‘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.
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