Book Review: The Waste Lands By Stephen King (Series, #3)
This entry in the Dark Tower series opens with Eddie, Susannah, Roland, and Jake dealing with the paradox created when Roland saves Jake from being killed in his own world. Now Jake and Roland are both living with the knowledge of two different ways a time period of about three weeks went down, and it is driving them both mad. They must solve the paradox before it is too late. After working out the paradox the ka-tet faces a post-apocalyptic city stuck in an age-based civil war. Can the ka-tet who fit into neither side survive? More importantly, can they hitch a ride on a long-forgotten train to speed up their quest for the tower?
This book opens with a bang. I thought King was going to gloss over the obvious paradox caused by Roland saving Jake in The Drawing of the Three, but a significant portion of this book is spent dealing with just that paradox. I think King is at his best when he writes about psychological horrors, and he gets to really exercise his hand at this with this plot point. That’s not to say there aren’t physical horrors here as well. Of course there are. They mainly show up as the guardians of the ends of the beams that function like spokes around the tower. Decaying beasts and demons haunt the ka-tet’s every move. I actually had serious issues putting the book down during its first half.
The problem arises in the second half. First of all, this book really should have been divided into two. The plots are almost entirely different between the first and second halves, and this was more jolting than if the second storyline was started knowing that it was the next entry in the series. Even King acknowledges in an Afterword that the second storyline stops extremely abruptly. I believe this is because of the sheer length the book was getting to. This wouldn’t have been a problem if this storyline was its own book entirely.
I also personally don’t like plots revolving around kidnappers out to hurt children, which is essentially what this plot is, only in a more fantastical world and with a side-mission for Eddie and Susannah. I’m sure some people enjoy this plot idea, but I personally am far too disturbed at the thought to become thoroughly sucked into the story.
I could forgive these things, mainly due to the addition of a lovable critter to the ka-tet, if it wasn’t for an event toward the end of the book that I felt was too over-top, unbelievable, and done purely for shock value. I won’t tell you what it is here, because that’d be a major plot spoiler, but suffice to say you’ll know it when you see it, and it’ll probably upset you too. It read like lazy writing, and that made me feel like I was being talked down to as a reader.
In spite of the disjointed ending that was also a bit uncomfortable for me, the beginning was truly excellent. I’m hoping the next entry in the series reads entirely like the beginning of this one, but this book is still worth the read for the first half alone.
3.5 out of 5 stars