Labor pains: My review of The Wastelands

Giving birth is just hard.  They say pregnancy is a miracle, but don’t tell that to the one who had to give birth to this guy

Alien-Chestburster

Or imagine giving birth to Freddy Jr. right here…shudder…

A-Nightmare-on-Elm-Street-5-The-Dream-Child-Freddy-Baby

So yeah, giving birth just sucks sometimes.  But its necessary.  Especially if your name is Jake Chambers, you died once but then a guy named Roland rescues you so you didn’t really die, then you and Roland start going insane because you have two sets of memories, you start looking at every single door you see so that you can go back to Midworld to hang out with the guy that let you fall to your death the first time but that’s ok since he rescued you from being hit by a car so you don’t die and go to Roland’s world to begin with but then you start going crazy, and then you have to meet up with a past version of older Eddie Dean so that older Eddie Dean can “midwife” and birth you into Roland’s world so that both you and Roland stop going crazy…

Yes, I just finished The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands, in case that wasn’t evident from the above paragraph.  And birth is a big part of this book…

No, it really is.  Let me explain.  For one thing, Jake is born into Midworld, and the delivery makes the above pictures of Mother Nature’s greatest miracle look pretty tame.  And Eddie and Susannah are born into being gunslingers, as Roland continues to help them develop their craft and become general bad asses.  And our favorite ka tet is born, as Jake and Oy join Roland, Eddie and Susannah in their quest for the Tower.

And out of all this, my review of The Dark Tower:  The Wastelands is born.


 

Synopsis

The book begins with Eddie, Roland and Susannah traveling in Roland’s world in search of the Dark Tower.  Roland is training them in the art of being gunslingers, and can no longer properly be called the last gunslinger.  This is evident when a cyborg resembling a bear attacks the group, as Susannah is able to handily dispatch of the creature.  The creature is revealed to be one of the guardians of the Beam and was called Mir by the inhabitants of Midworld.  However, upon closer inspection, the creature’s name is actually revealed to be Shardik and it is also evident that some kind of advanced technology was used to create the creature.  Eddie thinks the name is familiar, but cannot quite place it.  This further solidifies the link between Roland’s world and our world, and raises more questions than it answers.

Shardik 1

Meanwhile, Roland discovers that he has a problem.  A big problem.  Roland thought that he did the right thing by rescuing Jake Chambers in The Drawing of the Three, as Jake did not get hit by a car and did not die.  However, Roland now has two sets of conflicting memories.  And the conflicting memories are a threat to the ka tet, as they make Roland unstable and threaten to drive him crazy.

Roland and Susannah

And in the “real world”, a boy named Jake Chambers also has a problem.  A big problem.  Jake is now cursed with two sets of memories, as he did not die in his world, nor did he die in Roland’s world, thanks to the actions of Roland.  Jake is also slowly being driven crazy by the two sets of memories.  Both Jake and Roland quickly come to the realization that Jake must be brought over to Mid-World, but are unsure of how to make that happen.

Jake Chambers

 

Fortunately, Eddie is subjected to some visions by whatever force is guiding the group on its quest, and is able help both Jake and Roland.  Eddie carves a key in a peculiar shape, using some wood from a tree that he finds during the group’s journey.  Eddie struggles to finish the carving of the key, as he still has tremendous self doubt, but is successful in finishing it.  In the meantime, Jake follows a younger version of Eddie to a haunted house in Brooklyn that turns out to be a gateway to Midworld.  Jake battles a monster he calls the Doorkeeper, while Eddie, Roland and Susannah battle a demon that is a guardian on the Midworld side.  Eddie successfully “midwifes” Jake into Mid-World, and Jake is born into his life as the newest gunslinger.

DT key

The group continues on their quest, and continues to bond.  They encounter a creature that Roland tells them is a “billy bumbler.”  This creature takes a shine to Jake, and Jake then names him Oy.  Oy also becomes a member of the ka tet, bonding almost immediately with Jake.

Oy 1

 

The group continues on their quest, and arrives at the city of Lud.   They are met by a small group of survivors of what appears to be a nuclear war.  All of the members of the group are extremely old.  They are also honored to be in the presence of gunslinger, and offer every hospitality to Roland and his friends.  Roland and his friends visit with the survivors for a bit, gleaning a little information that may be useful for their quest.  The group continues on their journey.

Roland and Aunt Talitha

Once the tet leaves the group of old folks, Jake comes to a realization.  He tells the group that on the next leg of their journey, they will be forced to travel via a monorail.  However, its not just any monorail that they will use.  Roland and his friends will be forced to travel via Blaine the Mono.  And Blaine the Mono is sentient.  And Jake has had some precognitive visions of Blaine, and knows that Blaine is not pleasant.  We also learn that Jake, Eddie and Susannah all (at one point) owned a book called Charlie Choo Choo.  This book is just one of many things that bonds the group together and proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy travel into the city of Lud, drawing ever closer to Blaine the Mono and whatever else may lay in store for them.

Blaine 2

 

Roland and his friends finally reach Lud, and sense they are close to Blaine the Mono.  However, they run into trouble in the form of a man named Gasher.  Gasher is a pedophile who is dying from what is likely his world’s version of syphilis.  Gasher also feels that he has nothing to lose, and kidnaps Jake.

Jake and Gasher

After Jake is kidnapped, Roland, Oy, Eddie and Susannah are forced to split up.  Roland and Oy search for Jake, while Eddie and Susannah search for Blaine.  Oy leads Roland to Jake’s captors, which include Gasher and his boss, a man known as Tick Tock Man, who  live under the city of Lud, along with other members of their group.  Jake and Roland dispatch of Tick Tock Man, Gasher and the rest of their evil friends.  Jake, Roland and Oy then head off in search of Eddie and Susannah, so that the quest may be resumed.

Meanwhile, Eddie and Susannah search for the cradle that houses Blaine the Monorail.  They also have an unpleasant encounter with some of the remaining citizens of Lud, who are human but have suffered some horrible mutations and diseases due to some unknown great disaster that had befallen their world.  The unfortunate citizens lead Eddie and Susannah to Blaine.  Eddie and Susannah are able to awaken Blaine and become subject to riddles, as Blaine is addicted to riddles.  Eddie appeases Blaine by informing him that his friend Roland knows of many more riddles, and that they may be willing to barter with Blaine in the form of riddles.

Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy then reunite in Blaine’s cradle.  They are immediately forced to solve a puzzle, while Blaine releases poisonous gas on the city of Lud, immediately killing the inhabitants.  The tet then boards the train and makes acquaintance with Blaine as a group.

Meanwhile, we learn that Andrew Quick aka the Tick Tock Man is not actually dead.  A man calling himself Richard Fannin has made acquaintance with Quick, and plots to use him as a pawn in his attempts to stop Roland in his quest.

The books ends with Roland and his friends speeding away from the city of Lud aboard Blaine the Monorail, uncertain of what may lay ahead in their quest.


 

My Thoughts

For me, The Wastelands was epic.  Out of the first four books, it is probably still my favorite.  There is so much to love about this book but I will do my best to summarize it.

First of all, I love this book because we get to see even more of Roland’s humanity.  That humanity started coming through in The Drawing of the Three, and becomes even more prevalent in The Wastelands.  As stated before, Roland begins to slowly lose his mind, due to the paradox  caused by saving Jake’s life.  We begin to see that even a gunslinger can have chinks in his armor.  Roland then begins to rely a little more on Eddie and Susannah, further solidifying the bond between the three.  Roland also grows due to his relationship with Jake.  In particular, he promises Jake that he will not let him fall to his death this time.  And he is able to keep that promise when he rescues Jake from Gasher and Tick Tock Man.  Roland also formed a sort of partnership with Oy to pull of this rescue, and finds new respect for Oy, as the two share a love for Jake.  Roland’s reaction when he is reunited with Jake and when he realizes he has kept his promise to Jake is one of the most emotional scenes in the book, and possibly one of my favorites (even though its hard to pick just one).

Roland’ humanity also comes through when we see how he treats the first group of citizens the group meets in Lud.  This group shows much respect to Roland and his friends, and rightfully so.  However, Roland pays the respect back tenfold, especially when he greets the woman called Aunt Talitha.  Roland drops to his knees to show respect to what he considers to be his elder and better.  We begin to see that Roland may have been (and is still is) a cold blooded killer, but that he is also a diplomat.  And he is a knight, much like the knights of yore from King Arthur’s court.  And we can’t help wanting to learn more about the origins of Roland, the world he resided in and what exactly happened that world that caused it to “move on.”

white-knight

I know that I stated in my entry on The Drawing of the Three that I thought that book was all about Eddie Dean.  And The Drawing of the Three is all about Eddie Dean, among other topics.  And The Wastelands also gives us more great insight into Eddie Dean.  Eddie has fallen in love with Susannah, and they are able to heal each other, at least somewhat.  However, Eddie still struggles with monumental self doubts in regards to his particular abilities.  Henry Dean, his now deceased brother, may be dead in body but is alive and well inside Eddie’s mind.  This is evident when Eddie is carving the key that will “birth” Jake into Mid-World, so that Roland and Jake will finally achieve peace of mind.  This task would place an enormous burden on anyone, but Eddie struggles with it particularly mightily, as the voice of his dead brother threatens to reach beyond the grave and once again destroy Eddie’s ambitions.  And it is nearly successful, as Eddie comes very close to breaking down.  However, it turns out that Eddie is stronger than he ever knew, and he successfully brings Jake to Mid-World.  Once he accomplishes this, his confidence grows by leaps and bounds, and he is finally able to shake the self doubt and become a full fledged gunslinger.

Eddie 1

However, let’s talk about the best part of the book.  Yes, that’s right.  Three words.  Blaine the Mono.  As much as I love the above parts (and others that I won’t include to keep this post less long), Blaine the Mono is my favorite part.  Yes, the sentient, evil monorail.  The concept of evil monorails had never occurred to me until I read The Wastelands.  And now, that concept just makes sense.

blaine

Really, Blaine made me think of the Joker (yep, here’s the Batman reference you all have been waiting for).  More specifically, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight.

joker

Or maybe Blaine is the forlorn love child of The Joker and The Riddler, since he does love riddles and is addicted to them…what a thing to be addicted to!

Riddler

Blaine is just one of the best King villains, if not the best King villain in any story.  Only someone with a great imagination could conceive of an evil, sentient monorail, of all things.  I also liked that Eddie, Jake and Susannah all owned a book about a talking train that they couldn’t trust.  The images from that book reminded me a bit of the Shel Silverstein poem about the crying clown.  Creepy and unsettling, in other words.  And just perfect for a book titled The Wastelands.

Crying_by_Kayaipek

 


 

 

Well, we have now witnessed the full, glorious birth of our favorite ka tet.  A miracle indeed.  Tune in next week for my review of Wizard and Glass, where we witness a different sort of birth:  the birth of Roland the gunslinger! Same bat time, same bat channel.

adam west

 


 

Connections

Well, why not?  Here are some of the connections to King’s other works that I found in The Wastelands:

Maturin the Turtle is mentioned as being a guardian of one of the Beams that support the Dark Tower and all of existence.  In the book It, the Losers Club encounters a wise old Turtle, who is said to hold our world on his back.  This is likely also the Guardian of the Beam mentioned in The Wastelands, or perhaps some kind of Twinner.

Maturin 1

-Eddie and Susannah encounter a man that is described as being a cross between Ronald McDonald and Bozo the Clown.  This is actually how Pennywise the Clown is described in It.  Once again, connections like these prove how heavily It is linked to the Dark Tower series.

pennywise

-When Roland and his friends meet with Aunt Talitha and her friends and break bread with them, it is reminiscent of the characters in The Stand meeting with Mother Abigail and breaking bread with her.  Aunt Talitha and Mother Abigail also seem to be somewhat similar in personality and even looks (they are both very old) and may be another set of Twinners in the King Universe.

Mother Abigail

-Most of the inhabitants of Lud seem to suffer from disease of some kind.  This may be related to Captain Trips, the super flu that killed off most of the population in The Stand.  Therefore, Mid-World and the world of The Stand may be “neighbors” on The Tower.

-When Tick Tock Man encounters Randall Flagg, he utters the phrase “my life for you.”  This is the same phrase uttered by Trash Can Man to Randall Flagg in The Stand.  This suggests that Trash Can Man and Tick Tock Man may also be Twinners.

Trashy 1

-Shardik is one of the Guardians of the Beams in The Wastelands.  Shardik is also the title of a book by Richard Adams.  In The Stand, Stu Redman states that he has read a book titled Watership Down!.  Watership Down! is another book written by Richard Adams.  This is just one of many links to The Dark Tower and The Stand. suggesting that Mid-World and the world of The Stand are closely related.

watership down 1

The Wastelands partially takes place in the ruined city of Lud.  In the novel Rose Madder, a character mentions that she has traveled through Lud, suggesting that Rose Madder may also take place in the world of the Dark Tower.

rose madder

 

-Jake encounters a bookstore owner who uses the phrase “Light out for The Territories.”  Of course, The Territories is the world that Jack Sawyer visits in The Talisman.

wolf and jack

 

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Conversations with RF: A conduit to Mid-World

If you had told me 5 years ago that Stephen King and the Dark Tower books would make me tons of new friends, I would have laughed at you.  I mean, his books are awesome, but are they are really that awesome to bring a nerd like me out of her shell, causing her to spend tons of time talking about this somewhat niche topic online, and finding her bee people in the process?Well, that’s apparently a silly questions.  The answer is of course!  Thanks to the internet and some chance searches on Facebook, I am now part of several groups of people that do not tire from talking about the niche topic and have (in part) inspired me to start this blog.  And in the process, I have even met some famous folk…Famous folk like RF..

.man in black

No, not that RF, silly…I would be lucky to survive that meeting, wouldn’t I?

No, none other than this RF.  None other than the lovely Robin Furth herself!  Robin Furth is the writer of Dark Tower: Concordance and is also the writer of the Dark Tower comics, which are a spin off to King’s novels of the same name.  Ms. Furth is also Stephen King’s research assistant.  In other words, she is the eyes and ears to Mid-World and all its intricacies and probably knows more about Dark Tower, Mid-World and all the characters than even the master himself.

Robin-Furth 2

And I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to Ms. Furth and gain a little insight to the world that has held me captive for so many years.  Here is my interview below.  RF is Robin Furth.  COFG is Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl.  That’s me, in case you were confused.


 

COFG:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?  This can be anything (personal, professional, etc).

RF:  I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and spent most of my childhood in Upper Darby, a township which lies a few miles outside of the city.  However my summers were spent at my grandparents’ house in Surry, Maine, which is about an hour’s drive from Bangor where Stephen King’s famous house is located.   I think my love affair with Stephen King’s work began the summer I read Salem’s Lot and realized that the Lot was located only a couple of hours drive from where my grandparents lived.  Boy did I give myself the shivers!

salem's lot

After I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania I won a scholarship to do a Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of York in England.  While there I met and fell in love with my husband, the British poet Mark Rutter.  Mark and I stayed in York for about three years but then we decided to move back to Maine.  We both enrolled at the University of Maine at Orono (Steve King’s Alma Matter). Mark was a grad student in Creative Writing and I was a candidate for a state teaching certificate.

UMS_school_images-UM3_03

Until the late 1990’s we supported ourselves by teaching, but then both decided that it was time for a change and enrolled in UMO’s individualized PhD program.  At the time I was writing a vampire novel and decided to focus my studies on supernatural fiction.  Luckily for me, one of my advisers was Burt Hatlen–one of Steve King’s undergraduate advisers and one of his close friends.  Hence when Steve decided he needed to find an assistant to do some occasional work and wanted to hire a starving grad student, Burt recommended me.  I am in Burt’s debt, since that recommendation completely transformed my life.

burt hatlen

COFG:  How did you come to read Stephen King and then write about him, write the comics and so forth?

RF: As I mentioned before, I’ve been a King fan since I read ’Salem’s Lot when I was about fourteen, but my first taste of the King universe was when I saw Carrie, when I was about eleven. (My mom wanted to see it and so she took me and my two older sisters to see it at the cinema.) I was probably a little young for the film, but I LOVED it.  I was amazed that other people were interested in psi powers, and that people actually wrote books about such things. I felt a tremendous sense of relief and joy at such an amazing discovery. My feeling was, “WOW, I’m not alone!” After that, my childhood dream was to work for Stephen King. I didn’t think it would ever come true.

carriehand1

I started working for Steve King back in 2000—the year after his terrible accident.  By that time Steve had already published On Writing and needed somebody to sort through the thousands of responses he’d received for the On Writing story competition.  He wanted to help out a UMO grad student so he contacted Burt Hatlen, as I said earlier.  Burt knew that I was a writer, that I loved fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, and that I was a fan of Steve’s work, so he recommended me for the job. That original project lasted about a month. I did some of my work from home, some from the King office, but most of my contact with Steve at that point was through email.  (Most of my interactions were actually with Steve’s assistant, the wonderful Marsha DeFilippo).

At the end of that assignment I went into the office to pick up my final paycheck and met Steve King himself. I was really tongue-tied, but Steve was very relaxed and kind and asked me if I wanted more work.  He was about to return to the Dark Tower series and needed someone to create an index of characters and places.  (He wanted to be able to double-check for plot and character continuity—no small job for such a large body of work.)

Anyway, when Steve asked whether I was interested in the job I said yes.  (Of course!)  In the end, not only did I create a huge dictionary of characters and places and plot twists, but I recorded Mid-World games, Mid-World languages, Mid-World diseases, and pretty much everything else I could think of. I drew a door labeled THE AUTHOR which was supposed to help Steve reenter Mid-World. I placed the door at the front of the manuscript then I bound the whole thing in black and taped a key to the front. (The key was so Steve King could open the door.) I wasn’t certain how Steve would react to my wild enthusiasm, but he liked it enough to ask whether I wanted to continue working with his manuscripts.  After that, I received draft chapters as Steve wrote them so that I could continue building my Dark Tower Concordance. I’ve been lucky enough to live in Mid-World ever since.

3 doors

The collaboration between Stephen King and Marvel Comics really began when Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, mentioned at a comic book convention that he really wanted to work with Stephen King.  Word eventually made it back to the King office and Chuck Verrill (Steve’s editor and agent) contacted Marvel.  After many discussions everyone decided that the best book to adapt would be Wizard and Glass, since it tells the story of Roland’s adventures in Hambry, when he and his friends are fourteen years old.

Roland and David

I was there at the original meeting between Steve, Chuck Verrill, and Marvel.  (Well, I wasn’t there in body.  I was there via phone link.)  I’d spent so long in the Dark Tower universe that Steve thought it would be a good idea to have me on board for the Marvel project.  I’d never worked in comics before but I loved graphic novels and illustrated books so was excited about the whole thing.  I also wanted to see Roland and his friends take on that extra dimension—to have faces and bodies which moved through space.  As you can imagine, my initial learning curve was INCREDIBLY steep.

Susan Delgado

But luckily for me, I was working with a terrific team of extremely experienced comic book folks.  Peter David, Jae Lee, Richard Isanove, Ralph Macchio, and all the other editors and artists who have worked on the series, have been great. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from all of them.

COFG:  What is your favorite Stephen King work, if any?
sparrows
Boy, that’s a tough one! Dark Tower is probably my absolute favorite, but I love many of Steve King’s works. The Dark Half would have to be high on the list, as would Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Bag of Bones, Insomnia, The Talisman (co-written with the wonderful Peter Straub) . . .  the list goes on!
wolf and jack

COFG:  And lastly, I consider the comics to be a great addition to the King universe.  I love the artwork and the additional story lines I am getting and consider them to be icing on the cake.  However, there are a few fans who would disagree with me, as they are purists and do not feel the comics are in step with the books.  What is your response, if any, to that?

RF: As a writer, I think you have to resign yourself to the fact that you can never please everyone. All you can do is your best. Many Dark Tower fans have images of the books in their heads and will never feel comfortable with a comic book adaptation or a film adaptation.

There are even DT fans who hate King’s ending to the series, but that’s the experience of being a writer. Ultimately, you have to try your best to remain true to yourself and to the imaginative world you are part of.  Adapting a novel to comic book form is a bit like altering a novel and making it into a film.  Everything has to be visual, and you have to tell your reader everything you can via action.

gunslinger

Hence, my real goal has been to stay true to Steve’s vision—a vision recounted over the course of the seven (now eight) books of the series.(Plus “Little Sisters of Eluria.”  We can’t forget that one!)  I’ve tried hard to remember the face of my father, say thankya.  All stories and story cycles go through Steve and his agent Chuck Verrill, so not only is he the original author of the books but he’s also the final editor of the comics!

little sisters

I must add that this project has not been as straightforward an endeavor as it might seem when you read the comics, especially since both Stephen King and Marvel comics wanted the comics to add more to the books, not just recount the same tale.  (When I deliver straightforward adaptations, they are returned to me with the comment, “add more new stuff!”) I decided early on that the person I want to please most, and that ultimately I must please, is Stephen King himself, since the Dark Tower universe is his baby.

As you know, the story covered by the first seven comics is Steve’s story—the one he told in Wizard and Glassand I’m very proud of that piece of work. (I’m proud of all the Dark Tower comics, but that was the first.)

roland and susan 2

My job was to adapt that novel to a new format, which meant cutting some scenes and adapting others.  (Occasionally I ended up adding and adapting bits from other Dark Tower books, such as the scene in issue #1 when Roland and his friends attend a falconry class.)  When we first started this project, I wondered how on earth any artist would be able to take the pressure of creating faces and bodies for Stephen King’s beloved characters, but all of the artists involved have created spectacularly beautiful work—visuals that really live and breathe.

Roland and tet 1


And this world will continue to live and breathe for a long, long time, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Furth and her team.  Again, I feel fortunate to have made so many new friends who continue to educate me on my favorite fantasy series of all time.  And again, I thank Ms. Furth for taking the time to speak to little old me.  Thank ya big big, and long days and please nights!


The works of Robin Furth and her team are available in bookstores, comic book shops, Amazon.com and are also available in digital format on sites such as comixology.com.  I highly recommend them, as they add an entire new dimension to The Dark Tower experience.

Top 10 Shocking Moments in Television and Film

As I have stated before, I am not much a movie person.  I am a book nerd, and I prefer to read my stories, as opposed to watching them on a screen.  Oftentimes, my imagination fills in a lot more details than a movie or television screen ever can.

However, I do enjoy some movies and some television shows.  The ones I enjoy the most have a lot of action.  But my favorite part of any movie or television show is The Twist.  Or The Shocking Moment That No One Saw Coming in a Million Years.

Long before we had Facebook, Twitter or any other medium that allowed a moment in film and television to be a shocker for all of about 30 seconds, people would tune into a movie or TV show blissfully unaware of the shocker or twist, and were actually surprised by it.  And the discussions that were had not online, but by the water cooler, outside of class, etc.    In other words, we operated differently in pre-history and it was still possible for people to not know of the plot twists for hours or even days before watching the film or TV show…the good old days!  And I have no words to describe the feelings I got when I watched something and got to actually be surprised by it…it was just priceless!

All that being said, some plot twists and shocking moments will always remain classic and withstand the test of time.  Here are my personal top 10:

10)  Hulk Hogan turns heel (WCW)

Yes, wrestling may technically be considered a sport and not a movie or television show.  However, we all know that most shows featuring wrestling are as scripted as any movie, so I will count this as a TV show moment for this list.

Hulk Hogan was the consummate good guy.  His image was wholesome.  He told kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers.  He was untouched by any scandal and was someone every little boy (at least the ones growing up in the 80’s and 90’s) looked up to.  In fact, he was such a good guy that Bevis and Butthead mocked him.

However, Hogan was not to remain a good guy forever, as he wanted to take his career to another level.  And in 1996, he took his career to another level and then some, when Hogan turned “heel.”  The iconic good guy of professional wrestling shocked the world by joining NWO (New World Order), teaming with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash and turning into a “bad guy.”  The man who reminded the world to take its vitamins and say its prayers would now go on to participate in acts of vandalism and to make obscene gestures on television.    Audience members even threw trash into the ring, out of surprise and anger.  Hollywood Hogan was born.  Hollywood Hogan was just one of many characters who would usher in the edgier, raunchier “Attitude Era” in professional wresting.  However, change is never easy, and the fallout from Hulk Hogan turning “heel” is a prime example of that, as Hogan lost many fans when when he decided to take his career to another level.

“Turning heel” is actually quite a common occurrence in the world of professional wrestling.  In fact, many fans even suggest it to their favorite wrestlers.  But it is rare for a wrestler like Hogan to seemingly out of the blue make such as drastic change, risking losing so many fans and also risking his career.  But it was a gutsy move that paid off in the end, and will always be remembered, for better or worse, as the day Hogan turned heel.

HollywoodHogan_original

9)  Hand coming out of the grave (Carrie, 1976)

I like good old fashioned scares that make me jump out of my seat when I watch something that is supposed to be a horror movie.  The slasher flickers and “found footage” films that pass for horror movies today are seriously lacking in that area, so as a result, I don’t watch too many modern flicks.  If I am going to get my fix out of a horror movie, I will watch something older.  Like the 1976 version of Carrie.

carrie-1

Carrie is probably best known for the scenes where the title characters wreaks havoc at her high school prom, and rightfully so. Brian  De Palma did a beautiful job filming those scenes, using slow motion and dual shots to showcase the destruction.  However, the scene that is likely responsible for many a nightmare, even almost 40 years later is the final scene, where Carrie’s hand comes out of the grave, reaching for poor Sue Snell.  This was a dream scene, so it wasn’t “real” but it was terrifying nonetheless.  De Palma filmed the scene backwards to give it a dream-like quality, and also included images such as Carrie White’s vandalized gravestone.  The result is a surreal quality, but when the hand grabs Sue Snell, the surreal quality vanishes and the viewer is brought back to earth, along with a terrified Sue Snell.  This brief scene plays a big role in setting the tone for the entire film, and is still unsettling, even today.

Stephen King himself went to see Carrie when it was released in the theaters.  He stated that he watched the film to the end, and knew it was a success because two large men in the row in front of him grabbed each other and screamed in surprise when the final scene was shown.  And if its good enough for the master, its certainly good enough for me.

carriehand1

8)  Rue’s death (The Hunger Games)

A lot of movies and books have what I call “a shit just got real scene.”  The Hunger Games probably can be said to have more than one of these scenes, given the content of the film and the books.  But one scene in particular stands out, and that is Rue’s death scene.  Rue is an 12 year girl who is an unwilling participant in a reality show mandated by a dystopian society which glorifies suffering and violence.  We root for Rue and Katniss Everdeen (the main protagonist) because they are good guys, and good guys don’t die, right?  Well, sometimes that may work in the movies, but The Hunger Games brings us back to reality when Rue is killed off, reminding us that good guys do NOT always win, and that they oftentimes suffer more than the bad guys.  Rue’s death also drives home that no one in this world is safe, not even children, and that children are often put in danger due to the horrible decisions made by adults that they have no control over.

The-hunger-games-katniss-rue-death-flowers

7)  The death of Optimus Prime (Transformers, 1986)

Again, let’s talk about good guys.  And how they don’t die.  Except in animated movies intended for children…

Yep, reality sets in again but this time in an animated movie about talking robots who transform into different vehicles.  Most people look back on Transformers as a bit of nostalgia from the 1980’s (before the one known as Michael Bay took over, anyway) and not necessarily as a reality check.  However, we are treated to a reality check anyway with the death of Optimus Prime (the childhood icon to the many of us who grew in up in the 1980’s).  Deaths of major characters who are “good guys” are actually not that unusual.  What was unusual about this particular death was that it occurred in an animated movie intended for children of an average age of about 9 years old.  The Transformers cartoon of the 1980’s was irreverent for the most part (the lessons on morality were left for GI Joe and Masters of the Universe, for the most part).  So a death of a major character in this cartoon was a bit jarring, and likely many viewers felt the loss of their childhood after that particular death was witnessed.  And were reminded that no one, including their friends, family or even the Autobots were safe from danger or even death.

optimus-prime-death-01

 

6)  Barf-o-Rama (Stand By Me)

Stephen King has also stated that if he can’t scare you, he will go for the gross out instead, because he is not proud.  Of course, gross outs are not uncommon in horror movies and can really add to the movie if done properly.

stand by me

Where one does not expect to see a gross out is a coming of age movie, even if the movie is based on a novella written by the master of modern horror.  The publication of the collection Different Seasons allowed King to break out of mold of “horror writer” and finally be acknowledged a writer, and an excellent one at that.  Three of the four novellas were made into movies, and The Body was one of them (also known as the movie Stand by Me).  The story tells of four adolescent boys who are on the cusp of adulthood, and have one last adventure together.  One of the young men, Gordy, tells the story of the hapless character he calls Lard Ass.  Lard Ass seeks revenge on the townspeople who wronged him by inducing a mass vomiting session at a pie eating contest.  To the surprise of a few, this scene was included in the movie, with full visuals.  Gordy’s voice over describes how the men, women and children of the town (the Eternal Order of Antelopes was my personal favorite), begin to vomit on one another, while the screen shots actually show the vomiting, instead of merely implying it.  This scene is just unexpected and disgusting, yet funny at the same time. It is actually able to invoke simultaneous shuddering and laughing.  The best of both worlds, in other words.

barforama

We often forget that bodily functions can be funny at times.  And the gross out, that is not above the likes of Stephen King, can also be funny.  Hence, the Barf-o-Rama scene in Stand By Me will always remain one of the funniest and best gross out scenes in cinematic history.

5)  The reveal of Two Face (The Dark Knight)

To many, the movie The Dark Knight is about The Joker.  And it is.  The main villain in that movie is The Joker.  Heath Ledger gave a performance for the ages in his portrayal of one of the most recognized villains in the comic book and movie world.  In fact, the story line focuses heavily on The Joker and his antics.  So heavily that the viewer almost misses the other villain in the movie.  One that is almost as iconic as The Joker.  Two Face, in other words.

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Yes, The Joker storyline almost overshadows the story of Two Face in The Dark Knight.  However, the key word is almost.  And the nearly overshadowing of Harvey Dent aka Two Face actually works, as the reveal of Two Face takes the story in a new direction, as Harvey Dent had previously been on the side of the good, even putting his life at risk to protect Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman. Dent also puts himself directly in the line of fire from The Joker. However, Dent’s accident and subsequent mental breakdown pushes him to the other side and open to the power of suggestion from The Joker, and Gotham is now faced with dual threats.  Two Face is dispatched by Batman, but the damage has been done, and the movie ends with a manhunt for Batman, while Harvey Dent is still viewed as a hero.

harvey dent

Oftentimes, less is more.  The reveal of Two Face in The Dark Knight is a prime example of this, as it allows the development of multiple story lines in what is a true masterpiece of a movie.

4)  The killer toy clown (Poltergeist)

People are supposed to be safe in their own homes.  Kids are supposed to be safe when their parents are also home.  It should also be safe at home after an escapee from Munchkinland a medium comes over, rescues your daughter from evil spirits holding her hostage and then declares your home free from those pesky evil spirits…

Well, except if your house is actually built on a burial ground because some jerk removed the headstones and not the bodies, desecrating the ground and royally pissing off a bunch of ghosts.  Like in the movie Poltergeist

And let’s face it, clowns are really, really scary…terrifying actually.  Why anyone would put a toy clown in their kids’ room and not expect them to not need extensive psychiatric help in adulthood is beyond me, but that’s my personal opinion.  And the toy clown that comes to life and attacks the little boy is one of the scariest moments in any movie ever, especially as we are led to believe that the home and its inhabitants are now safe, as the ghosts are supposed to be gone.  But they are not, and attempting to kidnap Carol Anne Freeling was not enough for these spirits…now they are after everyone in the house and will not rest until they destroy everyone in the house.  The ghosts don’t care that its a family home, and that the parents are home and everyone should be safe in that home.  The ghosts will do anything to seek revenge, and that includes possessing a doll and attacking a child.  The result is a scene that surely has haunted the dreams of many an 80’s child throughout the years.

People often forget that Poltergeist has a mere PG rating.  Somehow a film with no violence, no sexuality and very few swear words still manages to stand the test of time and be one of the most frightening horror movies to date.

Clown_Doll_(Poltergeist)

3)  Darth Vader reveals Luke’s parentage (The Empire Strikes Back)

“Luke, I am your father.”  This is perhaps one of the most quoted lines out of any movie, and probably one of the most parodied.  However, it is still one of the most shocking lines ever uttered as well.

Human beings like to draw lines to distinguish good from evil.  We call good The Side of the White, while the bad is black or red.  And bad guys are separate from the good guys, while the good guys don’t have an ounce of bad in them at all…

Except, that’s not how it works.  It is said that Lucifer himself started out as an archangel, and was the most beautiful of the angels, until he fell.  And good guys are tempted by evil all the time, even good guys like Luke Skywalker.  Luke is shocked and unhappy to be revealed as the son of Darth Vader, who is the bad guy he and his friends are fighting against, as it makes him question his own motives.  After all, Luke’s own father was once a Jedi, but fell, in much the same way as Lucifer the archangel.  And if a Jedi like Anakin Skywalker can fall, that means no one is safe.  And that includes Luke Skywalker.  When it is revealed that Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy, is actually the father to Luke Skywalker, the story quickly takes a different direction, and the viewer begins to question Luke and his intentions.  Will Luke be tempted by the dark side now?  Will Luke break the alliance and betray his friends?  After all, he came from the bad so that makes him bad, right?  Well, as we all know, Luke and his friends triumphed in the end, with Luke overcoming the temptation and defeating the Darth Vader in the final battle.  However, Luke does not forget where he comes from and is still saddened over the fate of his father, proving that his humanity will never leave him and that he will always be a “good guy.”

Luke-Skywalker-and-Darth-Vader1

The fact that Luke was attracted to who would later be revealed to be his twin sister Leia and almost engaged in an incestuous affair with her is an added bonus to the reveal of his true parentage.

Luke and Leia

2)  The chicken baby (M*A*S*H)

On the surface, M*A*S*H was a comedy set in the Korean War, told from the viewpoint of doctors and other medical personnel who are working from the trenches.  And that would be a pretty accurate description of the show.  However, the writers of the show often managed to tackle tough issues, and make statements in regards to issues that our country faced during the airing of the show (the Viet Nam War is a prime example).

Hawkeye 1

One of these issues that the writers tackled was the effect that war has on everyone, from the soldiers fighting the war to the doctors who work in the trenches to the civilians that the military is supposed to be protecting.  This issue was actually discussed several times, but the most memorable time was actually in the last episode of the series, titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.  This episode was the series finale, and presumably a happy episode, as the war was finally over and everyone would be able to return home.  And the episode did deliver on that premise.  However, as stated before, the episode also tackled some major issues.  These were from the perspective of Captain Hawkeye Pierce.  Throughout the series, Hawkeye was a vocal protester of the war in Korea, as he felt many of his country’s actions were wrong.  However, he is still dutiful and does everything he can to serve his country, the Korean citizens and his fellow soldiers.  But the war begins to take its tolls on Hawkeye (and his friends), and an incident on a bus sends Hawkeye to a mental institution.  The incident is re-told through a series of flashbacks to Dr. Sidney Freedman, a military psychiatrist.  The re-telling of the incident first takes a comedic turn, as Hawkeye talks of whiskey and chickens boarding the bus.  However, Dr. Sidney understands that humor is Hawkeye’s way of trying to process the unimaginable, and is slowly able to get Hawkeye to tell the real story.  The story then takes a chilling turn, as the chickens were stand-ins for villagers who took refuge in the bus after their village was invaded.  The lady holding a “chicken” was actually holding a human child.  Hawkeye tells her to keep the “chicken” quiet, as he and the other passengers on the bus must hide from the invaders.  The villager takes Hawkeye’s words to heart, and smothers the “chicken.”  However, it is revealed that the villager actually smothered her human baby to death as opposed to a clucking chicken.  Again, this reveal reminds us that war can have many consequences, even on those we are supposed to be protecting.  It also reminds us that while the soldiers fighting the wars may have it hard, that we cannot forget the doctors who sometimes make enormous sacrifices in order to fulfill their Hippocratic Oath.

Hawkeye 2

Someone once told me that when you laugh and cry at the same time, you are having “a rainbow day.”  I often thought of this phrase after I watched M*A*S*H, a show that made me laugh and cry on a regular basis, therefore giving me many rainbows.

And, now for the number 1 shocking moment in television and film history…

drum-roll-please

 

1)  The reveal of “mother” (Psycho)

Yes, the “master of shock” aka Alfred Hitchcock has a film in the number one spot on this list.  Real shock there, huh?  (See what I did there).

Alfred_Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock can easily be argued to be the greatest filmmaker of his generation, if not the greatest filmmaker in history.  Hitchcock was prolific, directing over 50 films in his career.  Hitchcock was also not afraid to push boundaries, as his films featured sexuality and violence, which were in contrast to some of the more lighthearted fare of his time.  So, many of Hitchcock’s films contained material that was bound to shock his audience.

Psycho is one of those films that was sure to shock Hitchcock’s audience.  And the movie is loaded with those moments.  The movie begins with the “protagonist” committing an illegal act.  Then there is the scene in the shower.  The shower scene alone was considered risque for its time, due to the implied nudity.  However, the protagonist is murdered while taking a shower, which ups the ante for the shock value.  And then there was that old woman who was committing the murders and unable to be stopped by her son (who went by the name of Norman Bates)…

psycho shower

Except there was no old woman.  And no son trying to stop her from committing murders.  Throughout the movie, we see evidence of the old woman.  We hear her talk and see her shadowy figure.  Norman also speaks of her often, and will not hear a bad word about her.  However, its all a ruse.  At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Norman’s mother is deceased and we see her corpse.  We then see Norman dressed as a old woman, carrying a knife.  Norman was not the innocent son who tried to stop his mother from committing atrocious acts.  Rather, Norman was the one committing the murders all along under the guise of his “mother personality.”  That personality was so convincing that he manages to fool everyone (including the viewer) up until the last few minutes of the movie.  Even more shocking, the “mother” personality has now asserted her dominance even in death, as she did during life, and completely taken over Norman at the end of the movie.  In what is one of the most unsettling endings of any film ever, we hear Mrs. Bates voice stating that she “should have put Norman way forever” and that she would “never hurt a fly.”  We then see a double exposure of Norman’s face merging with the face of Mrs. Bates, symbolizing the dominance of the “mother” personality.

norman bates

Psycho is a film that touches on so many taboos:  stealing, sexuality, violence and incest are a few.  The ending, with its reveal of the true “mother”, manages to take a disturbing film to another level of creepy, with some frightening long term implications.  Psycho is truly deserving of the number 1 spot on this list.

 

Even though I have seen most of these movies and television shows many times, these (and other) moments never fail to get my attention even now, and I still sometimes  gasp, even when I know what is coming.  Such is the power of good film making.

 

 

Happy Friday the 13th before Valentine’s Day!

Today is Friday the 13th.  But its a special Friday the 13th.  Its not your mother’s Friday the 13th.  Tomorrow is actually Valentine’s Day.  So, we have a very special Friday the 13th (and Valentine’s Day, for that matter).  I have dubbed it Friday the 13th Before Valentine’s Day.  Its a rare occurrence…almost like another blood moon.  Or something.

blood moon

And I have never considered 13 to be an unlucky number.  I don’t consider Friday the 13th to be an unlucky day.  Crazy, huh?

Well, not so crazy.  See, 13 is a number that has brought me the greatest thing in my life.  No, its not this guy…

Jason 1

Nor is it this artifact, although I’m really not sure its lucky anyway.

Black_13

No, the love of my life was born on the 13th day of September.  Therefore, 13 is his number.  He considers it his lucky number.  And now I consider it my lucky number.  I was the one who truly lucked out.  I got lucky to find someone who put up with me at my diddliest, as well as my doodliest.  And seeing me at my doodliest, well, its not a pretty sight.  So I got lucky there.

Flanders

And he has a sense of humor…if you haven’t experienced simultaneous sarcasms with someone, then your humor life is sorely lacking, my friend!

And he gets my obsession with Batman.  I mean, Batman.  Always Batman.  Batman is the alpha and Omega.  It all just comes down to Batman.

joker and harley

Did I mention he is really smokin’ hot?  And he helps old ladies cross the street.  And kind to stray animals.  And…well, I could go on and on.  But for once, I am not going to write a 2500 word post.  I don’t have to, to express how lucky I am.  Sometimes words aren’t needed.  Or maybe they aren’t enough to express whatever it is you’re feeling.  And I am feeling like the luckiest woman alive on this Friday the 13th before Valentine’s Day.

So, Happy Friday the 13th Before Valentine’s Day, my love!  You know who you are, so I will keep it anonymous.  And there will be many, many more happy days of all kinds to come…I am feeling lucky today, so I am calling it!

garfield

Friends Forever: My review of The Drawing of the Three

“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends…all I need is my buddies…”

WonderYears

Joe Cocker

“Friends forever!”

saved by the bell

Saved by the Bell

In case you couldn’t tell, I just got done reading The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  And there is a prevailing theme in this book (to me at least).

And that theme is friendship.  Yes, I think that a book about a lone gunslinger who has been chasing a man in black across a desert in a post apocalyptic world that is kind of like our world but not really has a message about friendship.  Roland Deschain, you see, is not entirely a cold blooded killing machine who can take out an entire town and eat a hamburger afterwards.  Roland is actually a human…gasp!  Oh, the humanity!  And he has feelings…apparently letting a boy fall to his death got to him, at least a little.  And since Roland is human being, and most human beings need interaction with other human beings (so social scientists would have us believe, at any rate), Roland needs other humans around.  Friends, in other words.  We know from The Gunslinger that Roland had a group of friends at one point, but that everyone he knew has died.  But whatever force is controlling Roland’s quest has deemed that now is the time for Roland to have a new group of friends.  And Roland finds that group.  That is the main theme of The Drawing of the Three:  finding other people that will put up with your craziness and who will get drawn into your crazy quest, even if they think that this quest really isn’t for them.

Synopsis

The Drawing of the Three begins where The Gunslinger left off, with Roland Deschain on a beach.  Roland has awakened from a 10 year sleep due to a spell placed on him by the man in black.  Roland is contemplating his next step, but trouble quickly arrives.  Lobster like creatures swarm the beach and attack Roland.  Roland quickly dubs these creatures “lobstrosities” and for good reason:  the creatures attack him and he loses a couple of fingers in the attack.  Even worse, these fingers are from his right hand, which is the hand Roland shoots with.  Worse still, Roland contracts blood poisoning from the attack on his hand and becomes very ill.  But he trudges forward, continuing on his quest.

lobstrosity

Roland then encounters the first of the three doors that were previously shown to him in his palaver with the man in black.  This is the door of The Prisoner.  It leads Roland into New York City in the summer of 1987.  Roland leaves his physical body on the beach, and enters the mind of a young man named Eddie Dean.  Eddie Dean is also in trouble, as he is attempting to smuggle heroin from the Bahamas back to the States.  Eddie is also a heroin addict, along with his older brother Henry.  Roland quickly lets Eddie know of his presence, as Eddie is about to have a run in with law enforcement.  Roland is able to transport the heroin back to his world, saving Eddie from being arrested.  However, he and Eddie must still deal with the mob bosses who employed Eddie to smuggle the heroin.  And Roland does indeed deal with those men, and in truly epic fashion.  Roland and Eddie take part in a gun battle and dispatch of the mobsters in gruesome fashion.  One mobster is dragged back to Roland’s world and torn apart by the lobstrosities.  Eddie even fights the mobsters when he is naked, proving to Roland that he may make a fine gunslinger once he kicks his heroin addiction.  Eddie’s brother Henry is also a casualty, as he dies of an accidental heroin overdose while he is being held hostage by the mobsters.  A grieving Eddie is then dragged back into Roland’s world and becomes instantly sober, although he still deals with cravings for the drug.

prisoner door

Eddie treats Roland’s blood poisoning with some antibiotics he transported from his world.  He also becomes an unwilling partner to Roland in his quest, and must deal with his heroin addiction and the death of his brother Henry, with whom Eddie’s relationship was complicated.  Eddie’s self esteem was damaged by his brother, which led to his addiction.  Slowly, Eddie becomes to recover as he and Roland trudge along on the path to the second door.  Roland and Eddie then encounter the second door, titled Lady of the Shadows.  Roland then makes his way through the door, ignoring Eddie’s threats to kill him, as Eddie is still experiencing withdrawals from his abrupt crash course in sobriety.

Roland is thrust in 1960’s New York City, this time in the body of a young African American woman calling herself Detta Susannah Walker.  Detta is stealing costume jewelry from a department store when she encounters the gunslinger for the first time.  Detta is a vicious, nasty woman and is not happy when her body is taken over.  Roland therefore immediately transports her back to his world,  Detta fights him the entire way.  Eddie then learns how nasty Detta is as well.  It is also revealed that another personality inhabits the body of Detta Walker.  This personality is a gentle, eloquent woman by the name of Odetta Susannah Holmes.  We learn that Odetta Holmes is from a wealthy family and is also a civil rights activist.  We also learn that Odetta was hit by a falling brick as a child, and then, as a young woman, was pushed in front of a subway, which resulted in the loss of both of her legs.  These accidents also caused brain trauma, which was responsible for the multiple personality syndrome she suffers from.  Neither personality is aware of the other, and Roland realizes that this must be resolved, although he is not sure how.  Eddie and Odetta draw together, and Eddie begins to fall in love with Odetta, while being terrified of Detta.

The_Lady_of_Shadows_by_synpro

Roland, Eddie and Odetta soon encounter the third Door, which reads Death.  Roland’s infection has returned, and he realizes that he must find more antibiotics or death will be dealt to him this time.  Roland then escapes through the third door.  In the meantime, Eddie must fight off the Detta Walker personality, for she has returned with a vengeance.

Roland takes the body of a man named Jack Mort (the last name is basically Latin for death) who is also called The Pusher.  Roland learns that Mort is responsible for both of Odetta’s “accidents.”  Mort was also the man who pushed Jake Chambers in front of the moving vehicle.  This was responsible for Jake’s “death” as well.  Roland uses the body of Mort to purchase ammunition for his guns.  Roland also robs a pharmacy while controlling Mort’s body, so that he may obtain the antibiotics that he needs to live.  When Jack Mort has served Roland’s purpose, he throws Mort’s body in front of a moving subway, killing Jack Mort and saving the life of Jake Chambers.  Roland returns to his world just in time, as Detta has captured Eddie, and Eddie faces certain death at the hands of the lobstrosities.  Roland uses the door to merge Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, as the door forces the two to acknowledge each other for the first time.  This results in a new woman who is whole for the first time in her life:  Susannah Dean.

Jack Mort

Roland then collapses and becomes unconscious.  He is cared for by Susannah and Eddie, who now call themselves man and wife.  Roland eventually recovers, and the trio make their way off the beach.  They continue to travel the path to the Dark Tower, drawing just a little closer to their final destination.

Ka_tet_by_Cordania

 

My Thoughts 

As I stated previously, I did not like The Gunslinger when I first read it (although this has changed).  So I almost did read Drawing of the Three.  However, I am glad that I did not commit that mistake.  I picked up The Drawing of the Three and my opinion was changed.  It endeared itself to me, in the same manner a cute kitten would endear itself to me.  And I still feel that this book is endearing, even though I have read it several times over the years.

To me, this book is all about Eddie Dean.  I know that Roland is a major player in it, and we get introduced to Susannah as well.  But this is Eddie’s book, at least to me (and Susannah does have her own book, anyway).  King provides us with an intimate look at Eddie.  We learn about his addiction, and his relationship with his brother.  We also learn how troubled Eddie is, although most of his issues were really caused by Henry and the boys’ mother.  Eddie begins the book blaming himself for everything, including Henry’s tour of duty in Vietnam that led to Henry’s heroin addiction, and later Eddie’s.  However, we see the shell of addiction stripped away from Eddie over a relatively short period of time.  When the shell is stripped away, it is revealed that Eddie is dangerous man who is willing to fight.  It is also revealed that Eddie has a soft side, since he is a person who likes to be needed, as evidenced by his growing relationship with Susannah.  Eddie also helps Susannah overcome her demons, as she has lived with mental illness for so long and has never had someone to watch out for her.  Eddie steps into the role without hesitation, and plays a part in making Susannah a whole person again.

Eddie 1

Stephen King is a writer who creates memorable villains.  He does not disappoint in The Drawing of the Three with the introduction of Jack Mort.  While many of King’s villains (such as Trashcan Man) are somewhat sympathetic, this is not the case for Jack Mort.  Jack Mort has absolutely no redeemable qualities.  he is a serial killer who pushes people in front of moving vehicles or drops bricks on them.  He is pure evil.  He is also someone who was clearly placed by the man in black to cause trouble for Roland, as he was responsible for both of Susannah’s accidents and Jake’s first death.  So when Roland kills Jack by throwing him in front of a subway, we feel absolutely no sympathy for Jack Mort, and it is one of the most satisfying deaths of a villain in the series.

As I mentioned before, King brings out a little more humanity in Roland in The Drawing of the Three.  We see that he is vulnerable when he falls ill after being attacked by the lobstrosity creatures. Normally, someone falling ill is not a good thing.  And it is not a good thing when Roland falls ill, but this experience does help build the character of Roland.  Roland is actually forced to rely upon Eddie Dean, who himself is a recovering heroin addict.  Roland has gone so long with minimal human interaction that did not involve the killing of other humans.  So when Roland is hurt, it shows that he is a human after all.  Roland also listens to Eddie, as Eddie needs to work out his issues with his brother, and is also experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to his sudden crash course in sobriety.  While Roland can be considered a bit of a hard nose when dealing with Eddie and his problems, it is clear that he still feels some sympathy and is ready to offer Eddie some “tough love” so that Eddie may live up to his full potential, something that was not going to happen in his previous life.  In other words, the little bits of humanity that begin to show in Roland in this book add another layer to the story, making the reader cheer for Roland and understand his obsession with his quest a little more.

Roland 1

 

I have had many friends come in and out of my life  over the years.  Some friendships are brief but others withstand the test of time.  Those are they friends I can go years without speaking, but when reunited, it seems there has never been a lull in the conversation.  I consider The Drawing of the Three (and the other books in the series) to be one of those friends.  Coming back to these books is like meeting an old friend for dinner drinks, and staying and catching up until we close out the restaurant.  And knowing that I can always pick up the conversation, and that conversation will will be as natural as ever, without any lulls.

silence of the lambs

Tune in soon for my review of The Wastelands…same bat time, same bat channel.

adam west

 

Connections

Just for fun, here the connections I found to King’s other work in The Drawing of the Three:

-Eddie mentions a movie he has seen.  That movie is The Shining.  Of course, The Shining is based on the book of the same name and could be argued to be one of King’s best known and best loved works.  This may be King’s way of establishing his existence in some form on every level of the Tower.

the-overlook-hotel

-Roland states that he has met Thomas and Dennis, who were also pursuing Randall Flagg.  Of course, Thomas and Dennis are characters from Eyes of the Dragon, as is Randall Flagg.  This confirms that Roland’s world is the same world in Eyes of the Dragon, and also confirms Randall Flagg as an uber villain.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

-Jack Mort calls himself a “Do Bee”, meaning that he accomplishes tasks (mainly, murdering people).  Craig Toomey in The Langoliers also calls himself a “Do Bee.”  Toomey and Mort may be Twinners of some sort, as they are men who care nothing for their fellow human beings and who only want to cause pain and suffering.

Toomey

-It is also interesting to note that the characters in The Langoliers travel through a portal to another world.  This is similar to the doors that Eddie and Susannah use to travel to Midworld.

-When Roland robs the pharmacy for antibiotics, the pharmacist is taking to a woman by the last name of Rathbun.  George Rathbun is the name of one of Henry Leyden’s alter egos in Black House.  Black House is another novel heavily connected to the Dark Tower series.

gorg_and_mr_munshun

-Susannah mentions that her mother’s name is Allie.  Allie is the name of Roland’s lover in Tull.  This is just one of many “coincidences” woven into the series that is probably not a coincidence at all.

Allie

My Top 7 Stephen King Boyfriends

I can just picture myself standing in front of the audience at some kind of 12 step program meeting, if I actually chose to seek help for my excessive nerdiness (ha, that will never happen).  But I have fun with hypothetical situations, so here it goes:

My name is Leah McLaughlin, and I fall hopelessly in love with characters in books.  Yes, you read that right.  I develop crushes on imaginary people.  And no, these are not necessarily books that have been adapted into movies, although having the the image of some (preferably) handsome actor to go along with the character in question can certainly help!

Jon Snow

One of the features of the excessive nerdiness mentioned above is that I have a great imagination.  Almost too great, in fact.  But most of the time, it comes in handy.  Especially when trying to draw an image in my mind of someone who I will never meet and who may or may not be brought to life on screen.

So yes, I have book boyfriends, even though I am happily married.  And don’t worry, my football boyfriend and my actor boyfriend are pretty understanding.  Oh yeah, my husband is pretty understanding too…I lucked out in that department.

Jason_Statham_2007Rodgers 2

 

Now, Stephen King has a long list of male characters.  Not all of them are ones who I would want to date (Roland Deschain just has no sense of humor), much less even meet (ugh, Norman Daniels, anyone?)  Let’s face, a lot of King characters tend to be assholes…and that is fine, it makes some of them extremely memorable (Jim Rennie, for instance).

Roland 1

However, King also shows the good side of humanity.  He makes one believe in people again (sometimes).  His characters often go above and beyond the call of duty, often making enormous sacrifices for the greater good.  This includes both male and female characters.  But some of the men depicted are of particularly noble character.  Again, they make one believe in people.  And if that is not a quality worthy in a would be suitor, then I don’t know what is.

So, here are my top 7 Stephen King book boyfriends:

7)  Ralph Roberts (Insomnia)

Yes, Ralph Roberts is old.  And old is not supposed to be sexy…or is it?

While Ralph Roberts may be old, that doesn’t mean he is not book boyfriend material!  Come on, the man risked him life to save the life of Patrick Danville, a little boy who will turn out to be very important to a certain gunslinger.  Oh, and did I mention he saved the lives 200+ other people as well, from a madman who intended on crashing a plane into a large convention?  And Ralph also faced down the Crimson King (arguably the ultimate bad guy in the King universe) and lived to tell the tale.  On a smaller scale, he had the courage to actually not be a bystander during a so-called domestic dispute, and  intervened and possibly saved his neighbor’s life.  And Ralph confronted the abuser, reminding the abuser (and his victim) just who was the real victim.  And all this was done by a man in his 70’s.  Men half of his age would have ran from such a calling, but Ralph took to the task admirably and never backed down.

knight

Ralph is compared to Sir Lancelot several times in the book.  In other words, people see him as noble and brave.  Ralph’s final act of sacrifice was textbook proof of bravery and nobility, as he sacrificed his own life so that the life of a child would be spared.  And nobility and bravery are very sexy attributes in a Stephen King book boyfriend.

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6)  Henry Leyden (Black House)

The inclusion of Henry Leyden as a Stephen King book boyfriend is so obvious.  So obvious, in fact, THAT A BLIND MAN COULD SEE IT!

Henry Leyden, aka The Wisconsin Rat, aka Symphonic Stan, aka (and this one was my personal favorite) George Rathbun, is indeed a blind man.  However, he often sees more than many with 20-20 vision, as his senses (other than his sight) are extremely acute.  He is also a sort of mentor to Jack Sawyer, as he convinces Jack Sawyer to use his detective skills to help solve a series of gruesome child murders in French Landing, WI.  Henry also uses his acute sense of hearing to help identify the murderer, and ultimately pays for it with his life.  Anyone who would give his life for the protection of the citizens should be classified a hero.  And heroic acts are also swoon worthy acts, in my book.

Henry Leyden also continues his heroics from beyond the grave, as he aids in the rescue of Tyler Marshall after his death.  The willingness to protect others, even after death, is an attribute every book boyfriend (and real life boyfriend, for that matter) should possess.  Hence the inclusion of Henry Leyden on this list.

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5) Jake Epping (11/22/63)

There is just something sexy about English teachers.  Maybe its because they are smart.  Maybe its because they are (mostly) well read.  Or maybe I am just really, really nerdy…

Jake Epping is an English teacher.  He also knows how to dance (*swoon*).  Oh, and did I mention he is willing to risk his life to save the life of John F. Kennedy?  Jake travels back in time in 11/22/63 and is pretty single minded in his determination.  He even learns how to fire a gun.  Not only that, he is man who cares deeply about the lives of his students, among others, and attempts to better the lives of those around him, which ends up costing him (and others) dearly, as the past clearly does not want to be changed.  But any man who is determined, and caring to boot, is definitely boyfriend worthy.

Jake also meets a woman and falls in love with her.  Jake teaches Sadie that sex is actually a good thing and not something to be feared.  He also proves to her that some men can be brave, as he saves her life when her deranged ex husband attempts to kill her.  However, Sadie’s life is sacrificed when Jake does manage to save the life of John F. Kennedy.  Jake is able to erase the alternate timeline, but decides it would be selfish to travel back in time again, and does not attempt to reunite with Sadie.  He encounters Sadie as an old woman in 2011, and still sees her as beautiful.  And any man who can see inner beauty even after the physical body ages is worthy of inclusion on this list.

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4)  Richie Tozier (It)

Let’s face it, I am a sucker for a guy with a sense of humor.  And luckily, I am married to one of those guys.  In fact, our senses of humor tend to feed off of each other, and we are lucky enough to have simultaneous sarcasms sometimes!  I know, probably a bit more than you wanted to know, but a sense of humor is really sexy!

Many of King’s characters have a sense of humor.  And I think King himself also has a wicked sense of humor.  And this sense of humor comes through in a character like Richie Tozier.  Richier Tozier is on of the Losers in It.  Richie is not someone who should be pegged as a “Loser” but his mouth (along with his coke bottle thick glasses) make him a prime target for bullies.  Richie is nicknamed Trashmouth as a child, and lives up to the nickname admirably.  He bands together with the other misfits in his school, and he and his friends try to stop the child murdering monster known as Pennywise the Clown that has inhabited their hometown of Derry, Maine, for centuries.  Richie is the jester of the group, and his antics make the summer a little more bearable for the children as they battle the monster.  Richie’s sense of humor and antics even come in handy against Pennywise himself, providing a distraction to the monster so that they children are able to escape.  Richie reprises his role as an adult, and his sense of humor is able to bind the adults together again so that they can face the monster a second time, and successfully defeat it.

Richie not only has a sense of humor, but is also incredibly courageous.  He stands with Bill Denbrough against the werewolf the two encounter, and also helps Bill confront what Bill believes to be the ghost of his dead brother (who was actually a victim of Pennywise).  When they are adults, Pennywise captures Bill Denbrough’s soul in the final showdown, but Richie is able to rescue Bill, allowing the Losers to kill the monster.  In other words, Richie is really brave and with a sense of humor to boot…what’s not to love about that combination?  Its a combination that earns a spot on this list.

Richie Tozier

 

3)  Jack Sawyer (Black House)

This may sound strange, but adult Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe is hot, and it feels weird to say that!  I still seem him in my mind as a twelve year old kid battling magical creatures with other twelve year old kids, so I feel kind of perverted when I swoon over him, even though he is in his twenties now (which is perfectly legal but whose keeping track anyway?)

Harry-Potter-PrequelDaniel Radcliffe

And I feel the same way about including Jack Sawyer on this list.  Part of me will always picture him as a twelve year old kid battling magical creatures, even though he is around 35 in Black House.  And I will continue to think fondly of him as “Jacky.”  But Jacky, like Harry Potter, grew up.  And Jacky Jack grew up to be a fine, upstanding citizen.  And handsome, to boot!  But Jack never completely loses his childhood, and is able to travel back to the magical world he calls The Territories to help save the town of French Landing, WI from a serial killer who is targeting children.  Jack is another King character who is similar to the knights of yore, as he is selfless and constantly thinking of others (he even reads to a blind man in his spare time).  Even though Jack is a “retired” police officer, he teams with the local police force to help catch the killer.  He puts his life on the line for the good of the children.  And Jack pays the ultimate price for his police work, as he pays with his life at the end of the book.  Even though Jack appears to have been resurrected in The Territories, he is still a noble, self sacrificing hero, much like Ralph Roberts.  Hence his inclusion on this list.

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2)  Eddie Dean (The Dark Tower series)

As I have said before, I am a sucker for a sense of humor.  And I like guys that can protect me.  I am sure Roland Deschain would do a pretty good job of protecting me from pretty anything I could think of, but we all know he is lacking in the humor department.  So I would probably get pretty bored with him.  Or end up driving him crazy…it just wouldn’t work out!

But not so for Roland’s partner in crime, Eddie Dean.  Eddie Dean has a sense of humor.  And he is as tough as nails.  How many people can fight off mobsters when they are buck naked and just found out that their brother died of a heroin overdose?  Very few people are that tough.  And he kicked a heroin habit to boot.  So that’s someone I could show weakness around, and not feel judged in the slightest.  And being able to be vulnerable around someone and not feel judged for your weaknesses is just plain sexy, I have no other way to put it.

It is also stated throughout the series that Eddie likes to be needed.  While I consider myself to be a strong independent woman, I also love when I can count on a guy, whether I need the pickle jar removed, or just someone to cry with over a bad day.  Dependability is perhaps the sexiest quality in a partner, and is certainly worth the spot on this list.

Eddie 1

 

And now for my top Stephen King book boyfriend…

drum-roll-please

1)  Nick Andros (The Stand)

Yes, my number 1 boyfriend in a Stephen King Book is Nick Andros.  Yes, he is a deaf mute…trust me, I have my reasons for wanting to hop into bed with him!

Nick

Now that the number 1 choice has sunk in, let’s discuss the reasoning behind it.  And the reasoning behind is pretty sound (no pun intended).

First of all, I think being smart is a sexy quality.  And Nick Andros has plenty of smarts.  He was orphaned and basically left with nothing as a young child.  As stated before, he is also deaf and unable to speak.  This is a handicap now, but Nick was a child in the days before computer software, tablets or even decent special education classes.  In other words, kids like Nick were never given a chance.  However, Nick overcame all the odds and learned how to read and write.  Writing then became his main form of communication, as ASL  was not mainstream at the time.  Nick did have a good teacher, but only someone with a lot of equipment upstairs would be able to manage to learn how to read and write, when that person has been living in a veil of silence and cut off from the rest of their world for his entire life.  Mmmm, brains…as the zombies would say.

Nick is also resourceful.  Being resourceful is always a good thing, but when the world gets ravaged by the super flu, being resourceful is very important.  Nick is able to keep his group of survivors alive as they travel to the Boulder Free Zone.  This is no small feat, as the band of survivors includes Tom Cullen, a mildly mentally handicapped man who has a propensity to get into trouble.  But the leader comes out in Nick, and the man without a literal voice still manages to make himself heard…sexy!

Nick and Tom 2

But  my favorite thing about Nick is his compassion and his willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.  His compassion is evident when he meets Tom Cullen.  Tom Cullen is mildly mentally handicapped, and can also be a bit of a handful.  However, Nick takes him underneath his wing, and possibly ends up saving his life, as Tom was a target for bullies and acts of cruelty.  The two have one of the most enduring friendships in literature.  And Nick is another self-sacrificing Stephen King hero.  He is able to find the bomb that was planted by Harold and Nadine, and manages to save the lives of most who attended the ill fated meeting.  However, Nick, like so many others in the King universe, pays the ultimate price with his life.  His act of bravery is one that helps ensure the safety of the remaining Free Zone members and his death will never be forgotten by his friends.  But Nick’s compassion is something that continues to live beyond the grave.  His ghost appears to Tom Cullen, and aides Tom in rescuing Stu Redman, so that Stu can return to Fran and be a father to their children.  Not only is compassion a trait that can live on for a long time, it is and extremely sexy quality that Nick Andros possesses in spades!

Obviously, sexy is in the eye of the beholder.  And there are so many qualities that can make a man sexy and its hard to zero in on any particular quality.  But Nick Andros is as complete a package as you will find:  smart, charismatic and compassionate.  What can I say, I like them well rounded.  And well rounded, complete packages are deserving of the number 1 spot on this list.

Nick Andros 1

 

Valentine’s Day is coming up.  You know what that means…its time to grab one of these books on this list, and snuggle by the fire with one of my Stephen King book boyfriends.  Don’t worry, we are in an open relationships, and I I enjoy sharing what I love.  So, you’re welcome, and enjoy!

bookworm valentine

 

Crimes again food: My concoction of the candy bar pie

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I am a nerd.  And pretty proud of it…I own it, as a matter of fact!  I wear that badge with honor.

And like most nerds, I have a lot of obsessions.  For the most part, on this blog, I have focused on Stephen King, as he is one of my top obsessions.  I love reading his books, reading about his books, looking at King inspired artwork, trying to create my own King inspired artwork and of course, blogging about him.  It certainly keeps me busy!

But I don’t want to seem like a nerd without substance or one dimensional.  So today’s blog post will cover one of my other obsessions:  kitchen wizardry!  No, I don’t have Gandalf or Randall Flagg hanging out in my kitchen…I am talking about baking!  I know baking is pure science (at least according to my man Alton Brown) but it can sometimes seem like magic.  You measure out and mix a bunch of random stuff together and put it in the oven for a bit, and then you (hopefully) get something yummy that your friends and family then want to fight over…seems pretty magical to me!

Alton Brown 1

And I like to be creative in the kitchen.  There is nothing wrong with the classics, but I like to put spins on things, and be innovative.  Sometimes I am downright bizarre.  Hence, I consider myself to be a crime against food.  In other words, I’m not like a regular criminal…I am a cool criminal!  And my crimes will make your party just that much more fun!

hamburglar

Last week, something intriguing popped up in my Facebook newsfeed (my amount of time online can either be seen as unhealthy, or a good inspiration…pick your poison).  It was a recipe for a pie, which is something I love.  But this was no ordinary pie…it was a candy bar pie!  Hold the phone, you have my attention!  I love pies!  I love candy bars!  So could anything be better than combining them?  Heck, is this even legal in the free world?  My urge to commit another culinary crime could no longer be ignored, so I set to work in my magical kitchen.

I worked, along with my trusty sous chefs pictured below, to re-create this magical concoction.  And the result…you remember those monster cookies you had a kid, that had everything except (maybe) the kitchen sink in cookie format, and you just wanted to stuff your face with that big gob of yummy?  Well, that’s what this is, except in pie format.  And everything is better when its a pie, right?

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So, my first step was to make a pie crust.  You can buy pre-made ones, and I will never judge for that.  But I love to make my own pie crusts, and my hands and arms needed a workout.  So I made my own all butter crust (speaking of criminal) the night before I made the actual pie.  Pie crusts do well to rest overnight and are a little easier to work with after they have been rested.

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And then I rolled it out (my muscles are still tingling, I have been slack on my workouts) and placed in into the pie dish.  I made some sad attempts at crimping (she will never be a beauty queen, but they say beauty is only crust deep) and then put my crust into the freezer.  I think this causes the crust to bake up a little bit crisper and also keep its shape.

candy bar pie 007

Then, while my crust was getting her beauty freeze, I proceeded to make the filling to the pie.  I used my stand mixer to mix everything up, although a hand held will work just fine.  I love my stand mixer almost as much as I love the sexy stud who found it on Craigslist in what is probably the deal of the year, at least in our house.

candy bar pie 008

I then creamed the egg, sugar and butter.  I became hypnotized by the mixer…it is a thing of beauty to watch, especially when you don’t have to mix it yourself.  If someone could just invent a machine to roll out a pie crust, I will be set!

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I then added the flour and vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, which is a little more decadent, but extract will work just as well).  After the batter was mixed came the fun part:  adding the candy!  I used M&M’s, Rolos and Snickers.  But any candy will work just fine.  And there may or may not have been some sampling of the add ins…someone needs to taste test, don’t you think?

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I then removed the crust from her freezer beauty sleep, and placed the filling into the crust.  I also covered the edges with aluminum foil, to prevent burning of the crust (a lesson learned the hard way years ago in my misspent youth).  I also garnished the top with extra candy pieces.  You know, since there wasn’t enough candy in the filling before…duh.

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And then it was off into the oven we go!

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The recipe said said about 30 minutes, but I am not sure which 30 minutes it was referring to, as my pie took close to an hour to bake.  Or maybe my oven decided to slack off, since I actually had to be somewhere last night.  But this was the final result:

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Not bad, although it was maybe a little over-browned…next time (and this is too awesome for there not to be a next time) I will take the foil off a little later.  And experiment some more…I am sure putting Kit Kats and Milky Way bars into this will bump me up to a class A felony!

So happy early Pi day everyone!  This is a great dessert for any occasion, whether its an early Pi Day celebration, or maybe you just feel like celebrating Flag day…cheers!

P.S.

Click here for the recipe.

 

P.P.S.

This awesome site has lots of great pie recipes too!

And the journey begins: My review of The Gunslinger

So, I made a New Year’s resolution a few weeks ago.  I am not a big fan of those, but I figured this one was possibly one I could stick to.  And I am sticking to it, as I just finished reading The Gunslinger (book one of the Dark Tower series), earlier this week.  And I don’t think I have ever been this excited about a New Year’s resolution.

Calvin and Hobbes

My only complaint was that I didn’t get started a little earlier.  However, the NFL season has basically come to a close.  Now that my poor, beleaguered Indianapolis Colts are watching the Superbowl from their couches (like 99.9% of the population), I suddenly have lots of free time, kind of like how Snoop Dogg had lots of free time when he announced he was giving up a certain, er, past time several years ago.

And if I can’t watch Andrew Luck show the world how to be a gunslinger on my television set, I can read about a gunslinger.  Namely, Roland Deschain.  Look up anti hero in the dictionary, and you will find Roland’s picture.  Or at least you should.  He is everything an anti hero should be, and more.  He was an anti hero even before the term is thrown around like it is today.  Jax Teller and Tony Soprano have nothing on this guy, I say.

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis ColtsRoland 1

So let us begin the journey into what may be one of the most epic sagas in literature of all time.

Synopsis

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Every tale begins somewhere, and that is where The Gunslinger begins.  An un-named man, referred to as a gunslinger, is chasing another man (who can only be the antagonist of the book) across a desert.  We have no idea why the gunslinger is pursuing the man in black.  Neither character has a name.  We also don’t know where this chase is occurring.  But if any line can hook us in, it is this line.  Still one of the best lines in any book.  Maybe the best line ever.

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We learn that the gunslinger is a man named Roland, and he is on a quest, traveling a landscape that is similar to what we would find in a Clint Eastwood movie, or perhaps a Sergio Leone movie.  Roland starts the journey alone, but he soon finds himself in the company of a man named Brown.  Brown also owns a talking parrot.  Brown offers Roland food, water and a temporary place to rest.  We then learn, through a flashback, more of Roland’s journey.  More specifically, we learn of Roland’s time in a town by the name of Tull.  Roland had stopped in Tull for food and water.  Roland also enjoyed the company of a woman named Allie.  However, a preacher named Sylvia Pittson has a powerful hold over some of the people in Tull.  It turns out that the gunslinger’s nemesis, the man in black, has been using Sylvia Pittson and a drug addict named Nort to turn the town against Roland.  And he is successful, as the entire town turn, even Roland’s lover Allie, does indeed turn against the gunslinger.  Roland is then forced to kill every single inhabitant of the town of Tull.  No one is safe, including Allie, Sylvia Pittson, Sheb the piano player or even the children of Tull.  Roland then moves on from Tull to continue in his quest, seemingly undeterred.

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Roland also eventually abandons the company of Brown and continues to travel across the desert landscape on the heels of the man in black.  However, he comes across a roadblock in an abandoned way station.  Roland discovers a boy, about 11 years old, named Jake.  Curiously, Jake possesses memories of television sets and automobiles, items not found in Roland’s world.  Jake also states he was pushed in front of a moving vehicle and thinks that he died, but woke up in Roland’s world for some reason.  Roland continues on his quest with Jake in tow.  Roland saves Jake from an encounter with a succubus, but succumbs to the succubus in exchange for information regarding his future.  He also shares tales of his boyhood with Jake, which include the hanging of the traitor cook Hax witnessed by Roland and his friend Cuthbert and Roland’s early test of manhood in which he obtains the right to call himself a gunslinger.  Jake begins to grow wary of his new friend, as he senses Roland will stop at nothing in quest to seek the man in black.

Jake Chambers

Roland and Jake eventually make their way into a tunnel below the mountains, and use an ancient mine cart to speed their journey along.  They are attacked by what Roland calls “Slow Mutants”, or horribly deformed creatures which are implied to be the product of a nuclear war.  Roland and Jake also find the man in black but are placed in a situation where Jake ends up dangling from the tracks.  Roland is faced with the choice of sacrificing Jake and continuing his quest or rescuing Jake and losing the man in black.  Roland then opts to sacrifice Jake for his quest, letting him fall to the abyss and die a second time.  Jake is not surprised about the choice and falls silently to his death.

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Roland then catches up with the man and holds what he calls a “palaver” with his nemesis.  The man in black reveals himself to be Marten Broadcloak, the man who attempted to trick Roland into an early test of manhood, so that Roland would be sent West and out of Marten’s way, leaving Marten to his own evil devices.  Marten was unsuccessful, as Roland became a gunslinger at the unheard of age of 14.  Marten then deals Roland cards from a deck of tarot cards.  The first is “The Sailor.”  The second is “The Prisoner”.  The third is “The Lady of Shadows.”  Lastly, Marten deals Roland the card that simply says “Death”, implying that Roland will be able to cheat death many times over.  He also informs Roland that he will be sent companions to aid him on his quest, but that he will need to embark on a journey to seek out these companions.  Marten also tries to entice Roland to give up on his quest and gives Roland a view of the multiverse, to show Roland his insignificance and also to attempt to intimidate Roland.  Roland refuses to give up is quest, and is placed into a deep slumber by Marten.

man in black

When Roland wakes up, 10 years have passed and the man in black has disappeared, leaving  only a skeleton.  Roland is alone at the edge of the Western Sea, contemplating the next leg of his journey.

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My Thoughts

First of all, let me confess something (I hope I am among friends for this one).  I read the Gunslinger about 10 years ago and HATED it.  I almost gave up on the entire Dark Tower series (gasp) because I just did not care for it.  I thought it was boring and even confusing in parts.  Luckily, I pushed myself to go to the next books, and the rest is history.  However, in my re-reads of the series (and there have been several), I always skipped to The Drawing of the Three and ignored The Gunslinger.  I know, bad me.  Very bad me.

breaking bad

But I am glad I took my New Year’s resolution to heart and started with The Gunslinger.  I read the revised edition this time around, which may have helped.  But I think I was just immature 10 years ago and was unable to appreciate this book, which is one of King’s best.  Its even one of his overall best, ranking up there with The Stand, It, etc.  I will still admit its a bit of a difficult book to read, with the flashbacks and disturbing moments, such as Jake’s death, but it is worth it.

I think my favorite part of The Gunslinger was the element of surrealism that is present throughout the book.  Of course, this book has to be considered a western, first and foremost.  But the presence of creatures known as “Slow Mutants” and the glimpses of “the real world”, such as Citgo gas stations reminded me that the science fiction element cannot be ignored.  And the post apocalyptic imagery, combined with the western feel and the science element, just added to the surrealism.  At times, I felt like I was seeing a Salvadore Dali painting of a Sergio Leone film (I don’t think it  can get more surreal than that).

Dali painting 1

Stephen King has drawn controversy in some circles with the revision of The Gunslinger, but it is pretty clear that this was the right move.  The revisions clear up some confusion and enhance the story overall.  In particular, Allie chanting “19” in the presence of the undead Nort was one of my favorites.  Given the significance of the number 19 throughout the entire TV series, it made sense why the man in black was able to turn Tull against Roland so easily and why Roland had to dispatch the entire town the way he did (although that will still be one of the most disturbing scenes in any book that I have ever read).

Another favorite part of mine in regards to this book are the flashback scenes.  The flashback to Roland’s time in Tull was shiver worthy.  He dispatched an entire town…an entire town!  He even killed off the kids and the woman who was his lover!  Even Sheb, whom he supposedly knew from another time and another place.  And it looked like he had no problem killing everyone in an entire town, even the children.  That scene really made me question Roland’s humanity, even though he did have good reasons for his actions.  I also loved the flashback to the hanging of Hax the cook that Roland witnessed as a child, and his test of manhood when he obtains the right to call himself gunslinger at the age of 14.  This test stood out for me in particular, because Roland used his hawk David as a weapon.  Yes, he used a living bird as a weapon to battle his teacher Cort, so that he could obtain his guns…hawks are not everyday weapons.  However, David becomes a tool for Roland and serves his purpose.  David  can perhaps be considered the first casualty in Roland’s quest.  The death of David also serves as a foreshadowing for Jake’s fate.  The flashback scenes also give us some insight into Roland’s character, making him into something more than a human killing machine.

Roland and David

Roland’s interaction with “the man in black” (aka Randall Flagg aka Marten Broadcloak aka many other names) was also an interesting point to the book.  Normally, Randall Flagg is a character that works on the sidelines and tends to stay in the shadows.  In other words, he is present, but tends not to be an active player.  Flagg often gets others to do his dirty work for him.  Eyes of the Dragon and The Stand offer many examples of this.  This tendency is also present in The Gunslinger, as Flagg attempts to turn the town of Tull against Roland.  However, Roland also directly confronts the man in black and survives.  In fact, Roland even talks to the man in black and refuses to give up his quest.  And still survives.  This makes Roland quite the rarity in the King universe, as very few encounter Randall Flagg and live to tell the tale.

Roland and Flagg

 

Like Calvin, I think I am pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.  I don’t need to make New Year’s resolutions…not really.  But even us awesome people transgress every now and then, and really should actually make a New Year’s resolution so we can become even more awesome.  For example, pledging to read the entire Dark Tower series, starting with The Gunslinger and finding out what you missed in the prior reading is a pretty good place to start!

Stay tuned for my next review…of the The Drawing of the Three…same bat time, same bat channel!

batman and robin

 

Connections

Obviously, The Gunslinger is the first in a series of eight books and is connected to the other 7 books, so I will not even discuss that aspect.  However, I found some interesting parallels between The Gunslinger and some other works by King, so here are the connections I found:

-Randall Flagg aka the man in black aka Marten Broadcloak is the most obvious connection.  This is a villain who appears in several books, most notably The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon and possibly Hearts in Atlantis.  He is the very definition of an uber villain in King’s universe.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

-“Legion” is also mentioned.  In The Stand, Tom Cullen refers to Flagg as Legion.  Legion is also an anagram of the surname of Andre Linoge in Storm of the Century.  King reminds again that Flagg is definitely a supernatural being.

-Sylvia Pittson is just one of a long list of King characters overtaken by religious mania.  This list would include Mrs. Carmody (The Mist) and Margaret White (Carrie).  In most King works, religious mania does not bode well for the leader or the followers, and the fate of Sylvia Pittson and the town of Tull is no different.

Margaret White

-“The Interloper” is mentioned in The Gunslinger.  The Interloper is implied to be the Devil or the Anti Christ.  This was a term used to describe Flagg in The Stand.  Margaret White also made reference to The Interloper in Carrie.

-King also begins in building his universe in The Gunslinger, as he implies that Roland’s world is a post apocalyptic version of the “real world.”  Mentions are made of items such as gas pumps, which are items readily recognizable in our world.  Jake also appears to be from the “real world”, as he speaks of automobiles and television sets.  There are also references to some kind of nuclear war, as creatures suffering the effects of radiation poisoning are mentioned multiple times.  King has made some firm connections, setting up for the action in future Dark Tower books and other works.

Midworld