Wednesday 5 June 2013

Devouring Stephen King: The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

"'I choose the Tower. I must. Let her live a good life and long with someone else- she will, in time. As for me, I choose the Tower.'"

I love The Dark Tower books almost more than any other series I've ever read (*looks lovingly at Harry Potter books*) but I really hate Wizard and Glass. And I don't even hate it in a 'I-don't-like-this-book-but-it's-still-Stephen-King-so-it's-fine' way- I hate it in an actual hating it way. There are quite a few reasons for this, and since it's difficult to review Dark Tower books without giving things away about all the rest of the books, I'll just list the reasons why. Sounds good (and sanity retaining) right?

  1. It's not even really a Dark Tower book- Ok, so Wizard and Glass is essentially a break in the journey of the ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake (and Oy) where Roland tells the WORLD'S LONGEST STORY about his past trauma and blah blah blah I don't really care about any of that. There are about 100 pages at the start and then 60 or so pages at the end dedicated to the characters I'm used to and already love, and the rest of it I'm just not really interested in? This is probably because
  2. It's the most other-worldy and stuff book- About the only other book of The Dark Tower series that I don't massively love is The Gunslinger, and really only the parts where Roland is just roaming on his own. I just... Am not that into fantasy, and witches and weird old traditions and stuff, EXCEPT (and this is an important part of my love of The Dark Tower series) when there's an observer along from 'our' world to whom this is also as strange and they comment on it and call it out on its strangeness. That's FINE, but this book totally doesn't do that. And you know what?
  3. It's a pretty dick move, King- I mean, not so much the Roland's backstory thing, but the gap between this book and the last one (The Waste Lands) was six years (or, 9 books, if you will) which is a brutal enough wait for the next book in a series, but when that book doesn't really have anything to do with the main story... It's really annoying. And yes, I understand that I can read any of them at any time, but that doesn't stop me being pissed off for the people who did have to wait! PLUS it has taken me a year to get to it, and there are another 9 books until the last three and yeah. Even THAT is quite a long wait.
  4. It's SO LONG- Seriously, a book that only really has 160 important pages REALLY doesn't need to be 845 pages long. It just doesn't. And I understand that King is all 'enamoured' with Roland's world or whatever, but seriously, the minutiae of this feels really really unnecessary. I could honestly sum up the story for you in a couple of sentences and you'd probably get just as much out of it as actually reading it. To be completely fair to it, I will say that the second half of the story is better than the first half, but maaaan does that first half drag...
  5. It's not even that important!- I feel like the whole story is supposed to reveal a lot about Roland's psyche and why he acts the way he does and is SO SERIOUS all the time and so on, BUT it honestly feels like the whole GIANT story is just a prologue to something that happens in the last few pages and has maybe 4 pages dedicated to it. And I might be overstating that a tiny bit, BUT the two events are at least AS important as each other, if the other isn't more important. And it's just BOGGLING to me why he would structure things like that, because you do realise you just devalued your ENTIRE book, right dude?!
  6. The bits with the gang are a bit not-good- Because obviously THESE are the parts that he chooses to keep brief... Pretty much all that happens with the main characters is that they escape the perilous situation they were in at the end of The Waste Lands, they go into the world of The Stand (which is actually really cool and yessss I do like your crossing of stories, Mr. King) and settle down to listen to Roland's story, there are some WEIRD and unnecessary references to The Wizard of Oz for some reason, and then some showdowns that SHOULD be dramatic but really aren't at all. Like, it's laughable how non-dramatic they are. And then that's basically it! 
I just... Yeah, it's annoying. But a few points- the story is very much not-my-thing, so I was never going to like it THAT much anyway, I definitely don't remember being as pissed off by it when I was reading all 7 books in a row (apparently I have definitely spent too much time away from The Dark Tower!) and I don't know but there might be things that are important in it. I think what I'm saying is, don't be put off by The Dark Tower because this book sucks, because it might not suck for you! It might be exactly your thing. But I definitely feel like I'm just going to be reading the first and last few pages of it from now on, and if you were going to skip a book in the series? This would be the one to skip.


  1. So what you're saying is, when I eventually start the Dark Tower series (which will happen. Someday.) that I can skip this one?

    1. I think what I'm more saying is, once you've read them all, you can definitely skip most of this one, but first you should read them all? But if you absolutely thought 7 books was too many, and you HAD to skip one, this would be that one.

      But, anyway, READ THEM NOWWWWWWWWWWWWWW (Or whenever you want. You know.)

  2. I read the first three books all at once in my mid-teens. I think I was in college when Wizard & Glass came out and I remember I had the exact same reaction that you did. When the last set of books was about to be released I was in my mid-twenties and I re-read the first four books to prepare. I found that I absolutely loved The Gunslinger, really liked Drawing of the Three, liked The Waste Lands, and surprisingly really liked Wizard & Glass. I'm not sure what it was the second time around, but I sort of got over the break in the timeline and read the book for what it was. Different strokes for different folks, I guess :)

    I have a lot of unkind words for the next two Dark Tower books though ;)

    @Red - no skipping!

    1. Oh man, so you were a person who actually DID have to wait for them! I feel for you, seriously. I think it's interesting that we actually had opposite reactions to W&G, because I liked it better the first time (I've never LOVED it, but it was ok) and I wonder if that's got anything to do with time waited? Because the first time I read it I didn't have to wait at all to read the next one, whereas this time it's been about a year (by my own choice, admittedly, but still) and I just. Want. Something. To. Happen. In. The. Actual. Story.

      But anyway- different strokes for different folks indeed! I'm never going to like this or The Gunslinger as much as the other books because the kind of fantasyness and the exploring of Roland's world isn't exactly what I'm reading them for, but I totally get that people really like that stuff, and it is a well done version of that if that's what you want.

  3. Going along with Red's comment - I really want to get crackin' on this series, but will this book deter me?

    1. I'm going to say... No? Most people aren't as opposed to pure fantasyness as I am, and, as I said above, I feel like it's less of a big deal when you've only just finished The Waste Lands and can start Wolves of the Calla whenever you want, because you can just blitz through this and read the next. AND I'm probably just being super grumpy about it! But, yeah, I would never ever ever say that you shouldn't read the series, because OMG. So good.