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Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King (Series, #4.5)

July 26, 2012 4 comments

Tiger in a cage overlooking a gorge.Summary:
There’s a tale we have yet to hear about the ka-tet in the time between facing the man in the green castle and the wolves of the Calla.  A time when the ka-tet hunkered down and learned a special billy-bumbler talent, an old tale of Gilead, and the first task Roland faced as a young gunslinger after the events at Mejis.

Review:
When I heard there was going to be a new Dark Tower book, I had basically three reactions. 1) Yay! 2) Shit he better not ruin them. 3) Guess I didn’t actually finish that series after all, did I? May have written the series review a bit too soon…..

But mainly my reaction was a skeptical excitement.  I love the world of the Dark Tower and was ecstatic to be able to get more of it (yes, I know there are the young gunslinger comic books, but they feel slightly less the same to me since they are in a different format).  However, I was also terrified because well we’ve all been in an instance where we mess with something that was good to the point where it’s not good anymore, right?  I was worried King was going to do that to the Dark Tower.  I am so so so happy to be able to say that worry was unfounded.

This book goes to show just how clearly the entire world of the Dark Tower series exists in King’s mind.  The format is a story within a story within a story.  The ka-tet have to hunker down to wait out a storm, so Roland starts to tell them a story from when he was a young gunslinger.  Within that story, the young Roland tells someone else an old story of Gilead.  The Gilead story wraps up, then the young gunslinger, then the ka-tet.  A writer must know his world very well to be able to handle such a structure smoothly without confusing his reader, and King does just that.  There was no confusion and each story felt fully told. Or as fully told as anything is in the world of the Dark Tower.

I’ve said before that every book in the series basically is a different genre, which is part of what makes it so fun.  So what genre is this one?  I’d say it’s fairy tales. Once upon a times.  And fairy tales generally have a lesson to be learned within them, so what is it in these three?  Well, they vary, but I would say overall it’s about leaving aside childish things and childish ways to become an adult.  (And, I might add, that happens much much earlier in the Dark Tower than it does in our particular world).

I will say, although I certainly had the impression that this book was going to be about Jake and Oy, it really isn’t.  It isn’t much about the ka-tet at all.  It’s about Roland and the role of billy-bumblers in the world.  Although, personally I wanted more billy-bumblers, but I *always* want more billy-bumblers, because they are definitely my favorite fantastical creature.  I’m still holding out hope that King will write something sometime entirely about Oy or billy-bumblers.  But this book is not it.

That said, I was oddly not disappointed to see far less of the ka-tet than I was expecting, because the two stories within the frame of the ka-tet are so strongly told.  They are just….wow. Terrifying, horrifying, unpredictable, and hilarious simultaneously.

That’s the thing that makes any Dark Tower book fun.  It contains all of those things.

Lines can go from laugh out loud humor (with a touch of truth):

Turn yer ears from their promises and yer eyes from their titties. (page 43)

To the starkly sad truth:

Those were good years, but as we know—from stories and from life—the good years never last long. (page 110)

To the simply universal:

“What if I fail?” Tim cried.
Maerlyn laughed. “Sooner or later, we all do.” (page 255)

*shrugs* I admit I’m a bit of a fan girl of the series, but even a fan girl can be sorely disappointed, and I was really and truly not disappointed at all.  I laughed, I nodded, I wondered, I quaked, I wished for an illustration sometime somewhere of billy-bumblers dancing in a clearing in the moonlight.  Although, speaking of illustrations, how gorgeous is the US kindle cover?! So fucking gorgeous, that’s how.

Back to the point, I was not disappointed at all. I was ultimately elated and wishing for more. And other fans will be too.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Books in Series:
I’m listing all of the books so you can easily see where The Wind Through the Keyhole falls.
The Gunslinger (review)
The Drawing of the Three (review)
The Waste Lands (review)
Wizard and Glass (review)
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Wolves of the Calla (review)
Song of Susannah (review)
The Dark Tower (review)
Series Review (written before we knew there would be more)

Book Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

September 1, 2011 4 comments

Phases of the moon on a black background.Summary:
Jacob Marlowe finds out he’s the last werewolf living and has just been informed by the WOCOP that they plan to kill him during the next full moon.  That’s just fine with him.  He’s been living for almost 200 years and is just plain tired of it.  So he plans to let the WOCOP’s tails follow him and just let the death happen.  The fates don’t quite see it that way, though, and nothing quite goes according to Jake’s plans.

Review:
Think of this as what would have happened if Anne Rice chose to write about werewolves instead of vampires.  The Last Werewolf reads very much like Interview with a Vampire only with the characteristics of werewolves instead of vampires of course.  By this I mean that the sentences and story structure are incredibly literary while addressing the highly genre topic of werewolves.

Unlike vampires, werewolves must eat a human during each full moon or they become ill.  Animals are no substitute.  They cannot take a bite and leave the victim alive.  No, they must completely ravish the victim.  This is no weak True Blood style werepanther or werewolf that can simply shift at will and avoid killing people.  Jake is affected by The Hunger and must eat and kill to stay alive.  The rest of the month when he’s not in wolf form he has to come to terms with his actions.  The crux and root of the dilemma at the heart of the story is this:

We’re the worst thing because for us the worst thing is the best thing. And it’s only the best thing for us if it’s the worst thing for someone else. (page 197)

It’s quite the moral conundrum and is addressed eloquently in the story.

There is also of course Jake’s suicidal mentality.  He wants to die, but he doesn’t want to be the one to do it.  He’s completely over life.  Life is boring and pointless.  There are absolutely some beautifully depressing passages about the emptiness of life that both perfectly depict depression and remind me a bit of the Romantic period of poetry.  Think of Lord Byron.  That type of thing.  Beautifully suicidal.  That may bother some readers.  To me, it’s often a part of great literature.  This overwhelming sadness and feelings of helplessness.  They’re common human emotions and lend a great force to the narrative.

Now, I was sent this for review due to how much I enjoyed American Psycho in January, so I was expecting it to be graphically violent and sexual and have the two mixed-up.  It is all of those things but–dare I say it–it wasn’t quite violent enough for me.  I was expecting something shocking, due to the American Psycho  connection, but I can see a lot of people reading this and not being put-off by the amount of violence.  Compared to your average R rated action flick, it’s really not that bad.  On the other hand, a lot of people are profoundly disturbed by the violence in American Psycho.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the level of violence in this book, and I think Duncan was probably smart in that, since it will have a wider appeal.  What can I say.  I was looking forward to something incredibly gross and twisted and instead got a lot of beautiful prose with the occasional murder.  It was a happy surprise, absolutely.  I just want to make it abundantly clear to potential readers that if you can handle an R rated horror movie, you can definitely handle the violence in this book, so don’t be turned off!

So the prose is beautiful and the topics addressed and discussed are important or at least interesting, so why am I not raving?  The ending left me disappointed.  It felt rather cliche and expected, and I didn’t like what became the focus in the end.  There are so many other ways the ending could have gone that would have been amazing and powerful, but instead I finished this book and basically said, “AGH not this shit again.”  *mini-spoiler* It includes pregnancy and babies, and ya’ll know how I feel about that. *end mini-spoiler*

Overall this is a literary take on a genre theme.  It is violent and sexual, but not disturbingly so.  Recommended to fans of Anne Rice.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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Series Review: The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King (spoiler warning)

October 25, 2010 6 comments

Introduction:
I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books.  It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole.  These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another.  Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.

Crow in front of silhouette of man.Summary:
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”  This famous opening line begins the distinctly American fantasy epic tale of Roland the gunslinger’s quest for the Dark Tower.  In this fantasy, there are multiple parallel universes, referred to as whens and wheres.  The one Roland inhabits that is home to the Dark Tower and beams that keep all the worlds together and operating functionally just so happens to distinctly resemble the old American wild west.  Gunslingers in this world are like the knights of the round table in old England, and Roland is the last of his kind.  He’s on a quest both to reach the Dark Tower and save it and the beams, as Three doors.they seem to be breaking.  Through the course of his quest, Roland draws three new gunslingers and a billy-bumbler to become his ka-tet–his family bound by ka (fate) not blood.  These new gunslingers all come from America, but from different whens and versions of America.  Eddie is a heroin addict.  Susannah is an African-American woman from the 1960s who is missing both of her legs from the knees down and has Dissociative Identity Disorder (more commonly known as multiple personality disorder).  Jake is a boy from a wealthy family in NYC that hardly pays attention to him.  Oy is a billy-bumbler; a creature from Roland’s world that looks a bit like a dog with a long snout and a curly tail but is able to talk.  After training and bonding together, they continue on their quest for the Dark Tower.  A quest that leads them through old ruined cities in Roland’s world, gangster territory Spooky train.and rural Maine in America, a countryside farming community where almost all births are twins, and much much more.  The ultimate questions of ka, how the worlds are bound together, and just what role this gunslinger has to play in all of it loom at the center of this epic tale.

Review:
The interesting thing about the Dark Tower series is that each book has its own unique vibe, feel, and style to it, yet they together work to make up a complete whole that has its own unique feel to it too.  Because of this, certain entries Purple glass ball.in the series may appeal less to some people than others.  For instance, I did not enjoy Wizard and Glass, because it was essentially a slow-paced wild west romance story, yet I know some readers enjoy that entry immensely.  Similarly, I love Song of Susannah for both its horror and the way King structured it using song stanzas to correlate with the sections of the book, yet I know some people who found it too dense for one entry in the series.  The thing is though, to me, the Dark Tower is more about the experience of reading the series as a whole than the individual books.  I’m perfectly willing to work through a book or a few chapters that aren’t quite the genre I prefer, because I know that will change up later on and whatever is being discussed is important to the story as Building in a field.a whole.  It frankly is interesting to read a series that explores so many different genres within itself.  It makes the whole concept of parallel worlds more believable as each area they go through feels different.

The characterization at first seems simplistic.  There’s Roland the gunslinger.  He’s got a one-track mind in pursuit of the tower.  He’ll do anything to reach it, even if it’s questionable.  Is he justified in his vehemence?  It’s hard to tell at first.  Similarly, the man in black who he is originally pursuing is extraordinarily one-dimensional.  He is just an evil magician, and that is all.  Similarly, when Eddie, Susannah, and Jake are first drawn into Roland’s world, they are also one-dimensional.  Eddie is just the junky.  Susannah is the crazy woman with multiple Park bench in blue fog.personalities.  Jake is a lonely, frightened little boy.  Yet as the series progresses, King gradually develops the characters to be rich and multi-dimensional.  Their characters are so intensely vivid, including even Oy, that I actually found myself crying as bad things happened to various members of the ka-tet.  Eddie overcomes his addiction, as well as the emotional wounds inflicted on him by his older brother to grow up and become a true man.  Susannah does not lose her multiple personalities, but she learns to work with them.  They are a part of her, and she grows to accept that.  She stops being bitter about her accident and her lot in life and comes to be self-sufficient and caring of those around her.  Jake quickly grows to become a confident young man who cares for his ka-tet, but especially Oy and Roland.  Finally, Roland gradually learns to open himself up to relationships.  Although Rose in the foreground. Tower in the background.the tower still calls to him, he finds himself questioning if maybe the ka-tet is better than the tower.

The horror elements in the series definitely live up to what one would expect from King.  There are disgusting moments, such as a man sick from the weed drug in Roland’s world that makes users go insane.  There are also truly terrifying moments such as when a baby boy turns into a spider and eats his own mother via her breast.  Then there are mentally disturbing themes such as the children who get stolen by the wolves and are returned with their brains completely ruined.  It is later discovered that their brain power was fed to telepaths in service of the Crimson King who is seeking to destroy all the worlds.  Whatever flavor of horror suits you best, you will find it in the series.

The themes of love and building your own family and being at the hands of fate are what truly carry the series, though.  These themes are what make the reader care about the horrors that are happening to Roland and his ka-tet.  They’re what makes it possible to suspend disbelief about multiple worlds being held together by a tower, a rose, and beams.  The ideas of self-sacrifice, serving your purpose, and caring for others who ka has brought into your life are powerful and subtly expressed.  To me the whole concept of making your own family is the most endearing part of the series, and I loved seeing it portrayed in such a subtle, tender manner.

Of course what really brought the series to a whole new level for me is the ending.  It blew me away.  It was completely unexpected.  Roland reaches the tower after having lost his ka-tet.  He goes in and climbs with each floor displaying items and smells to represent each year of his life.  He reaches the top door and pulls it open only to realize, horrified at the last moment, that he is being pulled through back to the desert where the series began.  The voice of the tower speaks to him about his journey.  That he’s done it before.  That he’s learning a little each time.  It points out that Roland realized his mistake in not taking a few moments to pick up the horn of Eld, so this time, it is strapped to Roland’s side, where it wasn’t originally.  For a moment Roland remembers what has just occurred, but soon he just feels it was all a mirage.  A heat-induced daydream of finally reaching the dark tower.  He continues on, ending the series with the same sentence it began with.

Personally, I feel that this puts the series in a whole new light.  Who exactly is this Roland that he is so important that he has to redo this quest until, presumably, he gets it right?  Why did King choose to tell us about one of the times he didn’t get it right?  What did he get wrong?  What lessons is Roland supposed to be learning?  Will Roland ever escape the cycle or is it some sort of hell punishment he’s doomed to repeat forever?  Of course, it all reads a bit like the belief in reincarnation and learning something each life cycle.  In any case, it made me personally want to immediately start rereading the series, searching for clues about the repetition of the journey.  It brings the series to a whole new philosophical level that truly elevated it in my mind from a fun fantasy to an epic.

Overall, there are parts of the series I didn’t enjoy, and due to the vast variety of genres represented in the series, most people will probably dislike or struggle with at least bits of it.  However, when the series is put together and all the pieces click together in your mind, it becomes an unforgettable, completely American epic.  A wild west fantasy is unique, and the themes and philosophical questions explored underneath the entertaining prose make for something even deeper than that.  I am incredibly glad I took the time to read this series, and I would recommend it to anyone.  It is well worth the time invested.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: borrowed, Harvard Book Store

Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review, buy it
The Drawing of the Three
, review, buy it
The Waste Lands, review, buy it
Wizard and Glass, review, buy it
Wolves of the Calla, review, buy it
Song of Susannah, review, buy it
The Dark Tower, review , buy it

Book Review: The Dark Tower by Stephen King, (Series, #7)

October 19, 2010 13 comments

Tower in the background of a field of roses.Summary:
Roland and his ka-tet face their greatest challenges yet.  First they must successfully save the rose in NYC.  Then they must find each other, and Susannah and Jake need to escape the low men who would harm them.  Also on their list before continuing to pursue the Dark Tower is to stop the breakers who mean to destroy the beam, thereby leading the worlds to ruin.  Can they save the beam?  Will Roland reach his beloved Dark Tower with his ka-tet whole or shattered?  Will he reach it at all?  The Dark Tower looms with a far greater presence than ever before, calling to both Roland and reader commala-come-come.

Review:
Now I understand why people who’ve read the entire Dark Tower series rant with showers of praise about it.  This final entry in the series totally blew my mind.  The settings were perfectly drawn and easy to visualize.  The multiple plot lines were all complex and yet simultaneously easy to follow.  I cried multiple times reading this book, including in public, and those who know me know that I generally don’t cry at stories.  All of the characters of the ka-tet are treated with full-formed character development.  They are richly drawn, but it is also easy to see how they have grown and changed throughout the series.  The multiple, inter-locking worlds of Roland and his ka-tet suddenly snap into place in the reader’s mind, and suddenly everything is nearly as clear as it probably is for King.

This book is quite long, but it didn’t feel like it.  I wanted to read it nearly constantly, yet I had to put it down periodically due to the emotional wringer King was bringing me through.  It’s been so long since I read a series that wasn’t either a trilogy or a serial romance that I’d forgotten how emotional it can get to have a long, fully realized tale told with characters you’ve grown to know and care for.  These people read as real people, and the world feels real.  It makes me want to go look for my own unfound door to journey to a parallel reality.  Even though at first I kind of laughed at the idea of a rose and a tower and beams somehow controlling and seeing over multiple worlds, at some point I bought into it.  I suspended my disbelief, and that’s exactly what a spinner of tales is supposed to be able to help his readers do.

What made me truly fall in love with the story and make me want to instantly start re-reading the series over again from the beginning is the ending.  I wouldn’t give it away and ruin the experience of discovering it yourself for anybody, so just let me say, it totally blew my mind.  I did not see it coming.  It made my perspective on the whole tale change, which explains why I want to re-read it so much.  (Maybe next year).  I can also say that the ending makes reading the rest of the long series entirely worth it.  Definitely don’t give up on the series part-way through.  Continue all the way to the end.

If you’ve been reading the Dark Tower series and are uncertain about continuing, absolutely do.  I don’t hesitate to say that the last entry in the series is tied for the best and will totally blow your mind.  I highly recommend the whole series, but I especially encourage anyone who has started it to finish it.  It’s well worth your time.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Harvard Book Store

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review
The Waste Lands, review
Wizard and Glass, review
Wolves of the Calla, review
Song of Susannah, review

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Counts for R.I.P.V Challenge

Book Review: Song of Susannah by Stephen King (Series, #6)

August 10, 2010 5 comments

A bench in a bunch of blue fog.Summary:
The ka-tet faces three challenges: keep the chap from the Crimson King, save Susannah, and get Tower to sell them the rose.  With the help of the Manni, they get the door to open two final times, and it sends Eddie and Roland to Maine to see Tower and Jake, Pere, and Oy to NYC in a final desperate attempt to save Susannah and the chap.  Meanwhile, Susannah must face not only the foreign woman inside her, Mia, but also the figurative demons of her past and her personality in her mind.

Review:
There are elements of this book that are beautiful and quite literary, primarily everything to do with the title.  There are of course two songs about Susannah.  One is immediately evident.  Each chapter ends with a stanza of a song, remarkably like the commala songs sung in the previous book, but of course the content of the stanza references what happened in that chapter.  There’s also a song from Susannah’s past that winds up showing more about who she is and what her life has been than anything else in the books has done.  What makes that beautiful is that it’s just a traditional folk song and wasn’t written by King for her at all.

Of course I’d consider this book a failure if all it did was develop Susannah’s character.  The Dark Tower is about characters and the quest equally.  Thankfully, this entry in the series addresses both.  Various mysteries are addressed such as what the Low Men are, who Mia is, how Pere wound up in a book from another one of the worlds, and more.  Plus a few new mysteries are added.  But in the end the main questions remain: will the ka-tet make it to the Dark Tower and will the Dark Tower fall?

In spite of the well-written action sequences and character development, there is one aspect of this book that rubbed me the wrong way.  King writes himself in as a character, but not just any character.  He is the Crimson King’s opposite.  In other words, he’s the essential good guy.  For some reason when he writes his stories they have an impact on the worlds, so he must stay alive and keep writing the Dark Tower series if the ka-tet is to have any hope.  The whole thing just reads as egotistical.  Plus it forced me out of the story.  I can suspend my disbelief for other worlds, but to suspend it enough to believe that the author is not only vaguely aware of these worlds but also his writing impacts them, well, it leaves you going “huh?” and kind of takes the escapism out of it.  So I skimmed over the parts featuring King and tried to just focus on the ka-tet.  It wasn’t that hard to do, so the King bits definitely didn’t ruin my experience; they just dulled it a bit.

Overall, this is a very good entry into the series.  The characters and the plot move forward, and there are some wonderfully memorable scenes that will stick with you for a long time.  If you’ve stuck with the series and enjoyed it this far, you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review
The Waste Lands, review
Wizard and Glass, review
Wolves of the Calla, review

Buy It

Book Review: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King (Series, #5)

March 22, 2010 6 comments

Railroad tracks and church steeple against a golden sky.Summary:
The gunslinger’s katet have a lot more on their plate than just continuing along the path of the beam.  Susannah is pregnant and has developed another personality, Mia, to deal with the pregnancy as it is most likely demonic.  The Rose is in danger in then when of 1977 New York City.  The man who owns the empty lot it grows in is under pressure from the mob to sell it to an unseen man.  So the last thing the katet needs is to run into a town desperately in need of the help of gunslingers.

The Calla, a town made up of rice growers and ranchers who mostly give birth to twins, has been facing a plague once every generation.  Creatures referred to as Wolves come and take one child out of every set of twins between the ages of about 4 and puberty.  The child is later returned mentally retarded.  Their local robot messenger, Andy, has warned them that the Wolves are coming in about a month, and their holy man believes gunslingers are on their way.

Unable to turn down their duty as gunslingers or give up on their quest for the Dark Tower, can the gunslingers pull it all off or is it just more than any katet, even one as strong as theirs, can handle?

Review:
Toward the beginning of the book, Roland says something like, “Being a gunslinger means weeks of planning, preparation, and hard work for 5 minutes of battle.”  That’s really a good description of this book.  It’s a lot of exposition, albeit very interesting exposition, followed by a rather anticlimactic battle that is really the exposition for the next leg of the katet’s journey.  This could have gone really badly, but thankfully there’s a lot of information King needs to tell us, and most of it is interesting and relevant to the gunslingers’ world, so it works.

King is good at creating a culture.  The Calla and its people possess a very distinctive speech pattern and colloquialisms that are simultaneously easy enough for the reader to learn and to follow.  He hints that he just took the Maine accent and exaggerated it.  Maybe that’s why a New England gal like myself found it so easy to follow.  In any case, the town of twins, ranchers, and rice is rich with local legends, folklore, and traditions.  It is enjoyable to read about, and the town also manages to provide information about the katet’s greater quest for the Dark Tower.

It is well-known that King’s Dark Tower series brings in elements and characters from his other works, as he sees all of his stories happening in the same world and being connected.  To that end, the holy man of the Calla is the priest from Salem’s Lot, and a part of Wolves of the Calla is him relating his backstory to the katet.  Something that irritated me about all of the tales told in the “Telling of Tales” section of Wolves of the Calla is that it would switch from the character speaking to an italicized third person narrative.  I don’t know if all of the italicized portions were previously written for other books or if King felt that he needed to be an omnipotent narrator in order to properly tell everything that had happened, but I found it disjointing and jarring.  It was only my unanswered questions about the Wolves and the Dark Tower that kept me reading through that section.

I enjoyed the growth in the relationship between Roland and Jake.  Roland is gradually growing into a father figure/adviser, while Jake is gradually becoming a man and an equal with the other gunslingers.  King handles this transition well, and it is believable.  Meanwhile, Eddie and Susannah’s relationship doesn’t change per se, but Eddie does realize that he will always love Susannah more than she loves him.  It is evident that both of them are uncomfortable with her multiple personalities.  This is an issue that clearly has not yet been resolved.

I do have three gripes with King.  The first is that he persists in calling Susannah’s multiple personalities schizophrenia, which is just wrong.  Schizophrenics hear voices, at worst, they do not have multiple personalities.  What Susannah has is Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it is just inexcusable that he would get this wrong.

Second, although previously in the series the reader isn’t allowed to know or see something Roland knows, the reader always gets to know what the other gunslingers know.  Here, information is pointedly held back from the reader.  I can only assume this was an attempt to maintain suspense about the Wolves, which I found to be a cop-out.  Either come up with an idea creative enough that we’ll be surprised anyway or have the characters be surprised as well as us.  Also, I already had the wolves figured out long before they are revealed anyway.  The suspense came in wondering how the final battle would play out, not in wondering who the Wolves were.

Third, I don’t like the fact that Susannah’s main storyline is a pregnancy.  I don’t like that one of her key roles so far as a gunslinger was to fuck the shit out of a demon so that Jake could be pulled through (The Wastelands).  I also really don’t like that something as simple as her being pregnant causes her to abandon her husband and her katet in the form of another personality, Mia.  It almost seems that King uses the multiple personalities just so that he can have a sweet woman around when he needs one but then can instantaneously turn her back into all of the negative images of women out there.  I need to see where Susannah’s storyline winds up before I can offer a final analysis of the character and its implications, but at the moment, it reads as a very negative view of women.

The overarching storyline of the quest for the Dark Tower, however, is still going strong in this book.  We learn a bunch of new, important information about the Tower, the beams, and the worlds, and new questions pop up.  With each book it becomes more evident that saving the Tower is important to the well-being of all worlds.  I am pleased to report that this was a marked improvement over the previous book, although not quite up to the intensity of The Waste Lands or pure readability of The Gunslinger.  It still manages to suck you in and gets the story back on the path of the beam.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review
The Waste Lands, review
Wizard and Glass, review

Buy It

Book Review: Wizard and Glass By Stephen King (Series, #4)

January 19, 2010 11 comments

Summary:
Roland and his ka-tet escape Blaine the Train, but they accidentally wind up off the path of the beam and in yet another alternate version of Jake, Eddie, and Susannah’s world.  They start following an interstate, heading for a palace and hoping therein lies the solution for returning to the path of the beam.  One night while traveling, Roland finally tells them what has been haunting him all this time with the story of the summer he was 14 years old and his first love.

Review:
As with The Waste Lands, this book reads like multiple books in one.  I was expecting that, since The Waste Lands ended abruptly without solving the problem of Blaine the Train.  This book takes care of that storyline, then jumps into a flashback that lasts almost the entire book then jumps back to the present and attempts to solve a big problem.  It’s a lot for one book to handle, and it would have worked better if Lud and Blaine the Train were one book taking place after The Waste Lands but before Wizard and Glass.  If after doing this, King had shortened the flashback, The Wizard and Glass would be an excellent book.  Of course, he didn’t do it that way.

Now that I am this far into the series, I’m seeing that King, whether intentionally or not, is writing different bits of the series as different genres.  This could be why it holds wide appeal–if someone doesn’t like the genre the story is currently being told in, it will change soon enough.  The first book is mainly a travelogue.  The second a horror story.  The third is a mix of scifi with the time paradox and horror again with Lud and Blaine the Train.  Here, we get partly fantasy with the current issues for Roland’s ka-tet, but mostly a medieval romance–the story of Roland and Susan.

That medieval romance starts out well.  King sets up three dialects–High Speech, In-World Speech, and Mejis accent–very well.  All three are easy to differentiate, and yet are easy to read.  Roland’s world is a wonderful mix of the knights of Arthur and the fabeled American west.  It’s fun to read, but only when something’s really happening.  That’s the problem with the flashback.  It feels too long, because very little happens in large portions of it.  Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain must spend most of their summer in Mejis waiting, and instead of telling the reader “wow, they waited a long time,” King makes the reader wait too, and it’s fucking boring and annoying.  I seriously wanted to give up, and right when I was about to, the action started again.  Finally.  The action makes excellent use of this mix of fantastical and wild west, but it really takes too long to come about.

As far as the characters go, I know I’m supposed to feel for Susan, but I honestly found her annoying and dull, which is problematic since she’s Roland’s first love.  Also, after all this time of Roland stating how Eddie is almost as funny as Cuthbert, I was expecting Cuthbert to be, y’know, funny.  He’s not.  He acts like that boy in school who used to pull your braids and think it was funny.  He’s just juvenile, not witty.  On the other hand, the character of the witch Rhea is excellently done.  She’s simultaneously disgusting and intriguing, and she’s one of the few who manages to out-wit Roland, partly because he underestimates her since she is an old, disgusting woman.  If only Cuthbert and Alain had been so vividly drawn instead of wandering shells of people for Roland to talk at.

The book is a necessary read if you plan on finishing the series.  It gives important insight into why Roland is the man he is today, not to mention explains how the ka-tet escapes Blain the Train and gets back on the path of the beam.  I think this is the almost inevitable dull book in an overall good series.  Just take my advice and skim over the dull part of Mejis until the action picks up again.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review
The Waste Lands, review

Buy It

Book Review: The Waste Lands By Stephen King (Series, #3)

December 14, 2009 8 comments

Summary:
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?

Review:
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

Source: Borrowed

Previous Books in Series:
The Gunslinger, review
The Drawing of the Three, review

Buy It