Time to Save Someone’s Life: My Review of Wolves of the Calla

 

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!

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Yes, they had a nice vacation, even if the weather was a little rough.  And they were treated to a couple of stories by their friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

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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…

South Park wolf

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!


 

Synopsis

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Calvin Tower 2

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.

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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.

Rose

 

 

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.”

Roland dance

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.

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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.

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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.

Jake and Oy

 

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.

Jake 2

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.

 

Susannah 1


 

 

My Thoughts

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.

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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.

Roland 2

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.

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And then there is Andy.  The robot we all love to hate…

Bender

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.

Andy 1

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.

Andy 2

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!

Donald Callahan 1

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.

Ben Mears 1

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.

'Salem's Lot 1

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!

Calvin Tower 1

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

 

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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!

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Connections 

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.

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-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.

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-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.

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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.

Ted Brautigan 1

 

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.

'Salem's Lot 3

-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.

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-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.

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Since Everyone is Entitled to my Opinion

So it happened again.

It sure did.

About two weeks ago, the internet broke.  Yep, it broke.  AGAIN.  Really, the internet can be fragile sometimes.  Although luckily, I think it responds to duck tape.  And maybe even Krazy Glue.

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Usually, anything that breaks the internet is not something I care much about.  I’m just not that much into Miley Cyrus and her twerking.  Or Kim K butt pics.  Or what color that dress really is…its just ugly, period!

ugly dress

But this time, I cared.  It may be one the few rare times during the long period I have graced this planet with my existence (37 years in June, actually) but I found myself actually caring about what broke the internet.  And I may have actually contributed to the breakage, although I think my contribution amounted to no more than a virtual greenstick fracture.

greenstick fracture

As we all know, I am obsessed with Stephen King.  I have read nearly all of his books.  In particular, I am obsessed with The Dark Tower series.

Yes, obsessed.  And I mean OBSESSED as opposed to obsessed.  I am a member of multiple Facebook fan pages for Stephen King and The Dark Tower series.  I am even an admin for two of these pages (could we really get any nerdier?  Wait, that is a rhetorical question, not a challenge!)  I have made so many new friends through these pages, and even had the opportunity to interview Mr. King’s right hand lady of The Dark Tower series.  I constantly draw and create other forms of artwork inspired by The Dark Tower series.

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Oh, and I created this blog, which has a few entries on King and his works.

So, its safe to say I am a Constant Reader or CR for short (which I will call myself from now on, since that sounds a little nicer than COFG, which stands for Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).

So, I am passionate about The Dark Tower series.  Very few works have touched me in the manner that this series has, and it will remain my favorite fantasy series of all time.  It is powerful, and simply inspiring.

Roland 1

And like all other fans, I can’t get enough.  I read the comics inspired by the series.  And I read books about the series, such as The Road to the Dark Tower, The Dark Tower Companion and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete  Concordance (both volumes!) written by Bev Vincent and Robin Furth, respectively.  And any time a new King books is released, I have my hands on it and my nose buried in it, looking for any connection, no matter how remote, to what King has called his magnum opus.

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But there is one thing I have not had the pleasure (?) of being able to do.  Batman fans have had it.  The Lord of the Rings fans have had it too.  Even Twilight (*shudder*) fans have had it.

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Yes, that’s right.  The Dark Tower has never been made into a movie.  Not even an animated one (we will talk more about that later, as a matter of fact).  So many King books have been adapted into films (with varying degrees of success).  But not The Dark Tower.  This short film is the closest thing we have is this adaptation, which is actually a pleasure to watch and totally worth the few minutes of your time that it will take.  But, again, that is closest thing we had for a screen adaptation of The Dark Tower series.

Until now.

Sony Pictures has announced that it has acquired the rights to The Dark Tower series, aka Stephen King’s magnum opus, which spans eight full length books so far, along with a couple of related short stories.

Cue the loud crashes and squealing right about here.  That would be the sound of the internet breaking.

And the reactions have been interesting, to say the least.  Many are excited.  For years, fans have been strung along with the promise of a movie, but that promise has never been delivered.  The last bit of news we received on a potential Dark Tower movie was in July of 2011, when it was announce that Universal Pictures had scrapped the plans for the movie, although director Ron Howard assured fans that he was still attached and this movie would be made one day.

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And of course, the naysayers.  Saying it can’t be done, despite the success of franchises such as The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  However, my personal favorite is the fan who says that no Dark Tower movie should ever, EVER be made, as that will ruin the books!  Apparently, I am clueless, because a bad movie adaptation (Running Man and Lawnmower Man, we are talking about you, cough, cough) somehow changes the source material, making all of us unable to ever read said source material ever again, because, well, film adaptations are just magical like that and have the ability to somehow magically re-write books, DAMMIT!

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So, everyone has an opinion.  Including me.  And now I have this blog that I created just for the express purpose of having super nerdy discussions, so let’s have one in regards to this controversial topic that has caused so many heated discussions in internet land, perhaps being responsible for many a virtual earthquake (or perhaps a Beam-quake, in this case).

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Can this even be done?  Can such a complex story be translated on to the screen, and make a good movie?  More importantly, should it even be done?  After all, we will always have the books!

One of my favorite fantasy series as a child (before I was lured into the world of Roland Deschain and his friends) was The Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with The Hobbit.  I read these books many times, and watched the animated version of The Hobbit more than a few times.  And I pined for live action movies, figuring they would never happen in my lifetime.

Then I hit my 20’s.  I picked up some magazine one day, and lo behold, saw an article stating that all three books in said trilogy would be movies.  Live action movies.  So I marked my calendar.  I was so excited.  And I was right to be excited.  All three movies lived up to my expectations.  I especially enjoyed Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers…I mean, Ents!  Ents fighting!  It was bad ass!  One of the most iconic scenes in the books had been given justice.  And I sighed in nerdy ecstasy…

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My point is that The Dark Tower is not the only complex fantasy series in existence.  And complex fantasy series (see above paragraph) can successfully be made into good or even great motion pictures.  Our technology has advanced even more since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies, and anyone who makes movies can do astounding things in regards to special effects.  And the stigma of movies being too long (longer than 100 minutes) is slowly starting to fade…just look at the success of The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part I, which clocks in at well over two hours.  If it is done well (and I believe a director like Ron Howard is perfectly capable of this), people don’t care about the length, and will not be intimidated at the thought of sitting in a theater for over two hours.  Some movies are just that good.

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And let me reiterate:  to me, nothing will ever top a book.  If I am given the choice, I will almost always choose the book (see the paragraph above the cute kitty meme).  But I still want a Dark Tower movie.  Think of it like this:  I may like steak, and it will always be my favorite, but there is no reason why I can’t have fish or seafood for dinner some nights.  After all, I can’t just subsist on steak, and I need some variety in my diet.  In other words, I need movies every now and then, along with books.  And I want to see my favorite characters come alive, and have them move me onscreen like they do on the page.  I want to see the fantastical landscapes I have been imagining in my head all these years.  I want to see what special effects can do to a story.

Most importantly, I want to be able to share the experience of The Dark Tower.  My husband is awesome and wonderful and the best husband in the world, but he is not a reader.  I have been talking about this series from almost day one (this statement should bring any single person new hope.  If a nerd like me can find someone, there really is someone out there for everyone).  But he watches movies.  And many others are the same way.  So if this movie can turn more people on the awesomeness otherwise known as The Dark Tower series, then I fully support it.  The fact that a Dark Tower movie may make my conversations at parties more relevant and less boring is just an added bonus.


 

Who should be cast?  The only person who can play Roland is Clint Eastwood!  Even King himself has said this!

First of all, much respect to Clint Eastwood.  If I wore a hat, I would take it off to the man.  He deserves every single accolade that he has received.  The man is an icon, pure and simple.

Clint Eastwood 1

But, he is in his 70’s.  He may be an icon, but he is still an old icon.  And King did base the character of Roland and the entire setting of the series off of characters played by Eastwood, and also off of the spaghetti westerns he grew up watching as a child.  However, this does not mean that Eastwood should play Roland.  Plenty of actors would be able to bring the grittiness that is needed to pull off a character like our friendly neighborhood gunslinger.

cuthbert and alain

Likes Timothy Olyphant.  I could readily envision him as a cold blooded man who will do whatever it takes to reach his tower.  The fact that Olyphant already plays a cowboy (or a cowboy-like character) on a popular TV series is just an added bonus.

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Or Hugh Jackman.  Jackman has proven acting chops, and also seems to be able to bring that grittiness needed for Roland.  And he is also pretty easy on the eyes.  Speaking of eyes, I am aware that Roland’s are blue and neither one of the actors I have mentioned so far have blue eyes.  However, that is why contact lenses were invented.

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Ok, I am done talking about Roland.  I love Roland to death, but I also love a lot of the characters that many would be considered “minor” in the series, although they all play a huge role.  So I happen to think the casting of these characters is almost as important as Roland.

Nort

Like Nort.  Nort is the best undead junkie in literature, and I would love to see him cast properly, and for someone to really put his heart and soul into this character and bring him to life on the big screen.

Someone like Kurt Sutter, possibly.  Nort is a creepy, frightening guy, and Kurt Sutter has proven experience in the creepy and frightening department via his character Otto on Sons of Anarchy.  So it is no stretch (at least for me) to imagine Sutter cast as an undead junkie.

Otto

 

Jack Mort aka The Pusher is another iconic, although relatively minor, character in this series.  And I hope that he is cast properly.  My pick for Jack Mort is Tom Arnold.  Again, I am basing this on a performance from the show Sons of Anarchy (yeah, I’m a little obsessed, I admit it).  Arnold’s character Georgie Caruso was sleazy, conniving and even pyscho at times, which makes him perfect for the role of Jack Mort, another sleazy, conniving psychopath.

Sons of Anarchy 2x02 Small Tears

And now, let’s talk again about main characters.  More specifically, the role of Susannah Dean (along with Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes, for that matter).  Susannah is a main character and plays a huge role in the series.  And she is a woman who is also African-American.  The tides are slowly turning, but the roles for women, let alone women of color, are still limited.  This is especially true in the fantasy and sci fi genre.  I love that King chose to make this character a woman of color, and it is VERY important to  me that she be cast properly.  Hollywood has a chance to help someone shatter some more glass ceilings and break some more ground.  Lupita Nyong’o is my choice for Susannah.  Her acting chops are proven, and I believe she could pull the role of Susannah, who is an extremely complex character (she suffers from mental illness and was also involved in the civil rights movement in 1960’s New York).  She is also beautiful and charismatic.  Perfect, in other words.

LupitaSusannah 1


 

What about Oy?  And Jake?  Won’t he age out?  And the flashbacks?  How can we possibly handle those?

CGI.  There, I said it…shudder.  While I believe that CGI is overused much of the time (Jupiter Ascending…cough, cough…ahem), I think it is the perfect answer for the question on how to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  And likely the only way to bring Oy to life on the big screen.  We may still need to cast a voice actor for Oy (he is a talking critter, after all) but CGI will actually provide most of the solutions and create a convincing character.

Oy 1

If you have made it this in reading this post, then congrats.  Also see the paragraph above the awesome Game of Thrones meme.  More specifically, the line about animation.

That’s right, animation.  I believe that animation could be a viable medium for bringing The Dark Tower series to life.

breaking bad

 

Ok, clean up the coffee or other beverage of your favorite choice that you may have spit all over your keyboard after reading the above paragraph, and let’s talk about why animation is in fact a viable to choice to bring Stephen King’s magnum opus to life.

Animation actually solves a couple of problems.  First of all, Jake Chambers is 11 years old when the series starts, and it seems he remains 11 years old for the remainder of the series.  The movies (as we all know there will need to be multiple movies in order for this to work) will probably take at least a couple of years to  film, even if they are filmed simultaneously in the same manner as The Lord of the Rings.  This presents a problem, as most 11 year old children grow and change rapidly (damn pesky puberty).  So it is possible that the actor who plays Jake could age out of the role.  However, if the series is animated, that problem is solved.  Animation would allow Jake to remain 11 throughout the story, keeping that particular part of the story intact.

Jake Chambers

The Dark Tower series also contains a ton of flashbacks.  Wizard and Glass is one long flashback.  Much of The Gunslinger also consists of flashbacks.  While flashbacks are awesome in books, they can be problematic in live action movies.  However, flashbacks can actually blend in very well in animated movies.  Animation may even be the preferred method of medium to tell certain back stories (such as Roland’s time in Meijis) or to possibly even bring to life the Dark Tower comics.  After all, bringing more Dark Tower related material into existence cannot possibly be a bad thing.

Roland and tet 1


My opinion.  There you have it.  Whether you wanted it or not, I have brought it to you via this blog post.  And please, keep in mind that opinions are like assholes:  we all have them.  And I am entitled to mine, just like everyone else (to theirs as well as mine).  And I am greatly looking forward to see what, if any, of my ramblings on this post come to fruition over the next several months or years.  I am hopeful that this endeavor will be successful, but to quote many a wise person before me:  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more news and posts regarding this endeavor.

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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.

tull 2

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