The Dark Tower Book 3: The Waste Lands by Stephen King
It’s the third month of the Dark Tower readalong hosted by Shelf Love. The Waste Lands (1991) is the thickest book so far, and things are certainly starting to hot up.
If you’d like to see how I got on with the previous volumes, click here for book one – The Gunslinger, and here for book two – The Drawing of the Three.
A brief synopsis – so skip down the next three paragraphs if you don’t want to read a little of what happens …
Book three turns properly post-apocalyptic, as the trio of Roland, Eddie and Susannah follow the ‘Beam’ to the not quite abandoned city of Lud which resembles a ruined New York. But on the way they are reunited with Jake, the boy that Roland had found, bonded with, and let fall to his death in book one. Roland is suffering mentally, as in his mind there are two versions of what happened back then, one in which Jake dies and one where Jake is saved.
Back in New York, mid 1970s, Jake is a pupil at a prestigious prep school, but just as exam week starts, he is also feeling like he is two people, and that school is not where he should be. Some artifacts he finds, or they find him, take on a special significance – a children’s book about a train, a key, a rose – he doesn’t know how yet, but he is drawn to a ‘haunted’ house, where there is another portal through to Roland’s world. After a demonic battle to get him through, he is reunited with his surrogate father and the mental suffering of both of them ends.
The four, along with a Oy, a semi-intelligent creature that Jake finds and bonds with, make their way to Lud, where they will encounter gangs who live in the tunnels and ruins, before reaching their objective – Blaine the train – a machine with an insane mind of its own. He agrees to take them to Topeka – the end of the line, rather than kill them, in return for riddles, and we leave them on board the train zooming through the Waste Lands, but someone else is on their trail …
Book 3 continues the character development of Roland, whom we begin to think is more ancient that he looks. I particularly enjoyed the re-introduction of Jake, and he adds a lot to the Ka-Tet (a group brought together by fate). The references and parallels between Roland’s world and ours continue to abound; if I had been sure in the first book that they were not the same world, just echoes, now with the post-apocalyptic Lud, I’m not so sure.
The use of ‘Lud’ for the name of the city was interesting. I wondered whether there was more to it than an abbreviation of Luddite – as the remaining inhabitants have largely become. There is a high fantasy novel called Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees written in 1926, could that have been an ironic influence? (I’ve not read it). I also enjoyed the deus ex machina of Blaine the mad train; the old technology that still survives in the ‘Beam’ too gives a sense of anticipation of finding the tower itself which is still to come (if it exists, of course).
I enjoyed this third volume in the series very much indeed, which means I’m still on board the readalong for book four – although I note that the page count goes up again to nearly 900! Still, so far, these books have been easy, escapist, and page-turning. I’m definitely a fan now. Bring it on. (9/10)
* * * * *
Source: Own copy
Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees