Sunday, April 26, 2015

Castle Rock Companion - The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and IV: Wizard and Glass

As I mentioned in my Eyes of the Dragon review, The Wastle Lands ends on a cliffhanger that is resolved in the following novel, so grouping the review of the two together makes sense in its own way.

The Waste Lands

All things serve the beam.

This novel is very much a transitional one, and I can't help but feel that it could have been broken up and the pieces added to the books that come before and after it with no damage done beyond making those books longer.  And this is King we're talking about, so who is going to complain about that?  The first half involves bringing in Jake and Oy, thereby completing the ka-tet and bringing in all the major characters of the series, and the second half features our heroes entering the town of Lud and eventually boarding Blaine the Mono, a train that challenges them to a riddle contest in order to give them safe passage on their journey.  The book abruptly ends before that contest begins, and even has an afterword from King where he tries to justify leaving us hanging like that.  As you can tell, I don't really buy it.

The challenge with rescuing Jake ties very heavily into what happens at the end of  The Drawing of the Three, and I love the idea that both Roland and Jake are dealing with these dual memories of two different conflicting timelines.  I also love the journey Eddie takes here, slowly shrugging off the damage his older brother has done to his self esteem and embracing the quest for the Tower instead, giving him an understanding of Roland's choices.  There's a lot of great character moments here even if the narrative of the book itself feels so incomplete.

There is also the first introduction of Oy, who I fell in love with immediately.  He's adorable, and his ability to mimic human speech gives him a quality a step above the average pet, without making him too far into fantasy by being a full fledged talking animal.

The time in the town of Lud is action packed and great world building, one of those moments I would really love to see a movie adaptation for.  But I do think if King couldn't quite settle on how to resolve the Blaine conflict here, he should have just ended the story sooner and included these moments at the beginning of the next book.

Wizard and Glass

And now, all these years later, it seemed to him that the most horrible fact of human existence was that broken hearts mended.

Because doing it that way, you now have this highly active riddle fight at the beginning, and then everything comes to a grinding halt as Roland tells a story to his companions about his youth.  I'll admit, part of the problem here may be me.  I found the tale of young Roland, Cuthbert, Alain, and Susan far less interesting this time around, and it may be about fatigue.  Not only was this my second time reading the book, I've also read the comic adaptations of this story already, and knowing how it all ends makes it harder for me to feel invested in these characters.  They are no where near as lively and lovable as Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy and so I found myself wishing for it all to be over so we could return to Kansas and the setting of The Stand.  Of course when that moment finally comes, it's mostly just Wizard of Oz metaphors instead.  Which is not a bad thing, necessarily, I have a lot of affection for that book and film, but I have to admit I do wish we'd seen a lot more of Flagg before he disappeared.

This was definitely my least favorite of the novels so far, but my detachment to the story did actually help me to start thinking about ka-tets and how they function in King's other stories, the similarities of the groups that make up the heroes.  It doesn't work for every single one obviously,  but The Stand, Salem's Lot, It, and Dreamcatcher all jump into my head of a group of 4-5 people, with often one female, one child, one pet, and/or one disabled person included.  Whether this was something King was doing intentionally or not, it's a fun thing to look for among his works.

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