The Waste Lands (Revised Edition): The Dark Tower III


The third volume in Stephen King?s acclaimed, epic Dark Tower series. 

Roland continues his quest for the Dark Tower, but he is no longer alone. He has trained Eddie and Susannah?who entered Mid-World from their separate whens in New York City in The Drawing of the Three?in the old ways of the gunslingers. But their ka-tet is not yet complete. Another must be drawn from New York into Mid-World, someone who has been there before, a boy who has died not once but twice, and ...

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The third volume in Stephen King’s acclaimed, epic Dark Tower series. 

Roland continues his quest for the Dark Tower, but he is no longer alone. He has trained Eddie and Susannah—who entered Mid-World from their separate whens in New York City in The Drawing of the Three—in the old ways of the gunslingers. But their ka-tet is not yet complete. Another must be drawn from New York into Mid-World, someone who has been there before, a boy who has died not once but twice, and yet still lives. The "Ka-tet," four who are bound together by fate, must travel far in this novel encountering not only the poisonous waste lands and the ravaged city of Lud that lies beyond, but also the rage of a train that might be their only means of escape. 

The stunning Plume edition features full-color illustrations by Ned Dameron and is a collector’s item for years to come.    

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452284715
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Series: Dark Tower Series, #3
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 122,076
  • Product dimensions: 5.97 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen King

Stephen King, the world's bestselling novelist, was educated at the University of Maine at Orono. He lives with his wife, the novelist Tabitha King, and their children in Bangor, Maine.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Richard Bachman
      Stephen A. King
      Stephen Edwin King
    2. Hometown:
      Bangor, Maine
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portland, Maine
    1. Education:
      B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


JAKE HAD NO CLEAR memory of the time which followed, and that was probably merciful. He had left his world over a year before nine hundred people would commit suicide together in a small South American country called Guyana, but he knew about the periodic death-rushes of the lemmings, and what was happening in the disintegrating undercity of the Grays was like that.

There were explosions, some on their level but most far below them; acrid smoke occasionally drifted from the ventilator grilles, but most of the air-purifiers were still working and they whipped the worst of it away before it could gather in choking clouds. They saw no fires. Yet the Grays were reacting as if the time of the apocalypse had come. Most only fled, their faces blank O's of panic, but many had committed suicide in the halls and interconnected rooms through which the steel sphere led Roland and Jake. Some had shot themselves; many more had slashed their throats or wrists; a few appeared to have swallowed poison. On all the faces of the dead was the same expression of overmastering terror. Jake could only vaguely understand what had driven them to this. Roland had a better idea of what had happened to them-to their minds-when the long-dead city first came to life around them and then seemed to commence tearing itself apart. And it was Roland who understood that Blaine was doing it on purpose. That Blaine was driving them to it.

They ducked around a man hanging from an overhead heating-duct and pounded down a flight of steel stairs behind the floating steel ball.

"Jake!" Roland shouted. "You never let me in at all, did you?"

Jake shook his head.

"I didn't think so. It was Blaine."

They reached the bottom of the stairs and hurried along a narrow corridor toward a hatch with the words ABSOLUTELY NO ADMITTANCE printed on it in the spiked letters of the High Speech.

"Is it Blaine?" Jake asked.

"Yes-that's as good a name as any."

"What about the other v-"

"Hush!" Roland said grimly.

The steel ball paused in front of the hatchway. The wheel spun and the hatch popped ajar. Roland pulled it open, and they stepped into a huge underground room which stretched away in three directions as far as they could see. It was filled with seemingly endless aisles of control panels and electronic equipment. Most of the panels were still dark and dead, but as Jake and Roland stood inside the door, looking about with wide eyes, they could see pilot-lights coming on and hear machinery cycling up.

"The Tick-Tock Man said there were thousands of computers," Jake said. "I guess he was right. My God, look!"

Roland did not understand the word Jake had used and so said nothing. He only watched as row after row of panels lit up. A cloud of sparks and a momentary tongue of green fire jumped from one of the consoles as some ancient piece of equipment malfunctioned.

Most of the machinery, however, appeared to be up and running just fine. Needles which hadn't moved








Oy looked up briefly at the sound of his name.


There was a moment of silence, broken only by the steady hard throb of the slo-trans turbines, bearing them on across the waste lands, bearing them on toward Topeka, the place where Mid-World ended and End-World began.


—from The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III by Stephen King, copyright © 1991, 2003 Stephen King, published by Viking Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide


"Roland's story is my Jupiter, a planet that dwarfs all the others…"

A General Introduction to Stephen King's The Dark Tower Novels

The Dark Tower books have followed a publishing arc unique in modern literature. Beginning with a now-legendary series of five short stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction—five stories which now comprise the first volume of the novel cycle—Stephen King has spent thirty-three years writing The Dark Tower. It stands today as a singularly ambitious work of quest literature, matched only by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings fantasy epic. A series that operates beautifully as a single, stand-alone saga, The Dark Tower series also ties into and informs many other novels in Stephen King's fictional universe. King's vast galaxy of overlapping realms and characters—a galaxy that has been exhaustively annotated and analyzed by the author's peerlessly avid fan-base—outstrips even Faulkner's fabled Yoknapatawpha County as a wonder of narrative interconnectedness.

Though inspired by a wide range of literary antecedents and cultural archetypes, The Dark Tower saga was initially sparked by a course on the romantic poets at the University of Maine. It was here, King has said, that he first encountered a deeply enigmatic, richly symbolic poem by Robert Browning called "Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came" (1855). King's object, dating back to his sophomore year in college, was to fashion a long novel that played on the conceits and constructs of the romantic aesthetic—to attempt a work that echoed the epic tone and atmospherics of Browning's poem, if not its explicit narrative line. Volume I, The Gunslinger, first appeared in hardcover in a limited edition from Donald M. Grant in 1982. The Plume trade paperback edition was published five years later and became a #1 national bestseller.

With Scribner's 2003 release of the fifth volume, Wolves of the Calla, and the culminating sixth and seventh volumes both slated for publication in 2004, Stephen King nears completion of what many argue is the crowning masterwork of a matchlessly prolific career. Of the undertaking, King has reflected, "I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland's story is my Jupiter—a planet that dwarfs all the others (at least from my own perspective), a place of strange atmosphere, crazy landscape, and savage gravitational pull. Dwarfs the others, did I say? I think there's more to it than that, actually. I am coming to understand that Roland's world (or worlds) actually contains all the others of my making."

In which the Pilgrims commence their Way

About The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III

Stephen King's third foray into Mid-World raises the stakes on all the mystery and quasi-Gothic romanticism established inThe Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. At the same time, Stephen King continues and enhances here the artful fusion of gritty realism and extravagant fantasy that powered the action in The Drawing of the Three. Beginning with its title and its shades of Eliot at his most darkly portentous, The Waste Lands is perhaps the most ambitious work to date in the Dark Tower cycle, full of incisive psychological explorations and fast-paced, seamlessly episodic storytelling. And, despite its highly unresolved cliffhanger of an ending—or because of it—The Waste Lands is arguably the most popular and widely discussed volume in the series.

As he did with the Loser's Club in It and the Ad Hoc Committee in The Stand, Stephen King dramatizes the forging of an unlikely community and highlights the deeply complex bonds that develop among the ostensibly dissimilar figures who are united under the ka-tet: Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and even Oy the billy-bumbler. The Waste Lands also establishes the physics by which Roland's universe operates. Six beams run between twelve portals which mark the edges of Mid-World. Standing at the point where the beams cross at the center of the world—or the center of all worlds—is the Dark Tower.

Book One, subtitled "Fear in a Handful of Dust," chronicles the drawing of the real third—Jake Chambers. To effect this drawing, Roland and Jake must battle their own fraying psyches and achieve a reconciliation between their doubled memories regarding the paradoxical events (or nonevents) surrounding Jake's death(s). Book Two, subtitled "A Heap of Broken Images," takes readers to the city of Lud and finds the pilgrims again waylaid and separated from each other. All are tested on their gunslinging abilities before they ultimately find themselves en route to Topeka, where Mid-World ends and End-World begins, borne along at 800 miles per hour, in helpless thrall to the madly rambling riddle-lover called Blaine the Mono.

The Waste Lands ends here, with an eerie "moment of silence" in the wake of Roland's desperate final bargain with Blaine. "Try me with your questions," the mono taunts, "and let the contest begin."


By any measure, Stephen King occupies a central position in the recent history of literature in English, having produced a body of work that is as artistically vital as it is commercially prominent. His primacy in the horror-fiction canon in particular bears comparison to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's station among modern fantasy writers. And like Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Sinclair Lewis before him, King has demonstrated over the course of his career a rare talent for limning the cultural zeitgeist and expressing the characteristic concerns of his era. The fact that he has worked largely within the parameters of the horror and fantasy genres in pursuing these ambitious ends makes his achievement all the more remarkable. Since his earliest works in the 1970s, King has been an author of matchless international reach, enjoying an enduring brand of popularity that transcends all presumed literary and commercial boundaries.

For all the darkness and terror with which King's narratives are generally associated, many critics and fans have argued that King's often brutal fictional universe belies a fundamental optimism about human nature. Richly populating his novels and stories with all manner of pop-cultural signifiers and pitch-perfect minutiae of American middle-class life, King's writing holds up a mirror of sorts and reflects that, even in a world of cynicism, despair, and seemingly infinite cruelty, it remains possible for individuals to find love, discover unexpected resources in themselves, and conquer their own problems, along with the malevolent powers that would suppress or destroy them.

Born in Portland, Maine in 1947, Stephen Edwin King is the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his parents separated when he was a toddler, King and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. He spent parts of his childhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Stratford, Connecticut; and Durham, Maine.

King graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a degree in English. In January of 1971, he married Tabitha Spruce, whom he met in the stacks of the university library. Shortly after graduation, he began selling his first short stories to mass-market men's magazines. Many of these stories later appeared in the Night Shift collection and elsewhere. In the spring of 1974, Doubleday published King's first novel, Carrie. He has since written more than thirty-five books, all international bestsellers. His recent works include Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, Dreamcatcher, Bag of Bones, The Green Mile, and the nonfiction work On Writing. He is also the coauthor, with Peter Straab, of Black House and The Talisman. Under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, King has published several more bestselling works, including The Regulators, Thinner, and The Running Man. Most of his books have been adapted for the screen, including: Dreamcatcher (2003), Hearts in Atlantis, The Green Mile, Misery, Stand by Me (from "The Body"), Thinner, The Shining, Carrie, Christine, The Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, Cujo, and Firestarter. Among King's forthcoming books are Wolves of the Calla: The Dark Tower V; Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI; and The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower VII.

A celebrated philanthropist and the father of three children, King lives in Bangor, Maine and Florida, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.


  • The Waste Lands is loaded with widely disparate cultural signifiers, from early-career Paul Newman to speed-metal bands to Frodo Baggins to Germany's Weimar Republic to Sugary Ray Leonard to King Arthur's Court. What is the effect of this kind of "kitchen-sink" referencing? Describe the tone of Stephen King's novel.
  • How would you characterize Eddie Dean's emotional health in this third novel? What is the nature and provenance of his mysterious connection with Jake Chambers? How does their wordless affinity play out over the course of this novel?
  • What is the nature of morality in Mid-World? Does King encourage a traditional good-and-evil reading of his novel? Explain. What fates and fortunes ultimately meet the novel's "evil" or immoral characters? What of the benevolent characters?
  • Upon finding the metal ID tag and learning that the giant bear was called Shardik, Eddie is struck by a faint twinge of recognition. The name Shardik triggers in Eddie a seemingly inexplicable association "with rabbits." What is Stephen King's sly joke here?
  • How might the work of Richard Adams, both his classic Watership Down as well as the lesser-known novel Shardik, relate to some of the larger themes—of cultural decay, of societal conflict, of nature versus civilization—that run through The Waste Lands?
  • In his bizarre dreamscape early in the novel, what book is Eddie holding in his hand as he walks along Second Avenue? What is King up to here?
  • Explain the elements of the great paradox—rooted in the events of The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three—underlying Roland and Jake's "doubled" memories and burgeoning madness.
  • Recount what happens at the campsite in the "Bear and Bone" section after Roland tosses the jawbone of the man in black into the flames. What do the three pilgrims see in the fire? How does this episode spark the events by which Roland and Jake finally reconcile the paradox that is driving them mad? How do the images of the key and the rose come to inform the ka-tet's quest?
  • Who are the Grays and the Pubes? What is the nature of their war?
  • Discuss the notion of the purple blade of grass. What role does this image play in the climax of The Gunslinger, and how does it reassert itself more expansively in book three?
  • Consider the novel's title and its direct evocation of T. S. Eliot's acclaimed poem. "The Waste Land" met with more than a little controversy when it was published in 1922, because it marked such a radical and wholly unprecedented departure from traditional poetic style and structure. What is "The Waste Land" about? How do its themes and images echo throughout King's third volume?
  • In what ways does Eliot's revolutionary style—his virtuosic layerings of literary and historical allusions, his unconventional language and meter, his lyrical fluidity, and his haunting preoccupation with decay—speak to King's own style in The Dark Tower?
  • Eliot's poem has been called a dark riff on the quest tradition in Western literature. Where does King's novel fit in this tradition? In detailing the journey of the human soul searching for redemption, Eliot's poem largely established the concerns of literature's modernist movement with its exploration of classical literary conceits and concerns through the lens of an unmistakably twentieth-century condition—existential dread. What bearing does this have on Roland's own search for redemption?
  • What does the future hold for the Tick-Tock Man? Recount the scenes between Tick-Tock and Jake. Under what circumstances do you expect to encounter Andrew Quick again in future Dark Tower novels?
  • What are the circumstances prompting the appearance of Richard Fannin? Who is he? When, both in The Dark Tower series and elsewhere in King's fiction, have we encountered or heard of a stranger such as Fannin? Is he linked to Flagg? Is he Flagg himself?
  • In connection with the previous question, discuss the innumerable character connections and thematic overlaps which exist among and between the Dark Tower novels and other King works—The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Black House, Insomnia, Hearts in Atlantis, and many others.
  • Three novels into The Dark Tower cycle, what are some of the thematic and tonal connections have been established between Browning's "Childe Roland" and King's Roland? Reread Browning's poem. How does it conclude? Is Browning's Roland finished with his quest by the final line? What clues might the poem give us about what may be coming in the four remaining Dark Tower volumes?
  • Discuss the way King's novels have come to occupy their own private universe, one that operates according to the truism that everything serves the Beam. For example, where do we see such prominent Waste Lands motifs as the rose, the key, the tower, the door, and the turtle in other King works?
  • Discuss the final two sections of The Waste Lands, "Bridge and City" and "Riddle and Waste Lands." In classic adventure-serial style, Volume III ends with the mother of all cliffhangers. What was your reaction to King's decision to close his novel without providing any sort of resolution to the Blaine the Mono situation? What do you expect will be the outcome of Roland's dangerous bargain?
  • In his concluding "Author's Note," King indicates that Wizard and Glass, the fourth volume, will be primarily concerned with Roland's life as a young man. What are you most curious to learn about the gunslinger's history and his quest for the Dark Tower?
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2014

    Okay this book was overall FUN to read. The best so far in the s

    Okay this book was overall FUN to read. The best so far in the series, we follow our ka-tet into a city overrun by mutated creatures that want nothing more than to torture anyone who dare crosses their path. We discover a train that is self-aware and is totally suicidal, and we realize just how big Roland's Mid-World truly is. This book is VERY fast-paced and leaves one breathless for more. I absolutely loved reading this book and I know you will, too.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Best In the Series So Far!

    This is easily the best of the series so far!! I love how the characters are slowly starting to develope and we just continuously learn more and more about them! This book was really hard to put down and the last 150 pages flew by in my mind. I couldnt stop reading. Roland and his world is one of the most interesting that I have ever read about. I cant wait to start the fourth one. You should definately read this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2006

    To many wasted pages

    I have the first 5 volumes but have only come this far. The first two were excellent, but this one has the poorest art and the greatest waste of paper. It spends a lot of time on porno and debasement of women combined with the emotions of a bodice ripper. The account of Roland in his youth would be far more interesting of it was half as long. That is really unfortunate as the opening with the city and the train are great. But I have a ways to go so maybe it will turn up if it ever gets back to the story line. Will he ever explain Little Blaine, or was it just filler?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Choo Choo

    This one took a while to get into. It was exciting yes, but the Dark Tower seems better in doses than back to back. At least it seemed that way. The Wastelands seems almost nonstop as paradoxes draw to a close, new characters become more familiar and old ones come back seemingly from the grave. Too, readers are offered a frightening (and in some ways enchanting) hybrid world which comes as a grisly prophesy of things to come. Think, The Stand, only about a thousand years later and you'll get the idea. Frightfully hard to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2003

    Holy Christ...

    People who don't know about this tale are missing out on one (probably the ONLY one) great tale of this genre. Stephen King never lets up in his Dark Tower books, always shocking me and scaring me and making me laugh. Roland is the most amazing character in any book i have ever read. Hell, they're all amazing! I can't imagine how such imagination can come from just one man. Incredible. If anyone who had never read a Dark TOwer is reading this review, they could never tell what these books are really like, just because of the loss for words when it comes time to try and describe them. All you can really say after finishing one Dark Tower book after the other is...Holy Christ!... The Waste Lands was my favourite. By far. A truly amazing read. I need a fix of the new Dark Tower book. FAST!

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