The fourth book in the Dark Tower series tells a different tale than the three previous, focusing on Roland’s past. This is my favorite book in the series, probably the one most familiar to people, as it’s been translated to comic books as well. While this is my favorite, there’re some elements that still stand out to me as odd, never really being explained, missing some key pieces to make the story gel.
The Waste Lands ends with the ka-tet being carried to their deaths on a runaway train. Eddie defeats the A.I. by telling it jokes instead of riddles, short-circuiting it. The trains stops in Topeka, Kansas, but on a different world, one that’s been ravaged and destroyed by a plague. Readers of King’s other novels will quickly deduce that this is the world of The Stand, with signs spray painted “watch out for the walking dude.” I had not read The Stand before this, so some of the references were lost on me, but made sense afterwards. Eddie, Susannah and Jake point out other differences from there world; Nozz-A-la cola, Kansas’ baseball team being the Monarchs. The group camp for the night on the turnpike, next to a thinny (a dimensional rift). Roland tells them the story of how he won his pistols, and fell in love with Susan Delgado.
The book is over 700 pages long, with the tale of Roland in the Barony taking around 500 of them. The overall story is moved forward little, which is fine. My main concern was with the random mixing of concepts, most of which never quite settled with me. This story is overridingly a western. Gunslinger. Enough said. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to branch out from there. That’s were some of the best stories come from. My hangup is with the mixing of technology and magic, more so the technology part. The random smattering of items throughout the land, tanks, gas pumps, waystation, etc., always struck me as odd, even in the previous books. I’m calling it out here because it’s become a major plot point.
This it nothing new, I’ve seen/read things done like this before in stories involving time/dimension travel. Though never explained, not that it needed to be, there was little said about these things other than, they just were. I think it’s the general character acceptance of these things that bothers me. Introducing the grapefruit was a solid beat, but made the previous elements stand out more.
In 2007 Marvel began publishing Dark Tower comic books in a mini-series format. Arcs have ranged from 2 to 7 issues in length and continue today. The first several series had an all-star creative team with Peter David scripting, Robin Furth (King’s assistant) adapting), Jae Lee and Richard Isanove on art duty. The books were beautiful, with an ethereal, otherworldly quality. Jae Lee’s art is superb, though I don’t care for it in certain stories. Here, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. The comics began with Roland earning his pistols, then continued through material in Wizard and Glass. From there the comics fleshed out stories only mentioned in the books. Specifically, the fall of Gilead. Sadly, Lee didn’t stay on the books for long, leaving before this story was complete. The comics transitioned to Roland chasing the man in black across the desert, adding in more new and original tales. The comics have seen to run out of steam.
My small quibbles aside, this is still my favorite book of the series. It’s easy to see why this was the starting place for the comics.
Why’s every other female named Susan?