Name: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4)
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 728 (ebook)
Published: October 1st 2003 (first published November 4th 1997)
Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Jake’s pet bumbler survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, one that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, they hear the atonal squalling of a thinny, a place where the fabric of existence has almost entirely worn away. While camping near the edge of the thinny, Roland tells his ka-tet a story about another thinny, one that he encountered when he was little more than a boy. Over the course of one long magical night, Roland transports us to the Mid-World of long-ago and a seaside town called Hambry, where Roland fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war.
After something of a cliff-hanger in The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass begins with murderous mono Blaine’s trip to the end of the line. Roland and his ka-tet try to best Blaine in a contest of riddles. The prize? Their lives.
It’s probably no spoiler to say this situation is resolved, somehow, and the group journey onwards in search in the Tower.
Safe from death by train the ka-text alights in some other-world version of Topeka. There’s a moment of reference to The Stand as Eddie, Susannah and Jake discover an old newspaper. It’s a long time since I read that book; I briefly wondered whether to revisit it as part of my Tower reread, but decided to stick with the main books and didn’t regret my choice. The group briefly venture through an almost post-apocalyptic world and conclude that they’ve travelled out of Roland’s world into somewhere else, all because things are wrong at the Tower.
The past comes to the fore as Roland takes the opportunity while the group are resting to tell a story that’s been troubling him for some time. He speaks of his past, leaving home with his companions and former ka-tet, arriving in Hambry, and a young woman named Susan Degado.
This section of the book sees a return to the Old West feel in everything from the town – the saloons, the atmosphere – to it’s inhabitants, some marvellous characters, both good and bad. In the former group, Roland’s travelling companions and friends, Cuthbert and Alain. Cuthbert’s humour and wit never seem to falter whatever the situation, and he’s quick to defend some unable to help himself. I enjoyed every scene featuring Cuthbert and Alain, and hope there’s more in further books. I can’t remember what happens to them from my first read of the series.
Then there are the Big Coffin Hunters, and Rhea of the Cöos, a witch with a real mean streak, and various other schemers all trying to gain an advantage in the town.
The story initially develops slowly. Roland and his friends are viewed with suspicion, their true identities and purposes concealed, and they come to realise that things aren’t as they should be in Hambry. They edge closer to the truth amidst fights and plots, schemes and revelations. It’s all very exciting.
Roland’s tale is one of a young man sent away to ensure his safety who wanders unwittingly into more trouble than anyone could have imagined. Amid tensions, rivalries, and conspiracy, there are also moments of friendship and romance. It doesn’t do to get too attached to these characters as tragedy and heartbreak lurk within Roland’s tale too.
And when the story of the past is told we return once more to Roland’s present time and the main narrative. After a wonderfully bizarre encounter in the closing stages of the story the group set out once more on their path towards the Dark Tower. I’m halfway through this series and I’m still enjoying it as much as I did first time around. On to the next book…