It’s so funny, as I’m reading this series for the first time, to see the (very) polarizing opinions about each book. One person gives it up after the first thirty pages of the first book because it’s so fucking weird, the next wants to read all of them in a mad, passionate frenzy. One person thinks book two is the greatest (me), another thinks it’s boring as shit (an opinion I can’t understand). Yet another counts this here book as their favorite and reviles book four. Etc, etc.
I find this fascinating, and for me, it’s evidence that King has a vision that he is executing at the expense of nothing. These are weird books, and only getting weirder even as the story makes more sense. Every other book I’ve read of his has been accessible in style and subject matter, and even the fantastical ones have played by the rules. Pants-shitting terrifying, or disturbing? Yes, often and more than not. But never like this.
With this series, King seems to be reaching deep down into the crevasses* of his mind and pulling up story from the deep below. From the first page of The Gunslinger, this story felt like a fever dream, real and yet unreal at the same time, metaphors made tangible, side by side with mundane, solid reality. The imagery contained in these first three books, which is at its strongest in this third book, has such power it drives the story seemingly without need for an author. (This feeling of mine was validated in the Author’s Note at the end, when he says that the book wrote itself.)
*And yes, I mean “crevasses,” not “crevices” here. I’m meaning to imply deep down, fucked up subconscious shit going on. Deep fucking glacier crack nonsense, none of this ‘ooh, just a little fissure’ imagery. “Crevices” is not gonna get that done.
This one didn’t do it for me in as clear and simple a way as The Drawing of Three did, but I liked it nonetheless. It has less discovery and introspection, and more movement and action, which are never my favorite things. But what is there is so fucking bizarre at times, and always with that same real/not-real quality, it seems like King has pulled some of it from the primal recesses of your own mind.
The book is essentially split in two. The first half sees Roland training up his two new gunslingers, and finally bringing the final members of their ka-tet together, also dealing with the ramifications of what happened to Jake back in the first book. The second half is actually the beginning of their journey. They’re done preparing, they’ve gathered the fellowship and met with the Council of Elrond (so to speak), and all the members of the ka-tet have shared (most of) their knowledge with one another. And that’s when it really gets weird. The last fifty pages of this book were so freaky, but so hard to put down.
The book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, although I’m with King in that it feels like the right place to end this chapter of the story. I can definitely see how it would have driven people insane to wait the six years in between this book and the next, but I also really like the idea of Roland and his ka-tet on that Disneyland train-ride from (or is it to?) Hell, in a sort of suspended animation, waiting to see what happens next. Is that perverse? I dunno, I guess I’m kinda perverse.