Book Review: The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands by Stephen King, The Dark Tower #3

In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

And the tower awaits....

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 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 and what is driving him. Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of foes—both more and less than human....

I think two years ago I said to myself that I had to reread the The Dark Tower series of Stephen King, but with going solo for my reviewing blog, quitting at Fantasy Book Review, it kind of got sidetracked. So as a new year resolution I decided to pick up where it was left. Which is with The Waste Lands. As some of you might know, The Dark Tower is really dear to me as it was with this series that I made the foray into the fantasy genre.  

The Waste Lands picks up directly where The Drawing of Three was left. Having survived the lobstrosities on the beach and having been able to draw both Eddie and Susannah through the doors they continue to make there way across a perilous land toward the Tower that is ever looming in the distance. 

Now that Roland, Sussanah and Eddie are a Ka-tet they continue in the path of the beam. There was one encounter back in The Drawing of Three, that has left Roland's state of mind a bit addled. Next to Eddie and Susannah, Roland had to draw a third person, Jake, but this turned out differently than planned. Now Roland's thoughts are both in Mid-World and in the New York of Jake (will get to that). The first thing that they encounter once they make their way of the beach is a forest clearing and in this clearing they meet one of the Guardians, a bear named Shardik. Well... not a fully natural bear, no more something in the lines of a cyborg, he has a small antenna going for him on the top of his head. Shardik is all from friendly and he attacks Roland's ka-tet leaving no other option than to take him out. Roland can't make the shot though and he has to rely on his gunslinger in training Susannah to take the shot and save Eddie's life. Sorry for the spoiler but luckily Susannah hits and t as Shardik's mechanical body starts to decompose in a manner it reveals some bits and piece of the world that has moved on. Shardik was made by North Central Positronics. But what does a mechanical being do as a Guardian and moreover in a world that hasn't seen any electricity for many of years? Question keep on being raised. 

After this encounter the storyline focuses on Jake in his present day world and his dealing at Piper Academy. One of the best schools for a young boy to go to. However Jake feels weird, he hears things and knows things. Yes Jake is being drawn to specific things in his world. Things he cannot explain. Also the blackouts aren't quite helping hims dealing with the manner. If you read the previous books you all know what the relation was between Jake and Roland, that their first encounter was way back in the waystation. In the end of it all, both the storyline of Jake in New York and that of Roland and his ka-tet in Mid-World meets through another door. This is really one of my favorite scenes of the whole book, it's so intense and action packed, at every moment of how Jake is drawn into Mid-World it felt like it could go severely wrong. I was rooting with all my fingers for Jake not to get killed. As you might guess, Jake finally reunites with Roland and gets to meet Eddie and Susannah. So now with the whole party complete it's time to chase the Beam once again. Since they met Shardik they now follow the direct path of the Beam. 

If you think that 4 was enough for a ka-tet you are wrong. One day when Roland and his ka-tet are walking the path of the Beam they encounter a creature known as a billybumbler I picture them as a sort of dog/raccoon kind of beings. Jake tries to befriend him and has just gained another friend. Oy, the billybumbler. Now you can say that the band is full. And they start to walk again, in the direction of the Tower. All of a sudden they see something looming in the distance, a skyline of a city. With their interest piques Roland and his ka-tet set out to find out what it is and here they stumble on the ruins of what once was the magnificent city of Lud. And just as when Roland and Jake were reunited, they soon get separated as they meet quite a disturbed fellow, Gasher, who bargains them a safe passage in trade for Jake. Roland mentions to Jake that he wont let him fall another time. And when Gasher brings Jake to the Tik Tok Man, Roland is in pursuit. In the mean time Eddie and Susannah are busy in Lud finding Blaine. Blaine is a pain, is a train is the mono. Who can get the ka-tet safely out of Lud. But only if Blaine were a bit more cooperative. With a lot of hassle Eddie and Susannah manage to persuade Blaine to take them on a ride, but this all comes with a price as the ka-tet has to up with a riddle that Blaine cannot solve, if they can't Blaine will kill Roland and his new found friends. 

Of course this above is all a heavily shortened version of the book, there is so much more going on in The Waste Land. The discoveries that Jake does in his journey through New York, like the book of riddles and the book about the trains. Next to this you also have the river crossing and the growing relation between Eddie and Susannah and lets not forget Roland who is perhaps a young man in an old world but also old and wise trying to get closer to his goal while training Eddie and Susannah in the ways of the gunslingers of old. 

There is one thing of the world of The Dark Tower that I will mention each and everytime I am discussing these books. The world building. It's immense and literally and figuratively dimension spanning. In the first book, The Gunslinger, the premise seemed to be a bit of a weird western setting but soon you hear stuff about canned food an other references in the waystation but also literal demons. The weirdness continues in The Waste Lands as now you get the full load of references and I think I am only starting to appreciate it all much more with the reread. I got a much better grip on how Eddie and Susannah see the world of Mid-World and how Roland does. Roland doesn't know any better and that is his right of course he doesn't know better. Eddie and Susannah start to discuss the world. There are hints towards a nuclear war that destroyed the world and come to think of it, it might just be the case, the muties, mutated bees or cows do stand in the side of the road. When it comes to weapons, for handguns and rifles munition is rare so spear are often used the few that have weapons cherish their ammunition. BUT there is also the reference of planes and tanks, and Jake recognizes them as being from the second world war. Added to this comes the cyborg Shardik and of course Blaine the Mono. What is going on? I think I can slowely form an opinion about Mid-World. It must be a dystopian future of our planet earth but then all the sort of ancient influences, it throws me off game. I could continue hours talking about this world. It's Epic. It's awesome and it's cool.

The Waste Lands continues the winning streak of the magnus opus series of Stephen King. From the start in The Gunslinger Stephen King won me over, it continued in The Drawing of Three and it feels as if finally the ground work of The Dark Series has been laid down. All the characters are in place, and part of the story has been told but it does feel (and I know) that there is much more in store for Roland and his ka-tet. Wizard and Glass the fourth book will be something different, of course we will first encounter the finale between Blaine and Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy. Afterwards we will see quite the change in time and scenery. Once again The Dark Tower is a magnificent series, thought provoking and highly creative. Highly recommended, this is one of the master pieces that you have to have read.


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