Off the Shelf
The Dark Tower III - "The Wastelands"
By Marcus Pan
By the time you're part of the way through
"The Wastelands," King's third installment in the Dark Tower series, the
connections that started to show up in the second book are growing heavier and
increasing at a steady rate. All of them begin getting visions and dreams that
help them along. Normally I'd complain about such levels of convenient divine
intervention, but King works them so well and so strangely together that you
don't get that feeling. The associations of words, names, books and fate are
wound together so tightly by the time you finish this novel that you might even
find yourself looking for the same ka-tet (pardon my use of your word, Mr.
King) in your own life. Even after you put the book down you can be off on
tangents with the thought. The course of the story flows smoothly. I'm still
able to remember back to when Roland came across the town of Tull, or when he
nearly lost a battle to the first party of monstrosities.
It's easy to go back and tie things together. Roland is
slowly going crazy throughout part of this book and King changes his behavior
"just so" to make it perfectly how you would expect a true Gunslinger to act.
Jake too, however on a distant world. The visions and dreams of both Eddie and
Jake become a key factor into bringing the boy back into Roland's world to join
the three there. King also adds another character, a billy-bumbler (Want to
know? Read the book.) named Oy who throughout some of the thickest and darkest
parts of the story adds just enough comic relief to keep the book lighthearted
in it's own, albeit moody, way. He also shows his knack for knowing the human
psyche when he portrays the final downfall of the people of Lud. And he does
exceptionally well with portrayal of the sentience in Blaine the Mono, who's
first appearance was in a children's book (it makes sense, really it does), who
would match HAL's neurosis in 2001.
You have to respect a novel that ends in a cliff hanger
about riddles. Yes, riddles. Riddle me this and riddle me that, Roland turns
out to be a king at these twisters of words. So does Blaine. Frankly, I'm
worried. I mean, didn't Big Blue beat the Russian guy in chess best out of
three? Only he wasn't threatened with smashing 800+ miles per hour into Topeka.
Maybe that'll give Roland and crew the will or motivation to not lose this
An annoying nuance about the book that bothered me enough to
risk sounding picky? Sure, I have one. Susannah, Eddie and Roland spent about
two months in the highlands after getting away from the terrible rocky beach
where the doors were. By halfway through the book, Roland tells them that
they're gunslingers. After two months of training? "As he expected, both were
born gunslingers," writes King. This doesn't wash for me because it wasn't long
ago when Eddie was a junkie strung out on heroin and about to take a drug dive
that'll land him in the pen for a few years and Susannah was a schizophrenic
kleptomaniac. And after a couple months of training they're gunslingers.
Another nuance is I thought the plaster man, as Jake called him, that lived in
the mansion where he was pulled through was a bit, well, ok we'll use my
favorite word; cheezy. It fortunately didn't take away from the suspense of
that particular climax however.
The best part of Wastelands is again the coming together of
all the different tiny details that I mentioned earlier. And these details
further bind together the three that previously lived in New York prior to
their deposit in Roland's world which is still moving on with every step they
take. The way Jake sees Eddie, on the street his own age, in his "when" before
the older Eddie pulls him through the doorway in the mansion to where he,
Roland and Susannah are. Or how anonymous graffiti sprayed on an empty lot wall
is known as a children's poem in Roland's world. So many cross-references go on
here that it might get confusing
but hold on and keep going. Nevermind the
purple clouds or the parrot-like field animals. Don't even worry much about the
Grays, the Pubes or even the fact that the Tick Tock Man was helped off the
floor by a man who was once called "Merlin" in another time and place. Le Morte
de Arthur meets John Wayne? An interesting concept
and one I'm looking
forward to learning more about as I delve into the fourth part of King's Dark
Tower series; "Wizard and Glass."
"The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands" by Stephen
Published by the Penguin Group
Copyright © 1991 by Stephen
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