Title: Wolves of the Calla

Author: Stephen King

Hardback: 709 pages

Publisher: Plume (2003)

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About the Book (From Publishers Weekly):

"Time is a face on the water," stretching and contorting reality as gunslingers Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and their talking pet "billy-bumbler" Oy continue their quest to prevent the destruction of the Dark Tower and, consequently, save all worlds from Chaos and the Crimson King's evil, red-eyed glare. Roland-the primary hero of King's epic tale, the first volume of which appeared in 1982-and company momentarily fall off the "Path of The Beam" to help the residents of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a farm town. But as Dark Tower fans know, everything follows The Beam, so what looks like a detour may really serve the will of "ka" (destiny). Roland and his posse learn that every 20-odd years the "Wolves" kidnap one child from each set of the Calla's twins, bring them to the Tower and, weeks later, send them back mentally and physically impaired. Meanwhile, back in 1977 New York City (the alternate world of Roland's surrogate son, Jake), bookstore owner Calvin Tower is being threatened by a group of thugs (readers will recognize them from The Drawing of the Three, 1987) to sell them a vacant lot in midtown Manhattan. In the lot stands a rose, or rather the Rose, which is our world's manifestation of the Dark Tower. With the help of the Old Fella (also known to `Salem's Lot readers as Father Callahan), the gunslingers must devise a plan against evil in both worlds. The task, however, is further complicated as Roland and his gang start noticing behavioral changes in wheelchair-bound, recovered schizophrenic Susannah.As the players near the Tower, readers will keep finding exciting ties between the Dark Tower universe and King's other books, with links to Black House, Insomnia, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Stand, `Salem's Lot and Hearts in Atlantis. The high suspense and extensive character development here (especially concerning Jake's coming-of-age), plus the enormity of King's ever-expanding universe, will surely keep his "Constant Readers" in awe.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.



Bruceís Appraisal:

††††††††††† If it hadnít been for Wizard and Glass, I could still say that every volume of this series was better than the last. Wolves of the Calla doesnít rise to those lofty heights for one primary reason, but it is the best of the ďserialĒ novels to date.To compare any book of the Dark Tower series to Wizard and Glass isnít terribly fair, as each other volume tells a portion of the story, whereas Wizard and Glass encapsulates a single great tale, beginning, middle and end.

††††††††††† Comparing any volume to volume four, is as unjust as comparing any piece against a whole. Among the more traditional installments of the series, Wolves of the Calla stands tall and proud, say thankya.Say thankya big big.

††††††††††† What truly separates the volumes of this series from all of Stephen Kingís other works is the manner in which he creates not just characters but entire worlds.The characterizations in Kingís work are the truest strengths of it, but here we see that talent for sharing the gems of his imagination applied not just to people but also to places and cultures.

††††††††††† And yet, what stands out clearest?Jericho Hill.It comes out of nowhere in the story, but with clear provocation and lasting impact.The short vignette in the heart of Wolves of the Calla answers a question that every reader of the series canít help but ask, and yet dreads the day he learns the answer.And what an answer it is.Surely, thereís more to come, but just the bit that is in this novel has more weight than the few pages taken to convey it.

††††††††††† There are seven hundred other pages in the book that donít have anything to do with Jericho Hill, and they are all packed with the same manner of genius. The titular Calla, Call Bryn Sturgis, is a haven of idiosyncrasy that fits perfectly into Rolandís world, and is yet accessible to those reared in twentieth-century earth.From the tie-ins to Maine (I loved it when the Pere returned to Roland with the comparison of ďdo yaĒ and ďayuhĒ), to the much more prevalent tie-ins to the American Western, this book takes place right where it needs to, but it cries out with similarities that beg the question, ďJust whoís earth is this?Ē

††††††††††† Another nice touch is the growing number of impossible coincidences.While these would stand as flaws in any other work, the Dark Tower series becomes a celebration of parallels.Everything from names appearing in different places, in different whens and wheres, to paradoxical loops and near-paradoxes.Stephen King delights in the freedom to draw everything around in one ouroboros after the next.

††††††††††† The one that stands out clearest deals with the title of the book itself.The Calla is home to Callahan, a concept repeated throughout the book.What is less apparent, though, was to have Calvin Towerís name drawn back into that loop (and a clever bit of verse running through Callahanís mind when he realizes it).Callahanís short trip to the post office late in the book is priceless, and also a stunning revelation of just how much effort Stephen King has put into drawing all his realities together.He never misses a step.

††††††††††† Start to finish, Wolves of the Calla is a how-to for building suspense.The heroes prepare throughout for one mother of a battle. In true gunslinger fashion, the finale is short and brutal, a fact foreshadowed throughout as Roland thinks about the five minutes of violence that end every scenario like this.

††††††††††† That last chapter is mindboggling.My pulse became that jackhammer in Times Square, and my breath fled faster than those poor foolsí in Lud.I couldnít read fast enough, but I didnít want to miss a word.From the truth of the plan to Rolandís advise to his partner in the waggon outside Gloria and Redbird, to the absolute gut punch delivered in the heart of the battle, the climax of Wolves of the Calla is every bit worth the build up.

††††††††††† And, of course, there is the requisite Dark Tower cliffhanger ending.Thank God Stephen King doesnít write serials more often, because he is a master at making you run to the shelf and grab the next volume.Iíve been stressing over the title of Song of Susannah since I read about the songs of the dead in the Dark TowerÖIím suitably nervous about even starting book six.

††††††††††† With just two volumes left, Iím now fully aware of the myriad reasons for web sites, comic books, conventions, and numerous editions and rumored films centered around this series.Itís unlike anything else Stephen King has done, but like the Dark Tower it stands at the center of everything.It canít exist without the rest, and I have to wonder if the rest would ever have come about if the Dark Tower hadnít been built first, in Kingís nineteen-year-old imagination.Delightful.