Saturday, August 13, 2011

Girl on Book Action: Wizard and Glass: Dark Tower IV by Stephen King

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
ISBN: 0-452-27917-8

Aside:  Once more I give you the obligatory spoiler-warning.  I'm reviewing book four of seven so spoilers are possible for all four books.  If you're interested in my thoughts on The Dark Tower series, but haven't had a chance to read the novels, I suggest you skip back to my review of the first book.  For the rest of you, keep reading!


Roland, The Last Gunslinger, and his band of followers have narrowly escaped one world, and slipped into the next.  It is here that Roland tells them a long-ago tale of love and adventure involving a beautiful and quixotic woman named Susan Delgado.  With shocking plot twists and a driving narrative force, Wizard and Glass is the book readers have been waiting for.  And the Dark Tower is closer...


My Thoughts:

So, yes, indeed, I am still slogging my way through these and I really do mean slogging.  If you've been following along, you know that I was looking forward to this part because it deals with Roland's past and his adventures with his friends Cuthbert and Alain.  Well, I was pretty disappointed.  Yes, Cuthbert and Alain were there, but for the most part we didn't see the Court in Gilead, instead, we wandered around some little nothing town uncovering a conspiracy.  Alright, that doesn't sound so bad.  Unfortunately, that becomes secondary to a boring, juvenile love affair between Susan and Roland (gag me with a spoon, why don't you).  I guess I should be happy that we weren't hanging around Eddie, Susannah and Jake as much as in the previous books, but I simply can't shake my disappointment.

I wanted to see the dazzling Gunslinger Court in Gilead, watch pageants and balls and the riddling contest, instead, I got dusty plains, a town full of shady people and teenagers making doe-eyes at each other (indeed, the vehemence of my reaction to the love-story leaves me worrying that I'm beginning to turn into Wren with her noted hatred of anything remotely romantic).

The content wasn't the only thing that bothered me.  I had some stylistic issues as well.  You see, the majority of the book is Roland telling the story of his past to his new companions, but he does so in third person point of view.  So, rather than saying "I did this as a youth" he talks about himself in the third person - Roland did this, Roland did that, Roland loved Susan very much, blah blah blah.  To be perfectly honest (when am I ever less), this...conceit drove me a little bit batty.  At the end of his telling he explains how he knew all the things that happened when he wasn't present, but it just didn't fly for me.  The narrative gains nothing from the way this information is withheld until the end.  Personally, I think that perhaps the story of love and loss would have been more poignant, more powerful and more emotionally engaging if it had been told as a first person account.  The detached third person limited omniscient point of view (thank you English major) left me too far outside of the relationship to care about its tragedy.  On the whole, I was with Cuthbert in wanting to deck Roland for most of the book.

And that brings me to one of the few positives - my literary crush on Cuthbert was confirmed.  The way he's always quipping at people, the fact that he carries a bird skull around with him and talks to it, and his ability to see Roland's great folly endeared him to me more than any of the other characters we've spent any amount of time with in this series.  Why can't it be the Cuthbert tales instead? (The answer is: probably because he's dead.)  I don't quite see the resemblance between witty Cuthbert and Eddie Dean that Roland is always going on about and that is probably for the best, since I am not a fan of dear old Eddie.

At least the last couple hundred pages were interesting - the showdown with the bad guys was well-paced and engaging.  While I got the sense that the young gunslingers would win the day, the way they won was a sight to see.  Susan's death, though announced at the outset, was still a surprise as there is the hope of rescue until the moment she's dead (I somehow thought that maybe she'd get away and the real tragedy would have been that she lived and Roland never knew until it was too late).

Overall, I'm frustrated with the quest for the Dark Tower.  I'm still fascinated by some of the underlying ideas about the interaction between different planes of existence, parallel universes or what have you, "other worlds than these" as people in the book keep saying. The notion that the world has "moved on" and things are not as they used to be I think is relevant to every day life no matter what time period you're living in.  On the other hand, I don't care about the characters and even the stories I'm excited to read leave something to be desired.  I'm beginning to suspect that I'm just not the kind of person who enjoys Stephen King novels.  That said, I still intend to finish my slog through the Dark Tower series if only to allow all of you to watch me suffer.


  1. I love the Dark Tower Saga but the fourth book nearly broke me. There's just something about it that can slow down the biggest fan. I'm not the only one in my set of friends who had this problem. Even King had to take a break after this novel. The next three do start to pick up. I hope you enjoy them.

  2. Since I didn't really enjoy any of the previous books I thought that I'd like Wizard and Glass, the book everyone else didn't like. I was wrong.

    And reading these books has taught me that even though everyone keeps assuring me that I'll like the next one, so far it has never been true.