Monday, July 30, 2012

Dark Knight Rises : Astounding !!

A quick shout-out to jaded film types who think they have seen it all: think again. 

Then go and see The Dark Knight Rises. Now you have seen it all. As you were, then. 

Christopher Nolan changed everything when his Batman Begins brought to life the Batman I’d always dreamed of — no, actually, that’s not entirely correct, because the truth is that the Batman films I dreamed of were nowhere close to as good as what Nolan created. But what he created was the Batman I had been waiting for all my life, even though I didn’t know precisely what it was I was waiting for. Batman Begins made me feel, “This is Batman, this is what Batman was always meant to be, what he has for 65 years been journeying toward, and now he’s made whole at last.” So it was a shock when, in 2008, magic happened and Batman got even better on film. The superhero in cinema was redefined, the simple notion of “comic book genre” rendered obsolete, by The Dark Knight. It was a crime thriller, a police and gangster drama set in a world we could recognize as very close to our own, and in which the main character happened to wear a Batman costume. After seeing it, I had the feeling that “my” Batman, the one I’d been waiting for, was now fully formed, and I admit I didn’t know if it would be possible for any future Batman films to live up to what The Dark Knight delivered.

So it is that I walked into the theater to see The Dark Knight Rises with very mixed emotions. This was the end of an era, the final act in the story of “my” Batman. The character whom I’d known and loved as a child, who saved me on many occasions from sadness and let my imagination grow to escape the confines of a small world, had come to be embodied fully in this live-action incarnation that was everything I could hope for in a Batman film series… but now it was all going to be over in less than three hours’ time. I’d never again experience the anticipation of this Batman returning, of walking into a theater with this excitement for a new Nolan Batman movie. Something that had been with me as long as I could remember had come to life in front of my eyes as an adult, and now it was going to go away forever. As much as I was excited and ready to see this film, then, I was also a little sad and overwhelmed by the mixed feelings involved.

I also had some fear that it might just be impossible for any Batman film to have the same impact as The Dark Knight, including but not limited to the obviously amazing and performance delivered by the late Heath Ledger. He was mesmerizing, he was surprising and beautiful, he was perfect. It’s a performance that helped define The Dark Knight, and it came to represent just how transcendent the film and the franchise had become. Without that — no, in the shadow of that — could any sequel hope to compare? Might it try too hard, push too far, and come up short?

The Dark Knight Rises does try hard, it does push far, but it doesn’t come up short. Oh, no, it is not content to merely be a worthy sequel, nor is it even content to be just a fitting third chapter in a great trilogy. It is not, I tell you, even content to dare to match the quality and brilliance of The Dark Knight. This newest film tries harder, pushes farther, and comes up with the finest Batman film of all time, the greatest superhero or comic book adaptation of all time, and the best film of the year.

As for the rest of us - especially those who appreciate an action blockbuster with brains and brilliance to accompany the brawn - The Dark Knight Rises is a genuine wonder to behold.

To complete his astonishingly ambitious Batman trilogy, filmmaker Christopher Nolan swings for the fences as if his life and your faith in major motion pictures depends on it. Not only does Nolan, as they say, hit the ball right out of the park, he smacks the thing right out of this world. As the stunning crescendo that ends The Dark Knight Rises reaches its absolute apex, your jaw will have already bought a one-way ticket to the floor. 

Where to start in nailing how The Dark Knight Rises scores such a triumphant result?

An amazing screenplay is as good a place as any. With so much to remind us of, and yet, so much fresh ground to cover, the complex plotting of the tale is almost impossible to summarise. 

It is eight years since the tumult that closed The Dark Knight. With both Batman and his alter ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne, living in self-imposed exile, it will take a major catastrophe to bring them back where they belong. It is only when Gotham City - looking more like downtown New York than ever before - comes under threat from nuclear-armed terrorists that the Caped Crusader elects to resume active service. This only scrapes the surface of the immensely involving tale in the offing here. The bad guys are led by a metal-muzzled menace named Bane, a supremely confident anarchist who is not in the business of making veiled threats. Indeed, by the halfway point of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane and his army of followers have sealed off Gotham from the rest of the world. In a matter of weeks, a reactor they have stolen from Bruce Wayne's collapsed business will reach critical meltdown, killing everyone within a 10km radius of its core. 

Performances in The Dark Knight Rises are first-class, considering the daunting scale of the production in which they take place. Christian Bale has been an anchoring presence across the Nolan trilogy, steadily working on keeping "The Batman" (as he has been formally known in Gotham throughout the series) both accessibly vulnerable and toweringly formidable in the eyes of the viewer. Bale is challenged to take the role to a whole new level in the closing act, and responds as an actor of his fine calibre should. The breakout display on the performance front is undoubtedly the incredible work of Tom Hardy as the hulking master of chaos, Bane. The job of this character is to provoke fear and fascination in equal parts.In spite of being trapped behind an ungainly mask - and speaking in a voice that some might call "Sean Connery does Darth Vader" - Hardy controls the force and fury to be unleashed by Bane with a masterful hand. 

Dig deeper down the cast list and you still find plenty of gold. Michael Caine as Alfred carries a clutch of genuinely emotional scenes with a veteran's aplomb. Gary Old man has reduced duties this time around as Commissioner Gordon, but gives great value when the chips are down.If there is a polarising performance, it might be that of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (the nominal Cat woman of the piece, though the name is never purred out loud). Hathaway is asked by Nolan to exude a wisecracking brashness which is pretty much the only light relief to be found in this very heavy movie. I thought she got away with a very tricky job. 

Visually, The Dark Knight Rises is an epic spectacle that completely arrests the senses, but never overwhelms them. The list of standout scenes is long, and beyond debate. To quote but one example, the dramatic minutes where Bane unveils his nuke to the survivors of a bomb blast at a packed football stadium are never to be forgotten. I could go on and on. Let's just say that the special effects and the intricate action sequences they service in The Dark Knight Rises combine to take mainstream film making to a whole new level. The highest compliment that can be paid to this extraordinary work is that it simultaneously meets, raises and defies all expectations.

The Dark Knight Rises is probably the first sure-thing nominee for Best Picture, and could earn Nolan his first Best Director nod from the Academy as well. It’ll surely rack up plenty of other nominations as well, including for cinematography, score, visual effects, and editing. And as noted earlier, it deserves at least one nomination for acting, for Mr. Bale.

Christopher Nolan gave us a definitive Batman on film, and he has now given us the definitive end to the Batman legend. While I still have that mix of feelings about the end of this film saga I’ve so loved, I have no mixed feelings about how great a film this is or its status as the best Batman film of all time. And whatever sadness I feel as we leave the era of Christopher Nolan’s Batman behind, that sadness cannot match the endless gratitude and immense joy I’ve felt watching this franchise, a franchise that delivered at long last on the promises made to me in my childhood many decades ago.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 7. The Dark Tower

"The seventh and final installment of Stephen King's The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author's long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal."

The part we're waiting for. The part we all read seven big books for. 

I realized at least two or three books ago that there would be no way he could end it that would please everybody. And as I read on, I had no idea how he'd end it and decided to have no preconceived notions or hopes. 

I can cover what truly bothered me pretty quickly; King's importance in the plot and Flagg's death. Not that I need a 150 page battle between Roland and Flagg, but to be so easily dispatched by a child who would later prove to be absolutely no threat to Roland seems wrong. Was this really the best that Roland's lifelong enemy could do? I don't know, it just doesn't add up. As for King, I didn't like his part in the plot during Song of Susannah (narcissistic) and was hoping it would not dominate the final volume, which it doesn't. I will admit that it didn't turn out as bad as I feared (I half expected Stephen King to be in the top room of the Tower), and I do appreciate that it ties the story to reality through something other than the fictional Tet Corporation in NY. While this is nice, I could have done without King ever having been in the story.

Others were bothered by the quick deaths of Mordred and the Crimson King. I wasn't. Mordred may have been powerful, but he was still a child; and a sick, dying child at that. He had to make an ill-advised move out of desperation, and I think it was wonderful that Oy was able to die defending Roland. As for the Crimson King, while the battle may have been brief, it was still exciting and not without great word play between Roland and the CK.

But boy, I sure didn't expect that!

I have to say, that upon reading the intro to the final chapter from the Storyteller himself, the warning to not read on and leave the story as it is, I was tempted to do so. I know many wouldn't agree with me, but I think Roland entering the Dark Tower and the doors shutting behind him wouldn't be a bad way to end the book. It would leave it to your imagination, what he would find there. I really almost put it down to sleep on it. But then I thought no, I have to go on. I've come this far!

Yes, in a way, the ending is tragic, sad, and extremely unfair. We have read now thousands of pages worth of Roland Deschain's torments and struggles he's gone through to get this far, and then only to have been blasted back to the beginning? It's horrible. It makes you angry. Or at least shocked. A knee jerk reaction might be to say that it was a cop out, that King didn't know how to end the book at went this route at the last minute. 

I don't really believe that. 

In a way, yes, I find the ending bittering. My heart really is broken for Roland. I don't think I've ever read a book with an ending that has left me so effected. I even reread the very end of it again this morning over breakfast. Yes, the ending is bittering, and yet, I love it in a lot of ways too. Not love it as in this is the way I think it should have ended, but love it because it knocked me on my backside, love it in the way that you can love a bad thing at times. In a way, to me at least, the ending just might make a little sense. 

It you really think about it ... what did you expect to happen to Roland once he reached the top of the Tower? Would he pass into a sort of Heaven, rejoined with his love Susan and his former Ka mates? That is probably the ending some people wanted. And if that's what happened, I would have been fine with that too. Would he have confronted God himself? And if so, what would Roland have done before such a God? Roland, one of the things that makes him so wonderful, is kind of a jerk. After all that trouble, all that sacrifice, if said God said something Roland didn't like, I think, much like Conan, he'd tell his Maker to take a flying leap, maybe even draw his gun on him and get blasted into nothingness. 

But why this? Why the torture? I think the answer is in Roland himself. I think it's a sort of punishment for Roland's arrogance and pride. I think Roland's destiny was to save the Beam, save the Dark Tower. He did that. But he insisted on moving on. He insisted on going to the top of the Dark Tower, something that is perhaps forbidden by Gan or the Powers That Be. He saved the Dark Tower, saved the Beam, and yet it was not enough. As always (and as echoed by the voices he hears at the end of the book) he has to have it His way. And for that, I think, like something out of Greek myth, he has to pay a price. 

And as King himself says in the Afterword, there is a bit of hope. In the next incarnation, he has the Horn of Eld. Something he didn't have in the previous. Perhaps, just perhaps, with some more trial and error, once the Beam and the Tower saved (perhaps stilling getting all the way, so as to kill the Crimson King), Roland may just turn around and go back to the Callas, and live out the rest of his days quiet and peacefully, maybe as a sort of Sheriff, then going to the Clearing at the End of the Path, and THEN be united with Susan, Cuthbert, Alain, and the rest. 

Maybe I'm just grateful that King didn't end it the way I feared. The more I read on, and the more sai King appeared, I was terrified and more and more certain that once Roland met face to face with the Crimson King, that it would be Stephen King himself. I even started to fear that the name, the Crimson KING was a clue. Thankfully, I was wrong. And then, I feared even worse, that once he got to the top of the tower, that there he'd find Stephen King, sitting in a pseudo office of sorts, surrounded by old books and manuscripts, as mad as the Hatter, banging away at an old typewriter and tossing the crumpled up pages over his shoulder making a big pile. That's what I feared, and compared to that, I like this ending just fine. 

Thank you Stephen King for giving me a great read and a series to add to my collection.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman : Not So Amazing Afterall !!

"The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance - leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero. -- (C) Sony"
Honestly this story line isn't all that original. Spider-Man didn't become a wrestler but wrestling still played a role. The most original thing they did was make Peter Parker feel like a regular teenager while still making him socially awkward but very intelligent. Honestly the story line in itself almost mixes effortlessly both the Ultimate version and the mainstream version of Mary and Richard Parker. The secretive work they did seems to show their CIA side in the mainstream universe, but their scientific side seems to show the Ultimate versions really well. Oz is used in the movie showing another nod to the Ultimate side, and the Lizard's master plan is actually taken out from his mainstream side and even his cartoon side back in the 90's. The plot in itself really follows the comics really well mixing concepts from the two biggest and most respected versions of Peter Parker.

Sorry but I'm still on the bandwagon for the 2002 Spidy being my favourite. The one was just... okay for me. But the original left a big impact on me. Maybe because I'm older, and I still remember seeing it in the theatre and all the hype that surrounded it. (Spiderman FINALLY getting a movie) And audiences were not disappointed. It was so brilliantly done. Younger audiences will likely prefer the new one because it's... well, new, and fresh on the screen. But it just didn't leave me with the wonderment that the first one did.

The Amazing Spider-Man is a movie that’s constantly chasing plotlines.  In this telling, Peter has been haunted by the disappearance of his parents since he was a boy.  One day, he finds his father’s old briefcase, which leads him to search for answers at Oscorp Laboratories.  There, he wanders into an unguarded room (instead of using door locks or retina scans; Oscorp uses touch-based memory puzzles), gets bitten by a genetically-mutated spider (the room is filled with them), and develops his super-speed, agility, reflexes, and strength.  Peter is driven to further investigate his parents’ disappearance, until it’s time to catch the guy who killed Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).  Peter then hones his crime-fighting abilities by fighting people who resemble his Uncle’s killer before realizing that maybe he should go after all criminals.  Meanwhile, amputee Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), who was a friend of Peter’s father (Campbell Scott), is genetically mutating animals to unlock the secret of regeneration.  Naturally, scientific investigation can only lead to horrible things, so Connors regrows his arm only to then transform into a beastly giant reptile known as “The Lizard”.  The movie then twists itself in knots to keep making Spider-Man and the Lizard fight.

And the fights are terrific, as are all the action scenes in The Amazing Spider-Man (If there were any)

Unfortunately, there’s no good reason for Spider-Man and the Lizard to fight at the high school.  Superficially, The Amazing Spider-Man can deliver an exciting ride, but the story is a mess.  The Lizard’s master plan doesn’t require him to take time out of his busy villain-schedule to go down to the high school and start fighting with Spider-Man.  If anything, it’s a distraction.  But the movie needs another action scene, and so it gets one, and it’s a good one, but it’s a pointless one.  The movie is constantly skipping ahead and taking shortcuts so it can get to where it needs to be.  It gets so bad that at one point, a minor character moves machinery in order to physically get Spider-Man where he needs to be.  This kind of sloppy writing means that the plot and character motivations in The Amazing Spider-Man don’t evolve; they simply change directions and then forget about what was happening before.  A boy’s search for his missing parents is set up as the heart of this story, and then it’s simply left by the wayside until we’re reminded about it in a scene that takes place in middle of the end credits.

Amazing Spider-Man is clearly set up as a smaller, more intimate look at the character while trying to eschew blockbuster bombast in a way that makes Webb’s movie look almost like it’s in direct opposition to Sam Raimi‘s big, happy, four-color Spider-Man trilogy.  Webb’s movie is supposed to be about the “man” behind the Spider-Man, except the man behind Peter Parker is the wrong man.  Andrew Garfield does a wonderful job at conveying the sweetness and inherent goodness of the character, but he can’t get past one gigantic obstacle: he looks like Andrew Garfield.  In the film’s attempt to make Peter more modern and realistic, they’ve fallen into a paradox where they have to acknowledge that geeks are now considered “cool”, but Peter is still a geek.  Raimi nerded-up Tobey Maguire to play Peter Parker, but Garfield looks like he could just be skateboarding home from a GQ photo shoot.  We never believe for a second that Peter is a powerless outsider, so when he gets his powers, it doesn’t feel like a boon for the teenager.  If a powerless kid got a little power drunk in a realistic setting, it would be charming and a bit dark (like half of Chronicle).  But here it just makes Peter come off like a bully and someone who doesn’t deserve the great power that’s been foisted upon him.

Garfield almost escapes the problematic character on the page through the strength of his performance, especially when he shares the screen with Emma Stone, who plays Peter’s love-interest, Gwen Stacy.  The female lead is one area where The Amazing Spider-Man clearly trounces Raimi’s films.  Whereas Mary Jane always felt like the damsel-in-distress, Gwen is smart, funny, and resourceful.  We never think of her as someone who needs saving, and while the film is content to brood over a variety of other relationships, it keeps the romance between Peter and Gwen upbeat.  There simply isn’t enough of it, and there’s definitely not enough of Stone who gets the film’s funniest moments.

The movie continues to try and outrun this narrative nonsense until it’s finally consumed by a laughably ridiculous third act where contrivances and new motivations overwhelm the viewer to the point where the film’s positive aspects aren’t enough to save the day.  When you see Spider-Man battling a giant reptile on top a skyscraper to save the city from a convenient Doomsday device, you can’t help but wonder, “Wasn’t this movie supposed to be about a powerless kid trying to find out what happened to his parents?”  I guess it’s easy to get distracted when you can swing through the air with the greatest of ease.

My Review : 6/10 (That too for the CGI)

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 6. Song of Susannah

"The next-to-last novel in Stephen King's seven-volume magnum opus,Song of Susannah is at once a book of revelation, a fascinating key to the unfolding mystery of the Dark Tower, and a fast-paced story of double-barreled suspense.
To give birth to her "chap," demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah...and terrifying to the "daughter of none," who shares her body and mind.
Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave...and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope with each other and with an alien environment "go todash" to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.
Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn't. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying. For another, it is inhabited by the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot, a writer who turns out to be as shocked by them as they are by him.
These are the simple vectors of a story rich incomplexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer's journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga's final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya)."                  - From Goodreads.

It took me till the whole of last week till the early hours of wednesday to complete this book and by god what a book it was. It is truly a Magnum Opus of Stephen King. 

Song of Susannah is another brick-of-a-book from King, carefully baked and lobbed lovingly at his constant readers, 400-plus pages (with some beautifully disturbing illustrations by Darrel Anderson, and what are purported to be some of King's notes appended as a Coda) that proceed along three story lines while slowly but inevitably merging toward one. If you haven't read any of the previous Dark Tower novels,  Song of Susannah is not the place to jump on. You will be hopelessly lost, and while King writes well here, your enjoyment of the epic tale of Roland the Gunslinger and his quest to save the Tower and all that is will be enhanced one hundred-fold if you have some idea of what the heck is going on. This is a complex, rich tale of multiple worlds.

This installment contains no summary; there is simply an immediate jump into that fabled land of "(w)hen we last left off..." which, in Wolves the Calla, was the victory of Roland and the People of Calla Bryn Sturgis over the Wolves. That joy of victory was tempered by the departure of a pregnant Susannah Dean through the Doorway Cave (I meant it when I said to read the previous books!). Right off the bat, though, things do not go quite as planned. A Beamquake shakes the foundations of all the worlds, and we learn that the Tower is in much greater jeopardy than we may have previously suspected. And as always, wherever Roland goes, gunplay is sure to follow, but this time, it's waiting for him... As  Song of Susannah commences, Roland and his band (or ka-tet), with the aid of Manni senders, are transported through the Doorway Cave to where they are most needed. Roland and Eddie Dean find themselves in rural Maine in 1977, while Father Callahan and Jake are transported to late 20th century New York City in pursuit of Susannah.

King's further explorations into the rich world of the Dark Tower are as rewarding as they ever were. The characters, by now, have become as comfortable as old friends. Still, there are new facets to be seen yet, and we get a closer look at each of them as the story goes on. This tale, however, is primarily Susannah's. Her body has been usurped by Mia, a demon-made flesh, in pursuit of Susannah's unborn child. A good deal of Song of Susannah consists of the internal dialogue between Susannah and Mia; Susannah, as a result, experiences several revelations regarding such topics as the true identity of the father of her child, as well as the prophetic purpose of his conception, and the unspeakably evil force that will stop at nothing to see that it is brought to birth.

Roland and Eddie, meanwhile, make an important side trip to force an encounter with a local writer who is rapidly gaining notoriety as the result of his recently published novel titled Salem's Lot and who may hold the key to their entire quest. The paths of Roland and Eddie, and Callahan and Jake, slowly converge toward Susannah as she gives birth to her child in most unpleasant circumstances. 

One thing is certain : love it or hate it, "Song of Susannah" is King's riskiest and most surprising work yet. One the one hand, he is taking one of the most overused plot elements in fiction -- the baby of uncertain parentage -- and making something original and interesting out of it. On the other, he is attempting something seen in modern fiction only rarely... a self-relaxive work that engages the reader on multiple levels. By the end of "Song of Susannah" you may find yourself thinking about the realities that fiction creates, and the fictions that "real" life presents us with every day. And if you do, I believe that is entirely the point. King seems to be angling not only toward a conclusion to Roland's quest, but also toward a deeply personal statement about what it is to be a writer. It is an ambitious road to travel, but so far, King has not let us down. In fact, what he has begun with this book has the potential to exceed all the expectations I had for it.

'Ware, Constant Reader: "Song of Susannah," like "The Waste Lands," ends with a cliffhanger. In fact, there is not only one cliffhanger here, but two. The last pages of "Song of Susannah" should leave many readers, as it left me, powerfully hungry for the final book in the series. What lies in wait on the final page is, to say the least, quite a shock. It leaves the fate of Roland and his companions, as well as that of the Tower itself, enshrouded in doubt.

"One more turn of the path, and then we reach the clearing."

I, for one, can't wait to get there. 

Be cautioned: the last (well, almost the last) 20 pages of  Song of Susannah are among the most nightmarish (heh heh) that King has ever written. These passages induced my forced insomnia. I hope they don't do the same to you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

King's Masterpiece : Dark Tower Series : 5. Wolves of the Calla

"The fifth installment of King's #1 "New York Times" masterpiece. Roland and his tet have just returned to the path of the Beam when they discover that they are being followed by a group of inexperienced trackers. The trackers are from the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis, and they desperately need the help of gunslingers. Once every generation, a band of masked riders known as the Wolves gallop out of the dark land of Thunderclap to steal one half of all the twins born in the Callas. When the children are returned, they are roont, or mentally and physically ruined. In less than a month, the Wolves will raid again. In exchange for Roland’s aid, Father Callahan—a priest originally from our world—offers to give Roland a powerful but evil seeing sphere, a sinister globe called Black Thirteen which he has hidden below the floorboards of his church. Not only must Roland and his tet discover a way to defeat the invincible Wolves, but they must also return to New Yorks so that they can save our world’s incarnation of the Dark Tower from the machinations of the evil Sombra Corporation."

Maybe not the best in the series...I still think the fourth book holds that place, but well worth the wait.

It is in this book we see the characters finally work together as trained Gunslingers. Each of the characters has a pressing problem and hardship in their lives, and yet they must put them aside to help the children of the Calla . How these characters deal with their own monumental problems and act as true heroes at the same time is a reflection of the fact they have become true gunslingers, following Roland.

King also takes the opportunity to let this book show us more of Roland's world and culture. I found the dance Roland did at the start of the book fascinating, and the society of goddess worshiping disk throwing women seemed like they might have walked out of the pages of Roman Mythology. King does a great job rounding the culture, and giving us views of the world just as if we were reading a historical fiction, instead of high fantasy.

Wolves of the Calla, at 736 pages, is the longest yet of the series. But the length is justified as King takes time to create characters and places so real, you feel as if you might have been there before in some odd and half forgotten dream. He builds suspense to the final battle with the Wolves, and then makes that battle as fast, and horrible as any real war skirmish.

Many complained about the references to pop culture, Kings other works, and aspects of the "real" world, but I thought they only served to make the idea of the Tower as an axis of reality more believable. Making himself a real, yet invisible character in the book gave me a little shiver, after all...if King is real in that world so am I and all his readers. Heh heh heh. It only served to make the sense of so many realities tied in one moment of fate more grand.

King also makes the themes of choices and payment for those choices central. Lives are altered forever by the Calla's choice to go along with the Wolves so long. Susannah's brave choice of using her sexuality as a weapon against the portal demon in book 3 is now coming due for payment as the birth of her monstrous child approaches. The choice the Father makes in forcing Roland's hand to not offer Susannah an abortion is about to be paid. Yet, King doesn't moralize these choices. He shows each character as someone who simply made the best choice they could. There is a great tragedy in this, and also a great beauty. 

I recommend this to anyone who has found their hearts tied to the fate of the brave little Ka-Tet. To anyone who has not read the others, go back to book one first and take the journey to this one. Only then will you truly understand the path that these brave gunslingers have walked so far, to save the tower and all realities. And you will understand how far the along the path they really have still to go.

Wolves of the Calla is an excellent blend of horror, science fiction and fantasy. It is entertaining and thought provoking. King develops the characters in a way that makes them human and allows the events to flow like a river downstream... into the gaping mouth of a blood thirsty monster. In this alternate universe nothing is what it seems, yet everything has an air of familiarity. It is in this familiarity that King frightens us the most, because there is nothing more frightening that the alternate reality of King's mind.

Hold on to your horses, kids. Its going to be a hell of a ride.