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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One thought on “Labor pains: My review of The Wastelands

  1. Pingback: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower Book 3) By Stephen King #SpoilerFree #BookReview | Smitten For Fiction

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