Thoughts on The Waste Lands (Dark Tower Book 3) by Stephen King

I continue to be entertained and ensnared by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  A somewhat slow start snowballed into a tension-filled, exciting conclusion with a heck of a cliffhanger.  (Sidenote:  I have absolutely NO idea how one would adapt this series into a movie.  It will be very interesting to see what the filmmakers do with this.)  In the third installment, our three gunslingers from The Drawing of the Three, Roland, Eddie, and Susannah, are joined by a familiar face and a billy-bumbler, an adorable dog-like raccoonish creature named Oy, who is smart and sweet and loyal AND IF OY DIES IN LATER INSTALLMENTS I WILL LOSE IT.  (But don’t tell me, please, if you’ve read this series.)

34084Man, this series is hard to write about without revealing major plot points.  The Waste Lands opens with the three slowly making their way in the direction of The Dark Tower. Roland is not feeling so hot, and Eddie and Susannah (who’ve fallen in love) are worried about his mental state.  Enter a giant sentient bear (!) named Mir who is going insane and suffering from some sort of gross disease.  He rampages through their camp and (mild spoiler, but not really because it happens pretty early on) unsuccessfully tries to kill one of the three.  When Mir is killed they find out that he’s got some kind of machine attached to his head, and it’s gone haywire.  Roland tells Eddie and Susannah about the legends of the Twelve Guardians who stand guard at twelve different portals in and out of the world. At the center is the Dark Tower.  Mir was apparently one of the guardians. So they just have to find the door it was guarding, and they’ll be that much closer to the Dark Tower. This all happens in the first 70 pages or so, and my edition was 590 pages, so there’s a lot of stuff I’m not writing about!  There’s some shifting back-and-forth in the narrative between Mid-World and our world (late 1970’s era.)  The gunslingers (plus the familiar face and the billy-bumbler) eventually end up in a seriously scary dystopian nightmare of a city for the thrilling conclusion of the book.

What I like about this series so far, aside from the inventiveness of Mid-World and the compelling overarching mythology, is the camaraderie of our gang.  Eddie and Susannah’s relationship is sweet and feels natural.  Roland is assessing his companions in a new light given their growth since being pulled into Mid-World.  They are now fully capable and on equal footing; Roland has learned to trust them.  I am becoming attached to these characters, which I have a feeling is a dangerous thing to do and I quite possibly will be shedding some tears in future installments.  I am really intrigued as to how King will resolve this series, so I definitely plan to keep reading.

I’ve read that the fourth book in the series, Wizard and Glass, goes back and fills in more of Roland’s backstory, and doesn’t pick up immediately where this one ends.  If I’d been reading this as they were being published I would have been like What the heck, Stephen King?  Six years later and you didn’t even tell me what happened to our gang?!? But I have the privilege of being late to the party on this one.  So I’m not in a super hurry to read the next one. I’m taking a little break, at least until #20BooksofSummer is over in September.  I’m kind of surprised by how much I like this series.  As I’ve mentioned before, fantasy is not a genre I’ve read a lot in, and I had previously pegged Stephen King as a writer of “scary stuff” that I was too much of a wimp to read.  But I guess it’s just another example of how, in life, we are only limited by the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  I like being surprised by reading.

(This is book #6 of my 20 Books of Summer.  I’m wavering on sticking to the rest of my list.  In fact, I’m fairly confident that I’ll be substituting a whole lot of my original list with picks based on my mood for the rest of the summer.)

So what was the last “pleasant surprise” read for you, or a book or series outside of your reading comfort zone that you ended up really enjoying?

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18 thoughts on “Thoughts on The Waste Lands (Dark Tower Book 3) by Stephen King

  1. “we are only limited by the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves” — I love this!

    I’m glad that you’re enjoying the series and you keep making me want to read it! I’m on the waitlist at the library for the first one but doubt that I’ll be able to read the entire series before the movie is released. You’re doing a great job with these reviews! They DO seem really hard to write about 🙂

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    1. They’re impossible. Which is why I basically just tell you how it begins, and then i get really vague about the rest. 🙂 I know I won’t read them all before the movie comes out, but then again, I so rarely go see a movie in the THEATER that it won’t matter much, ha ha. Maybe I’ll have them done by the time it comes out on DVD!

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  2. Yay! This one is my favorite. There are so many great scenes, and it’s wonderful to watch the characters come together. But, oh, that ending! I read the first four books after Wizard and Glass was published, and I can’t imagine reading the series as it came out and having to wait for years. Wizard and Glass is mostly flashback, but not entirely. It picks up where this ends and then goes back, so the wait after that cliffhanger is not entirely ridiculous.

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  3. You’re not alone in having dismissed King for thinking he was “x”, but because he always puts characterization first, he pulls you over the resistance, if you just read a few pages. It’s so exciting to read your progress on this series in particular, as it’s a gap in my King reading, but I am looking forward to it (though I’d be just as attached to Oy – and not ALL Canadians call them that! – *looks askance at AnneLogan17* :)). My last surprise was a McSweeney’s collection of South Sudan refugee stories, which was gripping and unputdownable, whereas I was expecting it to be simply sad and more sad with a side of sad.

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      1. Yes it happens up here, sometimes: I’m sorry! 🙂

        Most recently, I enjoyed the Joe Hodges series (beginning with Mr. Mercedes), which was more mystery (albeit some rather bloody murders) when I thought it was going to be more horror (based on the covers). Again, it was all about character for me, especially the minor ones who come into the story along the way (in the first book carrying through, mostly). Before that I read 22/11/63, which turned out to feel like as much of a love story as a time-travel novel, and I enjoyed that quite a bit too. I should probably put him on my MustReadEverything list, cuz he has never disappointed me (although sometimes I’ve found a story in the wrong reading mood, but that’s on me). Are you thinking of trying something outside this series?

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      2. I’ve thought about the very same ones you mentioned. I’m so glad you enjoyed those. That speaks well of them! It will take me a while to get through the Dark Tower series, but I’ll get to the others eventually.

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  4. Do you know if they’re trying to cram all of the Dark Tower books into one movie? I’m not 100% sure what the Dark Tower stories is about (it sounds like a quest, but I’m not sure what’s being sought). I was really surprised by Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. It’s a thriller novel and I don’t read those. The synopsis was off-putting: seemingly perfect marriage full of secrets and not so perfect. Bleh. Do better writers, ammirite? But Irvine Welsh recommended it, and I love his work. And the synopsis did not, DID NOT, do it justice at all. So I was surprised!

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    1. You’re right, that synopsis sounds Bleh. Glad to know it was much better!

      The quest is to reach The Dark Tower, but I’m not exactly sure what Roland and the gang are supposed to do when they get there. The darkness is taking over all the realms, and I guess when they get there they need to do something to stop that. It’s kinda vague. But so far a thrill-ride! I’m not sure exactly about the movie. I’ve read that they’re taking events from the first and third books for this film. But that there are plans to do more movies and/or TV series about it? Also vague. 🙂

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  5. I am going to make a confession here, Laila. 🙂 I haven’t read a novel written by Stephen King. *shakes her head in disbelief* When I was writing for a newspaper, I was asked to read his memoir, which I adored. Since then I have been telling myself that I should read his books. But I am being such a sloth. 🙂 I have ‘The Shining’ staring at me from my bookshelf. Maybe, I should go to it.

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    1. Deepika, if it makes you feel any better I hadn’t read any of this fiction until this series! I’d read his book about writing, which was very good. But I’d not been able to read any of his “scary stuff.” I might go back and read some of those now! I have heard lots of good things about 11/22/63 and the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. But don’t feel bad! We can’t read everything.

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