In anticipation of the film coming out, here – week by week – are my reviews of THE DARK TOWER novels.
In the afterword to THE WASTE LANDS, Stephen King writes about his difficulty in entering Roland of Gilead’s world, how the episodes of his immense fantasy saga were harder to create than his other fiction.
In a way that surprises me, as THE WASTE LANDS feels a much more assured and confident effort than either THE GUNSLINGER or THE DRAWING OF THE THREE.
THE GUNSLINGER still seems to me vaguely inconsequential and almost defiantly un-epic, a shaggy dog story with many loose ends; while in the sequel, the marrying together of Roland’s world with New York City is just too confusing and jarring, King seemingly taking the wrong way to try and root his vision in an understandable reality.
This volume though strides forward much more confidentially, wearing its ambition like a shield. It gives vistas of epic forests with mad robotic bears, friendly villagers and a terrifyingly mad city. Even the New York segments which make up the early sections are handled better here, with NYC itself given almost a sheen of fantasy so that it marries well into the narrative.
There are some flaws. King’s fondness for floating narration can become head-spinning as the reader tries to work out who is thinking what now; while the characters beyond the central foursome rarely rise above the level of cardboard cut-out.
(Okay, that last point might be an unfair nitpick, as in old John Wayne/Clint Eastwood westerns, how many of the supporting characters can really be described as rounded?)
In the main though, this is a confident and genuinely entertaining read, which – finally and assuredly – brings the Constant Reader into the vastness of a whole other world.