Finally through the boring fire that is book three of The Dark Tower by Stephen King we leave Wizard and Glass behind to return to the main story of the series with the Wolves of the Calla and The Song of Susannah. Though not the best in the series the Wolves of the Calla is definitely the best of the later books in the series while The Song of Susannah leaves you wondering whether it is wholly necessary or wishing there was more.
In my original post I said that Father Callahan should join Roland’s second ka-tet in The Waste Lands at River Crossing. Now that I’ve reread Wolves of the Calla I see I’ve made myself some problems by moving where he is introduced, so let’s fix them now.
The Waste Lands.
After hearing how Father Callahan got to Mid-World / End-World again in Wolves this story could fill the space that was originally the drawing of Jake into Roland’s world that I moved to book three. This will further strengthen the importance of the Rose in the vacant lot and be the part that reveals Marten / Randall’s background influence. (note: in my last post I eliminated the Walter / Marten / Randall confusion of all the names. There’s only Marten Broadcloak = Randall Flagg.)
Instead of Marten pushing him through a door in the Way Station to Calla he can do it the other way around. Black thirteen says on the Calla side, discovered by the Manni and it is they who beg for Roland and his Ka-tet to take it. Then with Randall’s remarks about having to “get ahead of them again” referring to Roland and Jake in The Gunslinger he goes through a door, Callahan follows and ends up in River Crossing.
Now you have two people talking about the vacant lot, the Rose, that area of New York, and now we get the introduction of the Low Men way ahead of time so there introduction later doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Wizard and Glass.
The fourth novel gets a blog post all on it’s own because it’s the one that needs the most change.
What should of been the most important Dark Tower book besides the last one turned out to be the worst, not only because Roland’s story of his first love drags but reveals so little of his past that is relevant to his quest for The Dark Tower until the very end. If it were me, I’d change this whole novel as it does not answer any important questions.
1.) What happened to Alain and Cuthbert? When did they become Gunslingers themselves? When did they die?
2.) How did Gilead fall?
3.) What happened to Steven Deschain?
4.) Again, why does Roland want to go to the Dark Tower at all?
5.) Why should I care about John Farson’s scheme here if we never meet him and never see him destroy the Affiliation?
Don’t say these questions are answered in the comic book because of a.) whether they are canon are not is in question b.) that is the biggest cop-out I’ve ever heard. If it’s part of the story it should be in the series of novels and not in some side story in the comics written by someone else.
The introduction of Merlyn’s Grapefruit, the tragedy of Susan’s death, and Roland having to choose between saving her and The Dark Tower after he sees it in the Grapefruit is not enough to justify this long winded, desperate in need of an editor, side story. All the things this novel does with developing Roland and his first ka-tet could have been done on their quest for the Dark Tower. This isn’t even his full ka-tet, there are at least two others that he mentions but we never learn anything about until The Wind in the Keyhole.
Let’s say this story has absolutely be told, it still needs to be changed. That first session between Rhea of the Coos and Susan Delgado is disgusting. I’m no prude but this story should begin with her heading home with brief mentions of seeing the Grapefruit through Rhea’s window. I don’t need this eternal debate about being disgusted by Rhea molesting her and her being horny when she meets Roland. I’d rather her learning to masturbate by rubbing her clitoris be cut, but I can tolerate that more the descriptions of Rhea’s disgusting hands on Susan.
In fact, most of the parts giving Susan’s point of view can be cut. Are we supposed to assume Roland learned all these parts of the story from the Grapefruit at the end? It’s not needed. The whole will they / won’t they part of the story drags on for too long.
The worst part of the novel is the antagonists of this novel, The Rhea of the Coos, the Big Coffin Hunters, and Susan’s aunt, Cordelia Delgado are most compelling and interest villains than any we’ve gotten so far or will get afterward. All in a story that barely matters to Roland’s quest. Why couldn’t Randall Flagg be more fleshed out for this story? Why can’t Modred, or the Crimson King? In fact, why can’t Randall Flagg and the Crimson King be in it? That would at least play into the lore of the series. King tried way too hard to make this a stand-alone novel, and I had the privilege of reading all these novels at once in 2007-2008. I can’t even imagine what it was like reading this book when it came out after waiting for years to get it.
Then Roland finishes his story and we get back to present day. This was easily the best part of the novel but what was the point of bringing back the Tick-tock Man from book three if he was barely a threat? Is King even trying to write a western mixed with fantasy? A Mexican stand-off would have been better but all we get is Eddie and Susannah gunning him down without effort in a parody of the Wizard of Oz.
Then we finally get the reveal after Roland and his ka-tet have been in the aftermath of King’s The Stand a confrontation with Marten Broadcloak himself and the reveal that he is, in fact, Randall Flagg. This confrontation is great if you don’t know what happens in the rest of the books because there is a promise of a future confrontation that never happens.
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