The story starts on Blaine, and big spoiler here (
While they’re in this thinny, at any rate, they stop, and Roland tells the story they’ve been demanding to know. He’s 14, and it follows just after his story to Jake in the first book left off. And it had a female character who was useful to the plot! Imagine that. She was pretty easy to read as a character and not very interesting or unique, but that didn’t make her bad or anything. Just not flashy. Which is fine, because I was way more interested in Cuthbert and Alaine. I found the Spanish in the town they were in, in a Gunslinger world version of Texas, to be a little random, but what would a western be without it’s random Spanish? It clashed with the image I had, but I can forgive it.
The thing I liked best about the story of Roland as a child was that he messed up, often and big time. He was very flawed, but didn’t think he was. Things were going great, and then the shit hit the proverbial fan. He thought he had a grip on the crisis, and he kicked major ass (sorry, this part requires strong language, it was awesome!), but he only had part of the picture, and meanwhile people were dying and the rest of his plan was going horribly wrong. And in the end, he didn’t come out okay. Yeah, obviously he survived, but mentally he was bad off, and in the end, once he was safe at home, being so bad off made him make an even worse mistake. It’s a sad story, but it felt very real. The world isn’t full of happy endings, and while sometimes it’s nice to read a happy ending in a book, I’d rather read good stories with real endings, happy or otherwise.
Time is funky again in this, and I think it’s going to be throughout the rest of the books. I’ve given up on following direction. A character says north, south, east, or west, and my attention is already on the words past that because none of those seem to matter a bit and they definitely don’t stay the same. It’s a neat touch. I like it.
At the end, though they see the building near the beginning too, the group reaches a huge building, and this is where the Wizard of Oz jumps in. Ruby slippers, emerald palace, dude talking into a machine that makes spooky noises. It was twisted (see author’s name) in some ways, and definitely didn’t feel like the Wizard of Oz, but it was really cool. You get to learn a lot more about the magic of the gunslinger’s world, which I’ve been wondering about. It seems like if there’s magic anywhere, it’s only there. The doors are there, the wizard’s rainbow is there, and the man in black can only affect things from that world.
I like the way our reality bleeds into Roland’s world, and bits from other realities join in and just make a mingled messed up mush. It’s an interesting setting. In some ways, I think it would be fun to write in, but I think the temptation to write with no rules would be really strong, and King definitely has rules he’s set for his world. If the man in black wants them to give up their quest so badly, why doesn’t he just kill them? If he is Maerlyn, and he made the balls, why doesn't he call the remaining ones to himself and use them? The balls seemed like they could be an easy out for the writer, and it feels like King is skirting that edge, but so far that's not what they are.
In the next book that I’m reading now, for a while I’ve felt like “Aw, crap, he’s using fairy tales and signs in the clouds now. This is going downhill,” but I realized today while I was reading that he’s tying them in to the world really well. Yes, they initially strike you as cliché and lame, but they’re also striking the characters the same way, and you get the feeling someone’s engineering it all. Roland would say “ka.”
Anyway, I’d vote this one right after The Gunslinger for favorites in this series.