Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I have written enough novels and stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland's story is my Jupiter," declares the Jove of popular novelists in his afterword to this bountiful fourth volume (of a projected seven) in the epic tale of Roland the Gunslinger. King began writing this alternate-world western saga in 1970, four years before Carrie saw print, but the first volume came out only in 1976 and subsequent volumes in 1989 and 1991. Each appeared in a limited edition hardcover from Grant, then in Plume trade paperbacks that sold wildly, as the Plume edition (see below) of this novel should-for while this isn't King at his most accomplished, it is King at his most ebullient. He's at his best here-as a resourceful explorer of humanity's shadow side, as a storyteller who can set pages on fire-but also, at times, at his worst-as a purveyor of tasteless, pompous near-juvenilia. A recap of the earlier volumes guides readers into this entry, the longest yet, which opens with Roland and his band held captive on an impossibly fast train run by a homicidal computer. Once that menace is dealt with (in a way that invites adults to snigger like adolescents), Roland regales his fellows with the novel's core story, an acutely tragic tale of youthful love involving a witch, a diabolical crystal ball, a tear between worlds, betrayal, murder and dazzling action. The narrative concludes with a visit to a nightmarish, latter-day Oz. Mixing horror, fantasy both high and low, western icons and pop references, the novel lacks structural rigor and sometimes even sense, but it sweeps readers up in such swells of passion that few may notice, or care. Illustrated.
Frank Muller's reading of King's fourth book in a projected seven-part series (e.g., The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower, Bk. 3, Audio Reviews LJ 2/15/92) is effective in creating a suspenseful and fearful atmosphere. We find Roland, the knight errant/gunslinger, continuing his quest to attain the Dark Tower, the source of destructive forces in his Mid-World. A major portion of this work is a recounting by Roland of his ill-fated love affair with Susan Delgado. The writing is expectedly imaginative, the story line engrossing, and the characters vivid. The listener is carried along through alternating Western, urban, and futuristic settings. The work stands on its own, incorporating a summary of Books 1-3, but will be better appreciated if listened to as part of the whole. Recommended for sf/fantasy collections and Stephen King fans.Catherine Swenson, Norwich Univ. Lib., Northfield, Vt.
After a five-year lapse, King's gargantuan cowboy romance about Roland of Gilead (the Gunslinger) hits volume four, with three more planned.
King's behemoth was begun in 1970 and published serially as The Gunslinger (1988), followed by The Drawing of the Three (1989) and The Waste Lands (1992). Volume one was portentously sophomoric, volume two prime King, volume three slack. Though this latest begins where The Waste Lands leaves off, with Roland and his four companions, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy, a half human/half animal with limited speaking ability, in a verbal gunfight to the death with Blaine, the homicidal supercomputer that lives on riddles, the story doubles back on Roland's youth and his grand love for Susan Delgado. The roundabout narrative leads us to Wizard of Oz territorymore particularly to a horribly transformed Topeka, Kansaswhich the quintet must pass through as they seek the Dark Tower, the hub of creation, where Roland will discover some knowledge that will halt the quickening destruction of his post- technological Mid-World. In 1986, Topeka and the nation are huge graveyards struck by the superflu from The Stand. Roland retells the story of his youthful adventures in Gilead and of his teacher Cort, of star-crossed Susan, and of his companions Alain and Cuthbert, while reading portents in the wizard Maerlyn's glass ball . . . . Will the Path of the Beam from the Dark Tower be from the lighthouse in King's Castle Rock film logo?
In Roland's quest tale, which King calls "my Jupiter" among the solar system of his published works, the bleak cosmology of self-assurance versus wrongness is as compelling as ever. But seven rambling volumes of bemusedly wry storytelling? This will be The Ring Cycle on top of The Lord of the Rings.