Friday, April 24, 2015

Castle Rock Companion - The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

"There are people who need people to need them. The reason you don’t understand is because you’re not one of those people. You’d use me and then toss me away like a paper bag if that’s what it came down to. God fucked you, my friend. You’re just smart enough so it would hurt you to do that, and just hard enough so you’d go ahead and do it anyway. You wouldn't be able to help yourself. If I was lying on the beach there and screaming for help, you’d walk over me as if I was between you and your goddamn tower."

The Gunslinger is a brief introduction to Roland and his purpose.  The Drawing of the Three is where the Dark Tower story really gets rolling, shows us what this is all about, and introduces us to more of its key players.  If a movie version of this series ever officially gets off the ground, I would expect the first film to condense both of these books into one.  But for now all we have is the books, along with the comic series.

It was a happy coincidence that the first three issues of The Prisoner comic series were published shortly before I read The Drawing of the Three again.  The comic is based on moments Eddie remembers within the novel, though with a few details added in that hint to us that Eddie's fate or ka was set long before he ran into Roland, just as Odetta Holmes' was.  I recommend it.

Of course, I'm also extremely biased.  Eddie is my absolute favorite character of Stephen King's, the one I've cared for the most.  It's still early, and Eddie is still very much a victim of his addiction in this story, but you can still see the good man underneath all that.  He's not the only junkie King has ever written, nor is he the only bad boy gone good, but the way Eddie is always so willing to tell things like they are is a large part of what endears him to me.  The quote above is him speaking to Roland, and it stings Roland and rings true to us because we've already seen how Roland sacrificed Jake.  But we also see Roland change, and maybe Eddie's damning words are a large part of that.  He's not going to give up the Tower, certainly, but his heart has already been softened just a little by the presence of his new companions.

This book largely feels like it's broken up into two segments, the first being Roland drawing Eddie, and then the remainder is all about Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker, two women living in one body.  While I love everything about the first part of the book, the second half has some flaws that prevent me from loving it as much.  The first is that Odetta's condition is constantly referred to as schizophrenia, which it is not.  Part if this may be characters making the mistake, but the fact that King never once has anyone use the term "multiple personality disorder" (which would have been the proper term when this was written) makes me think it's his mistake as well.    The other issue I have is the personality of Detta Walker, and that's a bit more complex.  Detta is supposed to be a caricature, but that doesn't make her constant over the top stereotypical language any less difficult to listen to at times.  There were large points where I desperately wanted Detta to go away, not because I was worried for Eddie and Roland or wanted Odetta back as much as I just didn't want to listen to her "honky muhfuh" talk.

That aside, I do like her story overall as well as the insight we get into the character of Jack Mort, who is responsible for both her disabilities as well as Jake's first death.  King does a pretty good job of keeping the suspense up toward the end as Roland tries to get the supplies they need from New York while Eddie's life is on the line back on the beach.  And all my issues with Detta will largely go away as she has now become Susannah, a character far more enjoyable that I'll come to love almost as much as I do Eddie in future volumes.

The novel does definitely feel like a stepping stone in the full series, something you'd probably have a hard time taking on its own.  As I said, it gets most of our main players together, but the story itself really feels more like two mini volumes than one full whole.  In a way, you could easily have made three novellas called The Gunslinger, The Prisoner, and The Lady of the Shadows, but since Eddie and Susannah are very much linked to one other, it makes sense to group them together here.  The story ends on a quiet note, a nice breather after all the tension on the beach, but still leaves me wanting more and ready to continue with their journey.

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