Waste Lands
July 22, 2016 9:35 PM - by Stephen King - Subscribe

Roland continues his quest for the Dark Tower, but he is no longer alone. He has trained Eddie and Susannah-who entered Mid-World from their separate whens in New York City in The Drawing of the Three-in the old ways of the gunslingers. But their ka-tet is not yet complete. Another must be drawn from New York into Mid-World...

Roland fills out his ka-tet by drawing Jake back into Mid-World, preventing both of them from losing their minds due to the paradox created by Roland's actions at the end of the Drawing of the Three. With Jake added to the group, they find their last member of the ka-tet - Oy, the bumbler.

They then go on to the fallen city of Lud in order to find their path across the Waste Lands that lie ahead on their journey along the Beam.

The series itself was inspired by the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Browning; the Waste Lands draws upon images from a different poem: "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot. The two sections of the novel are named after lines from the poem:

Book I - Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust
Book II - Lud: A Heap of Broken Images
posted by nubs (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Both lines of the poem (Fear in a Handful of Dust and A Heap of Broken Images) are from the second stanza of Waste Land:
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu,
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.
posted by nubs at 9:40 PM on July 22, 2016

The first Dark Tower novel that brought a lump to my throat.
     I do not aim with my hand; she who aims with her hand has forgotten the face of her father.
     I can't do it!
     I do not shoot with my hand; she who shoots with her hand has forgotten the face of her father.
     I'll miss! I know I'll miss!
     I do not kill with my gun; she who kills with her gun—

     "Shoot it!" Roland roared. "Susannah, shoot it!"
     With the trigger as yet unpulled, she saw the bullet go home, guided from muzzle to target by nothing more or less than her heart's fierce desire that it should fly true. All fear fell away. What was left was a feeling of deep coldness and she had time to think: This is what he feels. My God—how does he stand it?
     "I kill with my heart, motherfucker," she said, and the gunslinger's revolver roared in her hand.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:14 PM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Speaking of that, one of the things I found interesting is that in all of Roland's flashbacks, we never see a female Gunslinger (at least that I recall). Like, i don't think there is any prohibition on it, but it seems like something that doesn't happen a great deal? But Roland just sees Susannah's potential and trains her and works out accommodations for her disability, and the whole thing - Susannah's gender, disability, skin colour, - just doesn't come up, at least in the context of her being accepted as a Gunslinger.

It's not something I would have noticed in my callow youth, but it was noted this time through.
posted by nubs at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2016

I think I liked this one best of the 3 so far: you can feel the path opening up in front of them, the world getting larger.

There's very clearly bits of Tolkien poking out from under the story: Blaine is a mixture of Gollum and Smaug, and the little side discussion of who should carry the key felt to me reminiscent of the Ring.

ISTR Blaine being widely disliked by readers -- and maybe that comes more into play in the next book -- but I always liked him as a plot device. All-powerful, all-deranged, and Roland faces him down in the confrontation at the end of the book by sheer force of will.

This, in Jake's reading of Charlie the Choo-Choo, felt a little meta-textual:
It occurred to him that there were a lot of stories for lads with stuff like this in them, stuff that threw acid all over your emotions. Hansel and Gretel being turned out into the forest, Bambi's mother getting scragged by a hunter, the death of Old Yeller. It was easy to hurt little kids, easy to make them cry, and this seemed to bring out a strangely sadistic streak in many story-tellers.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:27 PM on September 9, 2016

In all of Roland's flashbacks, we never see a female Gunslinger (at least that I recall). Like, i don't think there is any prohibition on it, but it seems like something that doesn't happen a great deal?

Doesn't happen at all, was my reading of it; Roland notes before Suzannah starts saying the switched words:
From her lips he heard the old catechism again, made new in her mouth. He had never expected to hear these words from a woman. How natural they sounded . . . yet how strange and dangerous, as well.
This is what he feels. My God—how does he stand it?

There's a bit of an echo of this in Eddie's feelings as he shoots the bear's attendant robots -- that the words are powerful, hypnotic in inducing a killing state, and that the killing state is both terrifying and thrilling:
He could feel the words doing their work, clearing his mind and settling his nerves. He didn't know if he was the stuff of which gunslingers were made—the idea seemed fabulously unlikely to him, even though he knew he had managed to hold up his end pretty well during the shootout at Balazar's nightclub—but he did know that part of him liked the coldness that fell over him when he spoke the words of the old, old catechism the gunslinger had taught them; the coldness and the way things seemed to stand forth with their own breathless clarity. There was another part of him which understood that this was just another deadly drug, not much different from the heroin which had killed Henry and almost killed him, but that did not alter the thin, tight pleasure of the moment.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:45 PM on September 9, 2016

Do we find out in later books what the devastation was that caused the Waste Lands, or is it left as color for us to fill in with our imaginations? Blaine hints at it:
"This was no nuclear war," Eddie said. "This . . . this . .." His thin, horrified voice sounded like that of a child. "NOPE," Blaine agreed. "IT WAS A LOT WORSE THAN THAT, AND IT'S NOT OVER YET."
Also: Oy! I paid more attention to the physical description of him this time around. I'd always had a firm mental image of him as quite doglike, kind of a wide-eyed pug, but he really does sound a lot more possum-ey:
Up ahead, a large creature that looked like a badger crossed with a raccoon ambled out of the woods. It looked at them with its large, gold-rimmed eyes, twitched its sharp, whiskery snout as if to say Huh! Big deal!, then strolled the rest of the way across the road and disappeared again. Before it did, Eddie noted its tail—long and closely coiled, it looked like a fur-covered bedspring.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:53 PM on September 9, 2016

Oh, and self-linking: goes pretty well with beer, this book.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:58 PM on September 10, 2016

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