Title: The Waste Lands

Author: Stephen King

Hardback: 420 pages

Publisher: Plume (1992)

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Appraising Eyeballs:


About the Book (From Publishers Weekly):

King's third volume on Roland the gunfighter's search for the Dark Tower offers charming bits of whimsy, some splendidly tense moments and one rip-roaring horror scene. At times, however, it is pretentious and the direction of the sprawling plot uncertain. Roland has two companions on his quest for the tower at the portal of all the worldsp. 53 : Susannah Dean and Eddie Dean, who entered his world from New York City of 1963 and 1987, respectively. When the three track down the den of a 70-foot-tall cyborg bear, they are pointed down a path leading to the Tower. But Roland is slowly going mad, a fact that seems linked to his past experiences with Jake Chambers, a boy who died twicestet ital in the first book of the series. Jake reappears here, displaying great resilience in crossing over from 1977 New York City to join Roland & Co. (As Susannah notes, "This time-travel business is some confusing shit.") They press on, plumbing the depths of a children's book that tells a profound and ancient tale. Unfortunately, the questers don't reach the Tower; in fact, they're caught in a cliff-hanger ending--King says, he'll write volume four if we want it. Illustrations not seen by PW. 1.5 million first printing; $400,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections.

Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.



Bruce’s Appraisal:

            I came to love this book more than the two that came before it.  While The Drawing of the Three reads like Stephen King in places, this is the first book that really feels like a walk in the world of the King.  It’s him throughout, with an in-your-face zaniness that brings a smile even as the candor of his observations leaves you shaking your head in awe that it wasn’t so clear the moment before you read it.

            The artwork within this volume takes a turn from the suggestive to the representative.  In the second volume, especially, it was sometimes difficult to figure out just what was being shown in a picture.  Here, we sometimes see too much. 

            I was a bit worried that nothing was ever going to happen in this series.  After all, the first book introduces the Gunslinger, and the second his Amazing Friends.  The second volume cleverly manages to succeed without anything so fundamental as an antagonist.  Oh, a familiar villain shows up…kind of…but he’s far from what we’d expect.  It’s almost entirely a Man vs. Nature story, with a few good guys turning on one another every now and again for added flavor. 

            It seemed possible that the third one would introduce us to the Gunslinger’s aunts and uncles, maybe with a vivid retelling of a beach vacation before all the sand moved on… “And here are my slides of the lobster fest…”

            As before, I was blissfully in error.  It was both heartening and horrifying to see that first picture.  A giant bear.  With…What was that on his head? 

            Dear Lord, he’s lost his mind.

            But then I read it.  And it rocked.  Far beyond my meager expectations.

            The Waste Lands gets cooler with each mammoth chapter (and what’s up with the four-chapter novels in this series? Cut us some slack!).  From Shardik, who completely blew me away (gross pun intended), to an in-depth study of paradox (The first time I realized the extent to which I had underestimated this series), to the arrival of something I had been anticipating since the palaver at the end of The Gunslinger.  Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have found our antagonist!

            The Waste Lands never ceases to amaze.  It paints an ever-clearer portrait of a world I would love to see, but only from a great distance and the comfort of my living room, my most decidedly not-moved-on living room.  This volume reintroduces a character and develops the world itself, and it does so while providing some motion to the overall arc of the series.  The heroes of the ka-tet grow more lifelike with every chapter, and each one continues to grow and excel even as the team forms bonds that I doubt even Old Splitfoot could sunder. 

            Also, Stephen King avoids Scrappy Doo complex on not only one but two counts.  There is a child who is fathomlessly impressive and realistic in his precociousness, and there is also an adorable pet who manages to rise above a gimmick and into a role as an actual character in the novel.  The greatest stumbling blocks of the novel transform into pillars on which it stands proudly above many lesser works.

            And that’s the clearest description of part three of The Dark Tower.  Each time I worried about what was to come, I found myself not only proven wrong but proven spectacularly wrong.  And the true delight is that I didn’t read this back in 1992, so I didn’t have to wait till 1997 to find out how that cliffhanger ending resolved itself.  Delightful.