And the award for creepiest train in all of literature goes to…
“Don’t ask me silly questions
I won’t play silly games
I’m just a simple choo choo train
And I’ll always be the same.
I only want to race along
Beneath the bright blue sky
And be a happy choo choo train
Until the day I die.”
Stephen King has had a place among my favorite authors for 3 or 4 years now. But over the span of this book and its predecessor, The Drawing of the Three, he’s edging remarkably close to becoming not just one of my favorite authors, but my hands down favorite. Right now he’s in a three-way tie with Brandon Sanderson and Nora Roberts, but Wizard and Glass might actually change that if it holds a candle to The Waste Lands. I’ve heard that the back half of the Dark Tower series pales a bit in comparison to the first 4 books, so I’m trying to keep my expectations low, but this is shaping up to be my favorite series of all time.
“The wheel of ka turns and the world moves on.”
The Gunslinger was fine the first time I read it, and I enjoyed it more the second time around. I loved The Drawing of the Three almost immediately, and that love never wavered throughout the course of the novel. But The Waste Lands is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I’m not saying it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, as I’ve been fortunate enough to consume some absolute masterpieces. King’s prose doesn’t quite measure up to masterpiece quality. There are imperfections here. But for sheer enjoyment value, for its ability to keep me so invested that I had a difficult time focussing on real life, for its insistence on invading my dreams even after I had read its final pages, this book just wins. I was never less than completely entranced. The plot was astonishingly intricate and never lagged. I was never bored for a single second.
“See the turtle of enormous girth, on his shell he holds the earth. If you want to run and play, come along the beam today.”
I’m always amazed by the myriad of intricate ways in which King references his own work. Some are small and incredibly subtle, while others are evident to even those who haven’t read a lot of his backlog. And the self-referencing should seem haughty. It doesn’t. Instead, it makes everything King has ever written come across as purposeful and intentional and premeditative. I have mad respect for this, and I think it makes his stellar stories even more enjoyable, as they build on one another. I’m a huge lover of Easter eggs in stories. It’s why I love Marvel and Sanderson’s Cosmere, and it’s why I’ve come to adore King’s work. And it’s exactly why I’ve chosen to take the much longer, circuitous route to the Tower. I’d love to just blast through the main series, but I’d love even more to pick up on as many of the little references to his other works that King has interwoven into the story as I possibly can. This will more than likely lead to me reading his entire body of work over the course of a decade or two, and I’m completely okay with that.
“In the end, all things, even the Beams, serve the Dark Tower. Did you think you would be any different?”
The central cast of The Waste Lands completely won me over. I love each member of this ka-tet with every fiber of my being. And I can’t discuss a single one of them because, as with John Gwynne’s work, even mentioning certain character names could potentially spoil some important plot points. But also as with Gwynne’s work, I’m making an exception for an animal companion. Oy the Billy-Bumbler is an absolute darling, and I’m amazed at King’s ability to craft such a unique and lovable creature. I need one. Not want. NEED. I will say this about the central cast; they have all grown tremendously since each of them was introduced into the narrative. There’s so much character development in this series that it’s unreal. And their relationships with each other have experienced just as much transformation. It’s been truly wonderful to observe.
I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.
I have no idea where the wheel of Ka will take these companions. I would say that I can’t wait to find out, but I also know that King has no problem killing off his darlings and I’m terrified of what might lie ahead. But the need to know is fierce, and I’m incredibly excited to continue my journey to the Tower. And I can’t wait to see how more of King’s other works tie into it.
Long days and pleasant nights, friends.
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