Name: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 612 (ebook)
Published: March 11th 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published August 1991)
Roland, the Last Gunslinger, is moving ever closer to the Dark Tower, which haunts his dreams and nightmares. Pursued by the Ageless Stranger, he and his friends follow the perilous path to Lud, an urban wasteland. And crossing a desert of damnation in this macabre new world, revelations begin to unfold about who – and what – is driving him forward. A blend of riveting action and powerful drama, “The Waste Lands” leaves readers breathlessly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…
The Waste Lands is the third volume in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King and throws us straight back into the action as new threats in this strange world reveal themselves.
Events from the recent past are starting to catch up with Roland. His previous actions affect his state of mind as he attempts to make sense of the truth of a boy called Jake, whom he is convinced is real but also never existed.
There’s a good recap of The Gunslinger in a conversation between the trio as Roland tries to reason out the mystery of Jake. I’ve gone from one book to the next so far with no break so it’s fresh in my mind still, but worth noting if it’s been a while since you picked up previous volumes.
The Waste Lands reveals more about this world, about the way it is formed, and the idea of the Dark Tower being the centre around which everything else is built. There’s talk of the Tower, and the Beams which hold the world together, the fact at the world is getting bigger, but also starting to decay; things are failing, becoming weaker, and Roland thinks that may impact other worlds too. The sheer scope of what may be at stake if the quest fails becomes clearer.
There are still hints of something very similar to our own world, little details such as the name Shardik reminding Eddie of rabbits, and previous mentions of familiar songs. These things, and the descriptions of the technology of the Great Old Ones almost makes it feel as though Roland’s world is possibly somewhere way in the future.
The group grows closer as they learn more about each other, and how to work as a team. Eddie and Susannah learn how to be gunslingers in this dangerous world where a mistake could mean death. As the travels continue Roland opens up, becomes more human somehow, less remote and closed off, especially as the group encounters other people. He’s a fascinating character and the way his history is teased out makes you want to know more.
The lengths these characters go to for each other and the risks they take show their bonds are strengthening. One particular reunion made for wonderful reading, and again showed Roland’s humanity. There’s also the introduction of a unique animal companion in Oy, the billy-bumbler, a stray who becomes part of the group and joins them on their adventures.
Aside from Roland’s world and all it’s mysteries, there are some great settings within our own world, including The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, a bookstore that Jake visits on the day he goes truant, and where he finds something that may become very important as time goes on.
The Mansion in Dutch Hill is a fantastic setting for a final ‘drawing’. It is a house with so much atmosphere it’s almost, and literally, a character for the too brief duration of its appearance. That section of the story reminded me of reading about the House of Usher, a tale I hadn’t read the first time I read this book.
Other things to discover in this story include a visit to River Crossing, a place where people try their best to survive in a harsh landscape. There‘s also the intriguing history of the city of Lud with it’s ongoing battles and the way the world moved on.
And, of course, there’s Blaine the Mono, built up from the moment that Jake first picked up a child’s story book about an apparently different train. More on Blaine later.
The build up to Lud and Blaine still somehow doesn’t prepare you for the sheer scale of what happens when our group arrive in the city. They encounter a wild place inhabited by different factions, and discover the way they live, their rivalries, and the perceived threat from the ‘ghosts in the machine’ that fuels their fears. It’s intense, and the last third of the book is a real rollercoaster. There’s so much going on, so much danger, so much threat, and times when it looks like the end for various members of the group.
And then there’s Blaine. How can a monorail train, and one that hasn’t been in use for many many years, possibly centuries, become such a dominant character? I mean, it’s a train! It’s also much more than that. That’s the Dark Tower series for you. And it’s a series that I am very glad I decided to read again, because it’s just as entertaining the second time around, and I cannot wait to venture on to the next volume, Wizard and Glass. I’m really glad the series is complete, because The Waste Lands ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, and even having read the books before, I need to get back into the adventures of Roland and his ka-tet.