Well, going back to work after a vacation can really suck. I have been back from my vacation for a few weeks, and am finally get back into the swing of things.
So, yes, it can be rough. Really rough sometimes.
Maybe sometimes, you feel like you are getting thrown to the wolves…
Just like our favorite ka-tet!
But now, its back to work for them. Although really, I don’t think gunslingers ever have much time off (kind of like people who work in the tax resolution industry). And its a tough job they have ahead of them, as they will be responsible for saving the lives of several someones. And will literally be thrown to the wolves…
The Wolves of the Calla, that is. And these aren’t your ordinary every day wolves…no sir! So let’s find out what makes these wolves so special. That’s right, read my review of The Wolves of the Calla right here!
Wolves of the Calla begins in a small village (presumably located in Roland’s world) that we learn is named Calla Bryn Sturgis. The villagers gather in the town hall, to discuss an important matter. We learn that the villagers are again facing the prospects of some their children being kidnapped by creatures they call “wolves.” The children are kidnapped every generation, and a robot named Andy always brings warning. Any child who is a twin and between the ages of three and thirteen is in danger. Only one twin in any set of twins will be kidnapped, and will be returned what the villagers call “roont“. This means that the children return with almost no mental facilities, and will also be cursed to grow into extremely large adults who are unable to care for themselves, and will die an early, extremely painful death.
Tian Jaffords, who is the father of two sets of twins, was warned by Andy of this round of kidnappings. Tian’s sister Tia was kidnapped the last time the wolves paid the village a visit, and is now little better than an idiot. Tian wishes to fight the wolves, but not all of the villagers agree with him, and there is much arguing during the meeting. However, the meeting is interrupted by an elderly gentleman, who informs the villagers that gunslingers are nearby, and that they gunslingers may be able to help the village with its problem.
We then learn that Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy are continuing on the Path of the Beam. However, Eddie realizes that the action is about to pick up. The group also begins to inexplicably see the number 19 nearly everywhere, and wonders about the significance, if any.
That night, Eddie, Jake and Oy go to-dash, or travel to another world after eating what Roland calls “muffin-balls.” Eddie and Jake travel to the bookstore in New York City that Jake had visited in The Wastelands and observe Jake’s past self. They also learn that the owner of the bookstore, Calvin Tower, is being threatened by the same mobsters who were responsible for the death of Henry Dean some years later. Calvin Tower is the owner of a lot that houses the “real world’s” version of The Dark Tower: a lone rose that grows where no rose should. Eddie and Jake realize that keeping the rose safe is key to also keeping The Dark Tower safe, and pledge to do anything they can to protect the rose.
That same night, Roland and Susannah also go on a journey. However, neither travels to another world. Roland follows Susannah in secret, as his suspicions have been growing. Susannah appears to be pregnant, although she is not showing the typical signs of a pregnancy. Roland determines that another being who is called Mia has stolen Susannah’s body, and that it is Mia who is pregnant. Roland is troubled, and knows that he needs to discuss this Eddie, as Susannah’s life could be in danger.
The following day, Roland and his friends encounter Father Callahan and some of the villagers from Calla Bryn Sturgis, along with the robot, Andy. The villagers tell Roland of their problem, and ask for the gunslingers’ help. Roland agrees to help them, as he, Eddie, Jake, Susannah and Oy are bound by the gunslingers’ creed.
That night, Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy all go to-dash, visiting New York City. However, Mia has taken over Susannah’s body, giving Susannah temporary use of her legs. The ka-tet visits the rose that is the manifestation of The Dark Tower. Susannah chooses not to go near the rose, as Mia feels that her pregnancy will be endangered by the presence of the rose. Roland agrees with Jake and Eddie that the rose must be protected at all costs, but is unsure of how that will be accomplished. The tet then returns to Mid-World, and Mia exits Susannah’s body for the time being.
Roland and his friends then take up residence in Calla Bryn Sturgis, with less than a month to find a solution to the villagers’ problem with the “wolves” that have been plaguing the village for so long. Jake makes friends with a boy slightly older than him named Benny Slightman. Benny’s father, Ben Slightman, is a ranch hand for Wayne Olverholser, one of the wealthiest men in the Calla. It is noted that Ben Slightman is the only person in the village who wears eyeglasses.
Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie and Oy then begin to speak to the villagers to gain intelligence on the “wolves”, and also to earn the trust of the villagers, so that Roland may convince the village that they have a chance to defeat the “wolves.” There is a party held for the tet one night, and Roland impresses the people of the Calla (thus gaining their confidence) by dancing a dance called the “commala.” This dance is hard on Roland, as he is suffering from a form of arthritis he refers to as the “dry twist”, but helps him to come across as more “human.”
The tet also speaks to Father Callahan, and learns of his time in a town called ‘Salem’s Lot. They learn that Father Callahan is from the “real world”, and was born into Mid-World in much the same manner as Jake Chambers: he died in the “real world” but actually somehow traveled into Roland’s world upon his death. In fact, Father Callahan was transported to the same way station as Jake upon his death, and also encounters the Man in Black. Father Callahan is also given an extremely dangerous responsibility: he is forced into guardianship of Black 13, one of the most dangerous pieces of Maerlyn’s Rainbow. Black Thirteen enables the user to travel between worlds, but also has the ability to drive the user insane, as it can deep into secrets in one’s mind that are best left alone. Father Callahan requests the tet’s help in disposing of this object.
Susannah’s bizarre nocturnal journeys continue. Roland speaks to Eddie, and lets him know of the pregnancy and that Susannah’s body is being co-opted by Mia, who is actually pregnant with a creature that is not human. Jake also discovers Susannah’s journeys and speaks to Roland about it. Roland and Eddie begin to fear for Susannah’s safety. Eventually, Susannah also confesses that she too is aware of the pregnancy. Roland chooses to simply keep an eye on Susannah, as the problems in Calla Bryn Sturgis and the problems in New York regarding the rose are simply too consuming at the moment.
In the meantime, Roland and his friends continue to also worry about protecting the rose in New York, as Roland makes plans for dealing with the “wolves.” Eddie speaks to an old man who provides some valuable information on the wolves, as the man claims to have had a friend who killed a “wolf” many years ago. However, we are not told of what this detail is. Eddie also plans to use Black 13 to make a trip to 1977 New York, as he is aware time is moving forward there, and he does not have much time to help Calvin Tower.
Eddie then makes the trip to 1977 New York, via Black Thirteen. He is able to scare away the mobsters who have been threatening Calvin Tower, but warns Tower that he must leave town quickly. While in the bookstore owned by Tower, Eddie sees a book written by someone named Ben Slightman, and realizes that Ben Slightman of Calla Bryn Sturgis is actually a traitor. Eddie also has Calvin Tower leave the zip code of where he will flee too on a fence near the vacant lot that houses the rose.
Jake makes another nocturnal journey, as he also begins to have suspicions about Ben Slightman. Jake sees Andy and Ben conspiring, and also realizes that Ben Slightman is a traitor, and that Slightman is the one who is revealing details on the village to the organization that sends the “wolves” to kidnap the children. It is also revealed that there are cameras all over the village that are used to spy on the villagers. The wolves kidnap the children who are twins because the children’s brains contain an enzyme that enhances powers of telepathy.
Roland then begins to formulate a plan to fight the Wolves, as the time draws near. Father Callahan is also sent back to 1977, to assist Calvin Tower in saving some valuable books. The night before the Wolves are scheduled to attack, Roland has the village gather the affected children into one place, so that he and the tet can attempt to keep them safe from the Wolves. Roland also assigns roles to various villagers. Some will help fight the Wolves, and others will help mind the children. Roland confronts Slightman the Elder, and tells him that he knows that he is the traitor. Slightman promises Roland that he will help fight the Wolves, but Roland is skeptical. Eddie also confronts Andy and destroys him, as Andy is responsible for the kidnapping and torture of several generations of children.
The Wolves then attack the next morning, as scheduled. Roland then has Jake lead the children to the rice fields, but actually has others leave behind belongings of the children, such as articles of clothing, to trick the Wolves into thinking the children are hidden in the caves. Roland also reveals to the villagers that the Wolves are actually robots, and that they can be killed by shooting the “thinking cap” on their heads. This enables the tet to defeat the Wolves. However, this comes at the cost of the lives of a couple of villagers. One is Margaret Eisenhart, the wife of Slightman the Elder’s employer. The other is Benny Slightman, who had become a close friend of Jake Chambers.’ Benny’s death leaves his father childless, and Jake angry and shaken.
Susannah has gone into labor during the fight with the wolves because Mia is now ready to give birth to her “chap.” Susannah is able to hold off the birthing process, however, and fights alongside her friends. However, once the fight is over, Mia takes over Susannah’s body and steals Black 13 to travel to another world to complete the birthing process. The book ends with Susannah vanishing, and her friends frantically searching for her.
So many thoughts, so little time…but I will try to summarize them here without rambling too much (ha).
First of all, Wolves of the Calla is all western. Obviously, the theme for the entire Dark Tower series centers around westerns, but the western motif is most prevalent in Wolves of the Calla, in my opinion.
In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of this classic from my childhood.
And I think this is not a bad comparison, given how even Eddie states that he feels like he has walked on to the set of a western movie. Eddie also states that he feels like the whole business with the village that is troubled by the Wolves is staged, and the entire book does have that feeling. It feels that King is setting the reader up for something major to happen, making him/her eager to rush to the next book in the series.
I also love that Wolves of the Calla further develops the character of Roland. The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass also do this, but Wolves of the Calla just adds to this character development. For example, Roland shows vulnerability when we are told he has a form of arthritis referred to as “dry twist” (my fingers hurt just typing that phrase, actually). Again, it is reinforced that Roland has chinks in his armor, and sometimes even friendly, neighborhood gunslingers need help.
Speaking of help, Roland gets plenty of it from Rosalita. This starts with Rosalita and her cat oil, which gives Roland some relief from his “dry twist.” Roland then takes Rosalita as a lover. While we know that these two cannot possibly continue to be a couple, and that Roland’s heart is with Susan Delgado (where it will always remain), However, their brief courtship (if we can even call it that, since most of their time is spent in Rosalita’s bed) is still very sweet, and even sad, as we know that it will be ending all too soon, leaving Roland once again alone and even vulnerable.
And then there is Andy. The robot we all love to hate…
Well, that’s the wrong robot, actually. But somehow, I can still almost hear Andy saying “bite my shiny metal ass!” to Eddie, and getting that ass kicked even harder by Eddie…teehee.
Not only was Andy a great villain in this book, he suffered one of the greatest deaths I have had the pleasure of reading about in any book, let alone a Stephen King book. And he was disposed of by my main man, Eddie Dean. I am pretty sure Eddie’s bad ass quotient increased exponentially after he disposed of Andy.
Wolves of the Calla is also the first book in the series to mention the number 19. In fact, the entire book is littered with references to that particular number (which will become significant pretty shortly). I blame this book for my obsession with that number, and I am sure it is also responsible for a lot of other obsessions. Unless I am alone in my excessive geekiness (now that’s a thought scarier than anything King ever wrote!)
Father Donald Callahan. Yes, the damned priest from ‘Salem’s Lot. So, if you spent years wondering about whatever happened to that poor priest who fled ‘Salem’s Lot after being forced to drink the blood of a vampire (not bitten, there is a big difference, which is discussed at length in Wolves of the Calla), let’s see a show of hands!
Ok, good, I am not alone (in this thought, at least). Who didn’t wonder about poor Donald Callahan, whose faith wavered just a teeny bit, resulting in the vampire Barlow being able to capitalize on the situation, and therefore (seemingly) be able to damn the poor priest for eternity? At the end of ‘Salem’s Lot, Father Callahan is shown committing an ultimate act of cowardice: fleeing the damned town just when it needs him the most, and leaving the dirty work to poor Ben Mears and Mark Petrie, who weren’t even able to completely finish the job.
I always felt that Donald Callahan was too good for that ending. He may have been a coward, but I liked the guy. I identified with him. Who hasn’t struggled with his/her faith (religion or just faith in humanity in general) after seeing the horrors humans are capable of inflicting on one another? Callahan saw plenty of horror even before his confrontation with the vampires (his first, at any rate). And it could not have been easy for him to continue to believe in a God who would (supposedly) allow such cruelty. Callahan was human, and his faith wavered. And he turned to alcohol, which is actually understandable. However, I never thought of him as a bad man, just as a good man who felt alone and lost his way. In other words, I thought Callahan deserved much more than that ending given to him in ‘Salem’s Lot.
Apparently, Stephen King felt the same way. So how do you tie up a loose end like an alcoholic priest who fled when his town needed him the most? That’s easy, just make him a part of Roland’s tet! And bonus points for giving him a fascinating back story!
And King did exactly this. And it worked. It worked very well, in fact. Somehow, the blending of what many consider to be the first modern vampire story and an epic fantasy series with a western motif just makes sense. Only the genius that is Stephen King could blend two seemingly unrelated stories and have it work so well. This merger is one of my favorite parts of the book, and it actually helped put my poor brain to rest (sort of, I’m pretty sure after the question of Donald Callahan was put to rest, my brain came up with new questions to keep me up at night. Something compelling, like “do penguins have knees” or some other piece of absurdity).
The fact that Donald Callahan was born into Mid-World on December 19th, which is the birthday of my awesome grandfather, is just an added bonus to a series of books that is already awesome
So that’s it for Wolves of the Calla. It seems that the tet will be in for a really long day soon. A really long day…
In other words, tune in for my review of Song of Susannah next week…same bat time, same bat channel!
Yep, time for the connections to other King books! Here are the ones I found:
-Eddie thinks of a tabloid magazine called The Inside View. This particular magazine is mentioned in several other King works, including The Dead Zone.
-Roland and his ka-tet encounter the spirits of dead people who are apparently unable to move on. Roland refers to them as “the vagrant dead” or “vags.” These entities seem to be similar to the spirits encountered by Danny Torrence during his time in the Overlook Hotel as a child in the novel The Shining. Danny, along with Abra Stone, also encounters these entities in adulthood in the novel Dr. Sleep. Again, this connection reinforces the inter-connected-ness between all of King’s works, no matter how far removed they seem from The Dark Tower series.
-Tian Jaffords speaks of an “opoponax feather” during a meeting of the villagers of the Calla Bryn Sturgis. This feather gives the one who holds the right to speak and be heard. “Opoponax” is a word thought of by Jack Sawyer in the novel Black House, and is used to bring his attention to an important matter. This is very similar to how the feather is used by the villagers in Wolves of the Calla: the feather is used to bring attention to important matters.
–Wolves of the Calla features “low men“, or creatures than may appear a combination of human and animal, but are actually supernatural agents of the Crimson King. Low men are also featured in the short story “Low Men in Yellow Coats“, a story in the collection Hearts in Atlantis. Hearts in Atlantis also features Ted Brautigan, who is likely a Breaker. Brautigan is also pursued by the Low Men, in much the same way as Father Callahan was pursued by the Low Men before his death and subsequent “birth” into Mid-World.
–Wolves of the Calla speaks of characters going to-dash, or traveling to another reality. This concept is also used in several other King books, including Bag of Bones, when Mike Noon and Kira travel back in time to Fryeburg Fair.
-Father Callahan also speaks of going to-dash, and watches the funeral of Ben Mears, where Mark Petrie gives a eulogy for Ben. Ben and Mark are two of the major characters in the book ‘Salem’s Lot.
-Father Callahan also speaks of a “doorway” that leads to 1963. Eddie speculates that one could try to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but Callahan advises Eddie against changing history. This is a possible precursor to the events in the book 11/22/63, in which the main character Jake Epping does indeed attempt to change history.
-However, the most major connection to King’s other work in Wolves of the Calla is Donald Callahan himself. Donald Callahan was a major character in the book ‘Salem’s Lot. This book featured a town that was overtaken by vampires, and Father Callahan was one of those who attempted to stand against the vampires. However, his faith waivers, and he is forced to drink the blood of a vampire. After Callahan drinks the blood of a vampire, he flees town in disgrace. He is also granted some powers that are perhaps similar to those of someone like Ted Brautigan, who is one of the Breakers. Wolves of the Calla gives us even more information on Father Callahan’s story and further solidifies the King universe.