Monday, December 26, 2011

Wizard and Glass - Stephen King

1997; 694 pages.  Book #4 in the Dark Tower series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Epic fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    The ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah, and Oy continue their quest to reach the Dark Tower.  Alas, as the story opens, they're trapped on a psychotic monorail train called Blaine, bound for an otherworldly Topeka, Kansas.  They will either arrive in peace, or in pieces.

What's To Like...
    At last we get some much-needed background about Roland the Gunslinger.  Specifically, he tells the rest of the band the saga of his first true love, Susan Delgado.  We are also introduced to his two bestest buds, Alain and Cuthbert.

    The backstory is a fantastic piece of story-telling by Stephen King.  The bad guys are formidable and cunning; the good guys make mistakes (especially Roland), particularly in underestimating the baddies.  There is romance and sorcery, and a kewl Alt-History world.  There is plenty of action and unexpected plot twists; and a few nuggets of wit and humor are scattered about amongst the drama.

    The ending is an improvement over the cheap cliffhanger device used to close out Book #3.  The cast of characters in Roland's tale, even the secondary ones, are fully-developed and fun to get to know.

Kewlest New Word...
Ruction : an unpleasant reaction to, or a complaint about something.

    Jutting from the center of the falls, perhaps two hundred feet below the point where the river actually went over the drop, were two enormous stone protrusions.  Although Jake had no idea how a sculptor (or a team of them) could have gotten down to where they were, he found it all but impossible to believe they had simply eroded that way.  They looked like the heads of enormous, snarling dogs.
    The Falls of the Hounds, he thought.  There was one more stop beyond this - Dasherville - and then Topeka.  Last stop.  Everybody out.  (pg. 33)

    Roland looked up and saw Susan sitting in her window, a bright vision in the gray light of that fall morning.  His heart leaped up and although he didn't know it then, it was how he would remember her most clearly forever after - lovely Susan, the girl at the window.  So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all.  The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds.  Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.  (pg. 376)

Argyou not about the hand you are delt in cards or life.  (pg. 179)
    The weird thing about Wizard and Glass is that the backstory is literally 3/4 of the book.  It is therefore not surprising that the main story - the quest for the Dark Tower - hardly progresses at all.

    Blaine-the-train is quickly dispatched; our heroes land in a parallel-world Kansas that has been laid waste by some sort of plague; Roland tells his story; and that's pretty much it.  There is a closing, climactic encounter with some baddies, but it doesn't resolve much.  One wonders when Stephen King is going to get around to advancing the main plotline.

    Still, the merits of the backstory far outshine the slow-moving main tale.  So let's sit back and enjoy an enchanting saga from Roland's youth, and we'll worry about the Dark Tower some other day.  8½ Stars.

No comments: