The Dark Tower Book 2: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
Book 2 starts exactly where we left Roland, the last Gunslinger. On a faraway beach, about to head north. It doesn’t take long for Roland to encounter a new form of danger in the form of a ‘Lobstrosity’ – a mutant black scuttling creature with the sharpest jaws imaginable – and before you know it one of them has bitten off two of Roland’s fingers. Apart from turning him into a one-handed gunslinger, the ensuing infection will also put his life in peril.
The injured man continues up the beach, looking for the signs that the Man in Black had predicted for his quest. He reaches a strange door standing on the beach, which opens into another world. It’s our world, in the 1980s; Roland is seeing it through the mind of a junkie on an airplane who has 2 kilos of drugs taped around his chest, and the stewardess is beginning to rumble him. Thus we meet the first of Roland’s future companions; Eddie. Roland offers Eddie a way to get out of his situation in one piece – by going through the portal and leaving the drugs in Roland’s world, and they go on to sort out the other end of the drugs deal – which goes sour and ends with Eddie taking the one-way ticket back to Roland’s world.
In the first novel, there was a lot of ambiguity about whether Roland’s world was a post-apocalyptic view of our own, or an alternate. With the nasty creatures and the portals, Book 2 begins to make the case for it being a parallel world much clearer.
The pair continue up the beach until another door. This one opens into the mind of a schizophrenic black cripple. Odetta/Detta had a brick dropped on her head when she was a child, then later was pushed in front of a train and lost her legs. Eddie falls for the beautiful and understanding Odetta, but her nasty alter-ego Detta has other plans and doesn’t want to be part of Roland and Eddie’s quest. The three of them will encounter one more door – and one more potential candidate for the team, Jack Mort – who turns out to be not the man for them, but to explain more would give too much away. The last third pulls many links from the two books so far together, and Roland will have to use the last portal to great effect to complete his team to continue the quest.
This second novel is the team-building one, getting the band of pilgrims together who will carry on the quest to get to the Dark Tower – we still have no idea what the tower is or why Roland has to go there. The feel of this book is far from the first, which was inspired by spaghetti westerns. The incursions into our world bring familiarity and King obviously relishes the territory of Eddie’s story in particular.
Eddie is a fully-formed character, particularly as he brings some humour to an otherwise rather serious saga. Eddie is also young and full of conflicting emotions, apart from being an ‘I can give it up any time’ type of junkie; he and the older and wiser gunslinger spark off each other, but gradually come to realise they work well together.
Parts of Odetta/Detta are arguably as well-described, however it is Detta, the antithesis of her gentle opposite side that gets the lion’s share of the centre section of the novel. Detta is foul-mouthed, totally bigoted, and believes that all men are rapists; she is also cunning and causes no end of trouble to the others. I can’t say anything positive about Detta at all, but King again obviously had fun playing at reversing stereotypes with her.
Roland proves himself to be a true man of steel and continues to grow in stature – there is much still to find out about the enigmatic gunslinger. With Eddie at his side, as Robin to his Batman, I am looking forward to the next installment of The Dark Tower. That said, I didn’t enjoy this book as a whole as much as the first. I did enjoy Eddie’s story, but the trek up the beach between portals became a little tedious. To be honest, I don’t think the lobstrosities, who get a lot of pages in total, added much to the story either – they were McGuffins – a plot device to enable survival on the beach. (7.5/10)
The page count has also started to increase – Book 2 at 455 pages was nearly double the length of book 1; book 3 is nearly half as long again – I’d better get reading soon for next month!
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Source: Own copy.