This is my second read through the series, having read The Drawing of the Three and The Gunslinger a few more times. The first time I read this book was about 8 or so years ago while being a nanny for my newly adopted nephew. He cried a lot and I would sometimes sing to him, or I would sit with him and rock him while playing the audiobook of this aloud for us both to hear. He was an infant, so it was ok.
It remains a solid entry in the series, and goofy as hell at times, especially since the train figures so much in the imagery of the book –the cover, Charlie the Choo Choo– but actually ends up being a pretty small part of it.
It’s also the first time that the fake mythopoesis of the books turn into some real mythopoesis. What this means for this book is that the multiple worlds of this series also fold in our own world more so. The best example of this being the large bear Shardik, who is named from the Richard Adams book. I don’t know that book, but in this novel, Jake recognizes the name, so it’s not just an allusion.
This aspect of these books is a mixed bag to say the least, sometimes being really strong and sometimes not. Stephen King already has a bad habit of listing out books and music he likes in lieu of a character having, well, a character, and so the idea of a book that has been out for like 15 years (by the time of this book) having enough mythic pull to exist as a giant guardian in another world seems a little silly.
The book itself is solid and the world they’re inhabiting feels so dripping with fantasy trappings (in a good way) that’s the narrative is grotesque and wonderful throughout.