Friday, June 22, 2012

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 4. Wizard and Glass

 "Wizard and Glass picks up where the last book left off, with our hero, Roland, and his unlikely band of followers escaping from one world and slipping into the next. And it is there that Roland tells them a story, one that details his discovery of something even more elusive than the Dark Tower: love. But his romance with the beautiful and quixotic Susan Delgado also has its dangers, as her world is tom apart by war. Here is Roland's journey to his own past, to a time when valuable lessons awaited him, lessons of loyalty and betrayal, love and loss."

            "Wizard and Glass," Volume IV of Stephen King's fantasy/western "Dark Tower" series is even better than the three books which preceded it. I didn't think it would be possible to top "The Wastelands," Book III, but King has accomplished the task with great elan. The author's tremendous talents and consistency as a writer are evident here. I can only advise the reader not to begin this novel during a busy period in your life, as it will cause you to miss all sorts of deadlines. I really found it difficult to put this page-turner down.

The novel opens with a wrap-up of the cliffhanger which began in Book Three, where bizarre Blaine, the psychotic, riddle-loving monorail tries to take the stoic Gunslinger and his companions on a suicide trip to a terminal destination. Given the dark humor, it's a really fun ride. The band of four...and a half, the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and their talking dog-like pet, Oy the Bumbler, disengage from the wreckage of Blaine, and continue along the path of the Beam toward the Dark Tower. They finally take a rest, around a campfire, while Roland narrates the details of his quest, the whys and wherefores behind his decision to take this particular course. He tells the tragic tale of his lost love, Susan, and his beloved friends and companions Cuthbert and Alain, who all formed a magnificent Ka-tet, (King's word for a group of people drawn together by fate). These characters have been brought up in prior novels and all played a formidable role in Roland's past which will haunt him to the ends of the changing world. "Wizard and Glass" is more a traditional fantasy novel than the other, more darkly fantastic books in the series. The forces of magic aren't often on the side of Roland and his friends, so they must rely on their wits or their weapons instead.

Roland's father, the best Gunslinger who ever lived, sent him away from the Inner Baronies and looming danger, with his closest friends Cuthbert and Alain. All were disguised and took aliases. They arrived at their destination, the small seaside town of Hambry, in Mejis, on the outskirts of Mid-World, ostensibly to count the taxable goods for the Affiliation. The trio discovered that there was trouble brewing here also, worse than that in Gilead. They were in much more danger in the Barony of Mejis than they would have been staying at home. The town's officials had secretly defected to the side of John Farson, "The Good Man," whose armed revolution was gradually destroying the world. Farson's group planned to use oil wells and refineries, built during the long-ago Age of the Old Ones, to create gasoline to power weapons of war. These relics of the past, and other resources, lay right outside Hambry. Cut off from communications and support, Roland, Cuthbert and Alain were up against powerful adversaries, men of evil and ill will, as they attempted to foil the plot.

On their first night in Hambry, Roland met beautiful Susan Delgado, just sixteen, a year or so older than he. The two fall deeply in love. Unfortunately she had been coerced into giving her promise to the lecherous, aging Mayor to be his future lover, (and future mother of his child - he hoped). His wife had been unable to bear him children after 40 years of marriage. Susan was unable to break the contract without staining her family's honor. The young lovers entered into an illicit affair - one which endangered the lives of them all.

It is difficult to summarize the richly detailed and intricate plot of "Wizard and Glass" and do it justice. The characters, major and minor, are outstanding - they just come to life on the page. There's the ancient witch who becomes addicted to Farson's pink crystal ball, and whose hatred for Susan will prove to be disastrous for the Ka-tet; Jonas the failed gunslinger, banished to the West long ago, and his two cronies - all in Mejis to do Farson's work; Cordelia, Susan's deranged aunt who is eaten up by jealousy, guilt and her own pettiness; Sheemie, who is devoted to Cuthbert for saving his life, and proves to be loyal and courageous - an honorary member of the Ka-tet. And, of course there's young Roland, the newly made Gunslinger, who longs to lead his friends with honor and be worthy of his father's name; Alain, serious, noble and gifted with the Sight; Cuthbert the cutup, who is so like Eddie; Susan, a strong young woman, with her dream of first love finally realized, and so much to lose. King demonstrates a huge talent for creating a wide variety of characters and weaving them into a credible community. His narrative is rich in vivid detail and the pace is fast-going enough that I had a problem deciding where to pause. Ultimately, the reader is given an understanding of why Roland is the man he is. And this is a good place to acquire it. Roland, while never unsympathetic, has always seemed a bit too stoic - a hard, ruthless, unsentimental man who will kill for his cause.

I think this is one of Stephen King's best book ever, and certainly one of the best novels I have read in a long time. One of the high points, for me, is the way the author brings in characters and themes from his other books, pointing out to the reader that the figures of evil in all his work are the same throughout - no matter what their names. Whatever the storyline, the purpose of total destruction remains consistent. It may have taken the author a long time to get this book out, but it is sure worth it. "The Dark Tower" is really Stephen King at his best and most ambitious. He examines here, in this extraordinary epic, the importance of mythology, and of the quest, in man's life! Very highly recommended!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 3. The Waste Lands

Roland, the last gunslinger, moves ever closer to the dark tower of his dreams and nightmares as he travels through city and country in Mid-World - a macabre world that is a twisted image of our own. With him are those he has drawn to this world: street smart Eddie and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah. Ahead of him are mind-bending revelations about who and what is driving him. Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of foes-- both more and less than human.

When Stephen King began the Dark Tower series with the collection of short stories that made up The Gunslinger, his guarded vision of a magnificent fantasy world tantalized readers with a glimpse of something that left us with one thought...MORE. The next book, The Drawing of the Three, satisfied that craving, filled with vibrant, exotic creatures and locales and giving King's audience its first full-scale look at Mid-World. The third Dark Tower novel, The Waste Lands, is a continuation of what I think is the high point of creativity in Stephen King's career. 

The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands are the two books where King reached his full potential to write fantasy, action, and adventure. The novel opens with Roland, Eddie, and Susannah battling an 80-foot cyborg bear infested with disease and writhing white worms. After surviving this monstrosity, Roland's mind is nearly torn apart by a paradox he created in the last book when he saved Jake from the death he suffered in the first book. In a twist I never expected, the narrative picks up from Jake's perspective, whose mind is also stricken when he survives the moment his mind insists was to be his death. 

In a fascinating turn of events, Jake is drawn into Mid-World through a door the ka-tet creates in the middle of a speaking ring similar to the one in which Roland learned about his future in The Gunslinger. Jake is revealed to be the true third that was to be drawn in order for Roland to continue his quest. However, during the drawing, Susannah must "entertain" a demon the same way Roland did to get his prophecy, which in a later book is developed into one of the most shocking twists of the entire series.

After completing the group, the companions set out together on their way to the Tower, gaining a new member in Oy the billy-bumbler. This strange cross between a dog and a raccoon delights the group with his gold-ringed eyes and incredible intelligence, which allows him to speak and count at a rudimentary level. However, not long after Jake is rescued, the travelers are beset by Gasher, a diseased mercenary of Lüd who kidnaps Jake. Oy sets off after him with Roland following close behind. A thrilling chase ensues, culminating with a face-off between Roland, Gasher, and the Tick-Tock Man, a gigantic descendant of the mythical Lord Perth. With Oy's help, Roland kills his enemies, saves Jake, and races to find Eddie and Susannah. Once reunited, the group boards Blaine the Mono, a train run by a computer gone mad that carries them through The Waste Lands. 

The horrible, unnatural, mutated creatures they see in The Waste Lands turn out to be the least of their troubles, as Blaine voices its intentions to commit suicide at the end of its run, thereby killing Roland and his companions. King left the story on this gut-wrenching cliffhanger, torturing fans by making them wait six years to see how the dilemma is resolved. Just like the book that preceded it, The Waste Lands is an amazing, fast-paced ride full of thrilling story and dazzling creativity. I love the entire Dark Tower series, but I don't think Stephen King ever got quite as good at this type of writing as he did with the second and third books. The Waste Lands remains of the most impressive achievements of his career.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 2. The Drawing of the Three

         "After his confrontation with the man in black at the end of The Gunslinger, Roland awakes to find three doors on the beach of Mid-World's Western Sea—each leading to New York City but at three different moments in time. Through these doors, Roland must "draw" three figures crucial to his quest for the Dark Tower. In 1987, he finds Eddie Dean, The Prisoner, a heroin addict. In 1964, he meets Odetta Holmes, the Lady of Shadows, a young African-American heiress who lost her lower legs in a subway accident and gained a second personality that rages within her. And in 1977, he encounters Jack mort, Death, a pusher responsible for cruelties beyond imagining. Has Roland found new companions to form the ka-tet of his quest? Or has he unleashed something else entirely?"         

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King is the second book in the Dark Tower series. After having read The Gunslinger, I was impressed with how the plot came to life and next to it this is one of the finest books I've read in a very long time that doesn't deal with elves and dragons. Many readers have said that the Dark Tower series gets only better with every book.

The book starts off a couple of hours later right after the ending of The Gunslinger. Roland's quest to find the Dark Tower actually begins (sorta) and for that to happen, he needs the help of three other individuals. Now, it's really hard not to spoil things here but I'm guessing by looking at the book cover, you should already have surmised that Roland will somehow have to travel through magical doorways to seek said individuals. The idea behind this is brilliant yet I'm sure some readers will think that this is hardly anything original. Well, this book was first published in 1987 and so it clearly shows the brilliant mind of the author.

As you could have guessed, each individual behind that doorway with which Roland has a connection to all have different personalities and personal problems. Technically, there are three doorways and so there are three different stories altogether. I loved each and every one of them! Because this whole concept with the doors is new to the readers, the author spends a lot of time going over things with the first character that Roland connects to. The funny thing is how conversations can go because Roland is so different, being as he is from a different time. I really don't want to write too much because it will only spoil things. I never had a problem writing reviews but here, I'm having a problem finding words because everything seems like a possible spoiler!

The atmosphere and setting with The Drawing of the Three is amazing. In Roland's world, everything is bleak and dreary. This lends to a very isolated feeling and you can actually feel the struggles of the characters and what they are having to go through. However, I feel that this second book is actually another introductory book in the story. Hopefully with Roland finally having drawn the three, his adventure in search of the Dark Tower can finally begin. Technically, I know that the author has about five more books to complete his story but I'm hoping the next book the real adventure would begin.

What makes The Drawing of the Three so special is that it has a little bit of everything. It shows that this world really is full of unique and special individuals and at any moment, their life could be changed by some event. The writing is also very solid. There really wasn't a boring part throughout the book. Everything is just so gripping and part of it is you genuinely want to find out what happens next! This sounds absurd when I write it but for those who have read a book that you felt it was literally too hard to put down, you'll know what I'm talking about. 

Stephen King really knows how to blend so many different elements together in a book and actually making them stick. Right now, Roland still feels like a little mystery to me. Sure, I know his overall demeanor and what he's about but I feel as if there is so much more that the author is holding back for later. But whatever the case, this book has definitely sparked my interest in the Dark Tower series. Luckily for me, every book has already been released so no waiting!!!