Things always look clearer when we see them over our shoulder, don’t they?
I read this book ages ago and I thought it was fun and action filled and while I was in the search of the full Dark Tower, I didn’t stop enough to admire the way it was written and how much it foresaw of Roland’s final choices and his obsession with the Horn of Eld.
The Wolves were mechanical robots designed to look like Dr. Doom from the Marvel comics and their primary purpose was kidnapping twins from the town of Calla in order to process special enzymes in their brain that would probably be linked to the twins mental ability to communicate with each other. Only one twin would be kidnapped, the other left behind. The twin would eventually be returned but he would be stuck in a mental age less than ten, would forget basic functions like bladder control and when they reached puberty, they would grow to gigantic sizes and they would die.
Tian had his sister stolen when he was younger and when she was returned, she would only speak a few words and he started using her instead of an oxen to plow the dry fields of his plot.
When Roland and his ka-tet approach Calla – they are found by Callahan – the priest from Salem’s Lot – and we hear the town ask for aid and Roland does his famous Comalla dance (the rice song). The book is pretty amazing – from the discovery of Callahan’s past, to the inter-dimensional travel back-and-forths towards New York in order to purchase the plot of the Rose – to the preparations and final battle against the Wolves.
For months – sometimes even years – time hardly seems to exist. Then everything comes in a gasp
I loved the story woven – like a tapestry – the troubles they face are pretty common: will Susannah’s split personality become an issue during the last battle? Will she give birth to a demon monster? Will Roland’s developing arthritis impede him using his guns during the final battle?
I was pretty amazed to see how the former junkie Eddie Dean had turned a new leaf. He’s become a hazel-eyed gunslinger and his love for his wife, Susannah, is pretty cute.
They are a proper ka-tet. “Not three, not four, One.
That Roland should finish them so, complete them so, was horrible. He was filled with poison and had kissed them with his poisoned lips
Naught be zero, naught be free
I owe not you, nor you owe me.
Roland had made them gunslingers against their will and he will destroy each and every single one of them in his quest for the Dark Tower. But for now they are one unit, complete and trust-filled.
“Do you know you come to the line of Eld?” Roland asked in that same curiously gentle voice. He stretched a hand towards Eddie, Susannah, and Jake. Even toward Oy. “For these are mine, sure. As I am theirs. We are round, and roll as we do. And you know what we are.”
But Roland, the last of his line, is alone. He’s added more gunslingers in the world but they are not like him. They’re his adopted apprentices but they are not his blood. His line will perish along with him and so is his quest ever more important. He needs to reach the Dark Tower, no matter the cost (to him).
“Never had he seen a man who looked so lonely, so far from the run of human life with its fellowship and warmth,” Eddie thinks. “To see him here, in this place of fiesta…only underlined the truth of him: he was the last. There was no other. If Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy were of his line, they were only a distant shoot, far from the trunk.”
It seems that as Roland approaches his Tower so does the world slowly spin out of existence. The time no longer flows as it used to, the North and South poles change places every year or so and there are mutants and radiation poisoning everywhere.
Best parts of the book:
Roland’s Commalla dance.
“Gunslinger, we say thankee!” a woman called. “Such joy we feel, aye!”
“And do I not feel the same?” the gunslinger asked gently. “Do I not give you joy from my joy, and water I carried with the strength of my arm and my heart?” they chanted as one, and Eddie felt his back prickle and his eyes tear up.
“Oh my God,” Jake sighed. “He knows so …”
“Give you joy of the rice,” Roland said.
He stood for a moment longer in the orange glow, as if gathering his strength, and then he began to dance something that was caught between a jig and a tap routine. It was slow at first, very slow, heel and toe, heel and toe. Again and again his bootheels made that fist-on-coffintop sound, but now it had rhythm. rhythm at first, and then, as the gunslinger’s feet began to pick up speed, it was more than rhythm: it became a kind of jive.
I loved how the world of Calla was depicted as a farmer’s town – with traditions and songs and a close-bound community. I really thought that Roland’s move to perform the traditional Rice dance was the best diplomatic move he could have made in order to get accepted by the community.
Roland meets the rose
Roland saw all the phantoms of his life in this shadowed, brick-strewn ruin, from his mother and his cradle-amah right up to their visitors from Calla Bryn Sturgis. And as they walked, that sense of rightness grew. A feeling that all his hard decisions, all the pain and loss and spilled blood, had not been for nothing, after all. There was a reason. There was a purpose. There was life and love. He heard it all in the song of the rose, and he too began to cry. Mostly with relief. Getting here had been a hard journey. Many had died. Yet here they lived; here they sang with the rose. His life had not all been a dry dream after all.
I had to stop at this. Roland’s life is a dream. His quest for the tower – the way it ends in book 7 shows that his entire trip to the end of the world was just a dream. He lost everyone he ever loved and then he had to start all over again. But maybe the next iteration, the next dream will be different as he will own the Horn of Eld.
What I didn’t like about the book
Callahan’s time in New York and his time with AA. I felt a bit of Stephen King’s own struggle with the booze in that section. Oh, and also, when the book ends, the ka-tet goes to New York again and finds a copy of Salem’s Lot depicting Pere Callahan’s struggle with the vampires. I felt that breaking the fourth wall here was a pretty dumb move. It gets worse in book 7 but I felt that the few last pages could have been done without this self-adulation and leave this to be a great book.