants.
But being young and in love isn’t always the best way to be when you are also trying to sneak around some very dangerous men and a whole town, in fact, so Roland’s friends are extremely worried. And for good reasons because if the men in town aren’t dangerous enough, there’s also a witch to take into account. A witch who finds herself the guardian of a pretty pink stone; a stone, which has powers – and a will! – of it’s own.
Even though it’s nice to get some backstory to Roland, I would have preferred it to be shorter, I think. I really like spending time with Eddie, Susannah, Jake, Oy and Roland and their attempt to get to the tower and in this book, we hardly get any closer. Well, we do a bit, but not much. And knowing Roland, we know that the love story will not be a happy one – and to add to this, King uses so so much foreshadowing to let us know that things will not turn out the way the young lovers want them too, that it actually gets to be a bit too much.
One think I did like was the riddle game in the beginning, played between Blaine the mono rail and our group of heroes. I’m pretty sure that King was inspired by Tolkien when writing this – the riddle game played by Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit (read an interesting post about it here), especially since both authors seem to emphasize the history of riddles and the tradition of riddle contests.
I also really liked the shout-outs to The Wizard of Oz even though I have to admit that I have neither watched nor read it. I have watched a little bit of it and I did like what I saw (and not only because Toto is a cairn terrier just like my Kayleigh (except a different color)) but I didn’t finish watching it because I hadn’t seen it from the beginning. Anyway, I liked how King incorporates elements from The Wizard of Oz into the book – and how Kansas apparently has a special connection to magical worlds!
I think if this book had been anything but a part of the Dark Tower series, I would have liked it a lot more – it just didn’t fit quite in to the series for me. Or maybe it will be a better read when one rereads the series and does know how it all ends and isn’t all eager to find out. All I know is that I didn’t feel the need to just read on in the series after finishing this book as I did after finishing the third volume. But it’s not a bad book, mind you – I realize this review makes it sound like a bad and boring book and it’s really not. It’s just not as good as The Waste Lands and that is very obvious when you read them back to back.

  • Title: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #3)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: New English Library – Hodder & Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 1997)
  • Pages: 845 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

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Stephen King: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) (review)

waste-lands‘Feed your need to read.’ (p. 156)
After the gathering of Susannah and Eddie in The Gathering of the Three, Roland’s ka-tet is to all appearances finished and the three set off for the Dark Tower. Roland teaches them the ways of the gunslinger to prepare them for whatever lies ahead – but also because he is slowly going mad. His mind is constantly arguing with itself about the boy Jake who travelled with Roland in The Gunslinger and was killed. Roland saved Jake from being killed in our world, thus preventing Jake from going to Roland’s world and dying there. This creates a paradox and now Roland has two sets of memories. Did Jake exist or not, did he die or not. These two strands of memories are pulling Roland apart in such a devastating way that he freely hands over his gun and knife, knowing that he might hurt Eddie and Susannah if he looses it completely – and still caries weapons.
But a ka-tet is nothing if not bound together by destiny and the members may be linked in more ways than they first thought. Eddie starts having weird dreams, dreams about a haunted house he remembers from his childhood. And in the corner of his eye, there’s a boy there. A boy watching him and his brother. A boy who is new.
In this novel, we get more glimpses and hints about what has happened to Roland’s world. It has changed, grown bigger and is at the same time slowly dying. And the dark tower is a part of this. The tower has guardians: huge, creepy half animal half robot creatures. We get the pleasure of meeting the giant bear Shardik. It is definitely a force to be reckoned with, as the trio finds out. As soon as I read the name Shardik, I knew it was a nod to Richard Adams and King plays it very cool, letting Eddie say: ‘I know that name, but I can’t place it. /…/ The thing is … /…/ I associate it with rabbits.’ Later in the book he does come out and names Adams as well as Watership Down but I loved the sly humor in this scene.
The bear guards the road to the tower. Everything is draw to the tower so the path is easy to follow when it has been found. Unfortunately this path leads them to the city of Lud, a city torn apart by war. But there they must go to continue their journey towards the tower.
King also manages to take a well-known children’s story and turn it into something scary and nasty. The story is about a train which only want to choo-choo along and enjoy the sky and the wind but which is pushed aside by a newer faster train but finally the old train gets it’s redemption and is allowed to carry children around an amusement park. My kids have that book – or a version of it anyhow – and now I’m scared to go find it and read it and most of all, I’m scared to look at the pictures. Because this train … this train is a serious freak!
For me, this was the best book so far in the The Dark Tower series. It was just pure pleasure to read it and I didn’t want to put it down. As always, King is a master story teller. There might be issues with his world building and with the connections between our world and Roland’s world – but who cares! It’s solid enough to make you pause and think over things and how the worlds are related but not so solid that you feel like you have to try to find small mistakes that can make the world building crumble.
My favorite (new) character in this novel is the dog-like creature Oy, a billy-bumbler. He is a clever, clever animal, dedicated and faithful, and even able to count and pronounce some syllables/words. He is indispensable in this novel and I’m just sad that he wandered into a King novel because the odds of him getting out of this alive, are not good. Not good at all.
In fact, now we know a tiny bit more about what we’re up against, I would be surprised if all our main characters will make it through to the tower.
So many times I’ve seen books marketed as ‘Harry Potter for adults’ etc (which is a bit weird since many adults, myself included, read Harry Potter). But if you’re looking for fantasy for an adult audience, this is it. King never shies back from anything. Here’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Yes, the sex is with a demon. Yes, the drugs are only in Eddie’s reminiscing and yes, the rock’n’roll is not easily recognizable at first – but that’s what gives it edge and makes it stand out.

dark tower ral

I began reading this series as part of the epic read-along of The Dark Tower hosted by The Stephen King Challenge blog – and I have written earlier that I was fallen behind – now I’m not sure quite how far along the read-along has come – or if it’s even going on any more but I’m still trotting along, slow but kind of steady…

  • Title: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: New English Library – Hodder & Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 1991)
  • Pages: 584 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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Stephen King: The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) (review)

the_dark_tower_series_30813-2So I’m participating in this epic read-along of The Dark Tower hosted by The Stephen King Challenge blog and I have fallen a bit behind. Still, I think that I enjoy this so much that I will definitely catch up – if not even get ahead of schedule. Here’s the updated schedule for anyone else interested in reading along – you won’t regret it!

  • September–The Gunslinger, Book 1
  • October–The Drawing of the Three, Book 2
  • January–The Waste Lands, Book 3
  • February/March–Wizard and Glass, Book 4
  • April–The Wind Through the Keyhole, Book 4.5
  • May/June–Wolves of the Calla, Book 5
  • July–Song of Susannah, Book 6
  • August/September–The Dark Tower, Book 7

drawing-of-the-threeThe Drawing of the Three kicks off just seven hours after The Gunslinger ended. The Gunslinger Roland Deschain is lying on the beach after his encounter with the man in black. And true to Stephen King, the action starts right away. Some weird-looking sort of lobster is carefully approaching him and Roland seriously underestimates it. Which means that on page 10, Roland has lost not only two of his fingers on his right hand but also one of his big toes… Being on an unfriendly beach with hardly any water or food and a bleeding hand and foot, would dampen everyone’s spirits but Roland is a determined chap and of course, he soldiers right on, following his instinct down the beach.

And finds a door. Just standing there. Right on the beach. No wall around it. Just a door. And only visible from one side.

It turns out that through doors like this, Roland can get in touch with the people who are to become parts of his quartet. He encounters three doors, each one leading to New York, each one leading to a new person. And through these doors, he meets up with the people, the man in dark foretold he would meet: The prisoner (Eddie), The Lady of Shadows (Odetta/Detta) and The Pusher (Jack).

I loved The Drawing of the Three. It just sucked me right in and took me along for the ride and it has some terrific scenes. When Roland meets Eddie and has to help him avoid being busted leaving a plane with a lot of drugs, priceless! It’s so funny reading about these two trying to orchestrate an escape plan for Eddie with Roland not really knowing our world or the English language quite enough to completely know what’s going on – but being shrewd enough to be aware that things are not going the way they should if he is to have his way and get Eddie to join and help him.

Despite the issues Roland has with getting Eddie back through the door, it’s nothing compared to the issues he faces with Odetta and Jack. And the battle he has to fight with his own poisoned body. But the gunslinger is nothing if not able to just keep on and on, put mind over matter and do what has to be done. He is tougher than Clint Eastwood ever looked and I do believe that if he dies before reaching the tower, his dead body will just get up and walk on. This being a King novel, that’s not altogether unlikely!

As usual, King knows exactly how he not only gets the action going but also keep turning up the pace so you just have to keep on reading and reading to find out what happens with these four characters and how Roland handles them all. King also has some nice comments on how our culture and society has evolved. At one point, Roland gets some medicine. He pays for it with an expensive Rolex watch – and the shop owner is flabbergasted that he pays for this cheap medicine with that kind of watch. But the thing is, in Roland’s world, that medicine is the difference between life and death so of course Roland is going to think it’s expensive. I don’t think medicine should be expensive – everyone should be able to afford getting what they need to be well – but I do think that this scene shows how the way we value things are sometimes a bit skewed.

I still really like how our world and Roland’s world exist parallel in some ways but still different from each other. How some things have overlapped – like Hey Jude, mentioned in both The Gunslinger and this book. But I’m curious about how King pulls it all off because I still have so many questions. How come there was three doors leading into three people, the three people who Roland needed to start forming his Ka-tet? In the first  book, Jake died in our world and then appeared in Roland’s world. And now Roland can walk through a door and appear in our world? How are they connected? I guess I’ll just have to read on and see how King solves it all.

The Drawing of the Three definitely kicks The Dark Tower series up a notch. I liked The Gunslinger but not only was this a better book, it also made me even more interested in reading this series, even more interested in finding out what the dark tower is and what happens if and when Roland finally catches up to The Man in Black.

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The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1)

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

What a strange book. Or well, maybe it wouldn’t be all that strange if it wasn’t because this book is written by Stephen King – and it really doesn’t feel like a Stephen King novel.

But let’s start with the beginning. In his introduction, King writes that a lot of people who have read lots and lots of his books, still have never read The Dark Tower series – and that’s true for me too. I’ve read It, The Stand, Gerald’s Game, The Green Mile, Carrie, Under the Dome, Christine, Rose Madder, Bag of Bones and more, but even though I’ve been a King fan for maybe 20 years, I have never read this – or even attempted to. As a young teenager, I looked at the first volumes at my local library. I think I thought that the rest of the series was always rented out – or that the library hadn’t bought them or something. Years later, I realized that King actually hadn’t finished them. And then the car accident, and then he started writing them again. Still I didn’t read them. My boyfriend and I talked about buying the series for several years and finally he got them. And he started reading them – even though he’s not really a King fan. But then this read-along came and I thought, here’s my chance. And now I’m reading them!

This post is my review and my responds to the read-along questions, all cozily mixed up. I’m trying not to spoil anything but with this being in part a read-along post, there might be some spoilerish comments.

In The Gunslinger, we follow Roland, the last gunslinger, who’s traveling in pursuit of the man in black. Initially, we don’t know much about either of them. However, since I have read The Stand, my immediate reaction is that the man in black is Roland Flagg and therefore, evil incarnated. However, as we read the book, Roland is the one doing all the bad things and for me, this gave the book a very interesting twist. We follow Roland and sympathize with him – but he commits some really horrendous deeds and even though these are blamed on the man in black, it’s still Roland’s doing. This actually gives us two villains in a way – even though it’s hard to feel any negativity towards Roland. If anything, the man in black comes across as the tempter or trickster who somehow creates these scenarios for Roland which forces his hand. However, we mostly have Roland’s words for this so throughout the book, we’re left wondering.

As the novel progresses, however, we get more glimpses into Roland’s life, especially his childhood. We learn of his growing up and being trained as a gunslinger, how his father became a cuckold. It seems that Roland grew up in some sort of chivalry system where he was trained – and where at one point, every boy has to stand up to his teacher. Roland does this at a very young age – forever separating from his friends by doing so and in the way he does it, he shows he might have more cunning than raw physical power.

One of the most interesting things for me in this book, is a boy, Roland meets along the way. The boy, Jake, actually saves Roland – but he seems lost and he keeps having memories of New York, although they are slipping away. He clearly comes from another world and Roland is fascinated by this. Jake, however, seems to be a pawn in the power play between Roland and the man in dark – and again, it seems unclear who the real villain is. And I guess that’s kind of the point – the world isn’t black and white, there are more to it and sometimes, if you want to overcome great evil, you have to do great evil yourself.

The world this takes place in, seems like an Old West kind of world with small towns with saloons with piano players in them and a gunslinger academy. At the same time, there’s another world, the world Jake comes from, which is more like our world. It seems strange that this more technologically advanced world feels like it’s the past, that the world of the gunslinger has moved on from this. I guess that will become more clear in the volumes that follow.

As I mentioned earlier, King’s writing style in this is very different from normal. He usually starts his books of with a bang – something happens and you just have to read one to figure out exactly what happened, who did it or why it happened. This one kind of feels like it never really gets started. We follow Roland traveling across a landscape, a desert, and then across mountains. There are a few high-paced action scenes but it’s a slow moving novel, compared to King’s other novels. This weird alternate cowboy fantasy universe also feels very different from King’s other works that for the most part takes place in our world, the present day world at the time the novels were published. This is so different – but so far, I’m intrigued. Especially by the strong hints about what’s to come – some kind of crossover between our world and Roland’s world. I can’t wait to see how Roland will act if he arrives in our world!

I seem to remember that King sees the Dark Tower series as one huge novel and this novel definitely feels like a slow start to a huge novel with an incredibly rich storyline. I’m really looking forward to seeing where King will take me in the next books!

  • Title: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: nel. Hodder and Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 19979)
  • Pages: 254 pages
  • Source: Boyfriend’s Collection
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5