Saturday, June 18, 2011

Girl on Book Action: The Waste Lands by Stephen King

Aside:  An aside right at the beginning, you say.  Well, yes.  Here is your obligatory spoiler warning.  I’m reviewing part three of The Dark Tower and I don’t want you to read possible spoilers in the blurb.  If you’re interested in my thoughts on the subject and you haven’t read the first two books, I suggest you head to my review of The Gunslinger right now.

The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III by Stephen King
ISBN: 0-452-26740-4


With The Waste Lands, the third masterful novel in Stephen King’s epic saga The Dark Tower, we again enter the realm of the mightiest imagination of our time.  King’s hero, Roland, the Last Gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares – as he crosses a desert of damnation in a macabre world that is a twisted mirror image of our own.  With him are those he has drawn to this world, street-smart Eddie Dean and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah.  Ahead of him are mind-rending revelations about who he is and what is driving him.  Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of fiendish foes both more and less than human.  And as the pace of action and adventure, discovery and danger pulse-poundingly quickens, the reader is inescapably drawn into a breathtaking drama that is both hauntingly dreamlike ...and eerily familiar.  The Waste Land is a triumph of storytelling sorcery – and further testament to Stephen King’s novelistic mastery.


My Thoughts:

A curious thing happened when I was reading this book.  I wasn’t really enjoying it – so much so that I put it down after 70ish pages and read The Stolen Throne instead.  But, I made a commitment to finishing the series, so I went back to it.  A handful of people had assured me that it gets better and that they all really enjoyed part three.  I heard a lot of “Just wait until you get to this part with so and so, it’s awesome!”  Or “Oh, when you get to Blaine, he is super-scary.”  Each time I reached one of these supposed milestones of awesome, I was underwhelmed.  The only upside is that there weren’t all that many updates as to the status of Roland’s balls.

I think my problem really comes from not liking the characters.  My feelings on Roland are neutral, I still prefer my protagonists / heroes to be quick-witted, but at least Roland is consistent and reliable (so long as you don’t stand in the way of him getting to the Tower).  I don’t care for Susannah at all, which, considering my feminist leanings irks me to no end.  I feel as though I should like her, but I just don’t.  She doesn’t interest me at all.  Eddie grew on me in this book, but not much.  He does some awesome things and he injects a touch of sarcastic humour I appreciate.  Also, Roland keeps comparing him to Cuthbert and without knowing a whole lot about the guy I’ve decided I like Cuthbert (does that mean I actually like Eddie?).   Jake...well...Jake is a kid and I have a strange prejudice against child-protagonists.  I guess I like Oy best – which, considering he’s some sort of raccoon-y animal says a lot about my feelings about the other characters.

Why do I keep reading then (aside from the fact that I said I’d read them all)?  The world keeps me coming back – Roland’s world.  I seriously loved being in Lud.  The decay and the madness of its inhabitants as the world winds down around them left me feeling haunted.  I was enthralled.  Blaine didn’t scare me, but these people did with the way they were clinging to any bit of flotsam in the ocean of debris - to the point where they think that a loop of music is a message from the machine-ghost gods to sacrifice one of their own once a day.  And they were fighting battles against each other without even remembering the reason they are on opposite sides.  The absolute lack of meaning in everything they do, the soul-crushing knowledge that the world is dying and there is nothing left aside from mad despair...that’s sweet honey to draw me back again and again.  Please, sir, can I have some more?

Related to my interest in this dying realm are some of the underlying themes and ideas – the interconnectedness of the world, the beam, the Dark Tower at the center of everything.  I like the overlap between Roland’s world and “our” world, I like that the Ageless Stranger and Roland’s nemesis, Marten might or might not have been Merlin (though he says he wasn’t).  The fact that events in one world become the basis of fiction in the other and that dreams seem to move between the two fascinates me.  The Gunslingers themselves, at least as they were in the past, also interest me.  I want to learn more about them and how they served as knights-errant and diplomats and basically beacons of hope in their world.  We get some glimpses of this past sprinkled throughout The Waste Lands and I want more of that too.  So, basically, I want to watch the world crumble and descend into madness and I want to see what it was before the decay set in.  I don’t care about what Susannah, Eddie and Jake do.

At the end of the day, or should we say book, what it comes down to is this: I said I would read the whole series and I will do just that.  Hopefully, you’re all enjoying following me along on this journey, whether you’ve read the books and like to watch me suffer, or you’re reading them because I’ve started to do so (I actually doubt anyone is doing this, but stranger things have happened).  So, I’ll leave you with this thought: I had better get to see a bunch of Cuthbert soon so I can either confirm or deny my possible new literary crush.

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