Roland and the Wolves *****
This is one series that I hope never ends, although I know, because Mr.
King has stated, that there are only two more books to go until we reach
the Dark Tower. I've read all of Mr. King's works, since I chanced upon
his first by accident when it was first published. The books have grown in
length, and often they cry out for some editing, but this series could be
twice as long, and I would have no complaints about length. It's great to
get wrapped up in another type of world, and to see how many of the
author's books blend into the story line of the Tower. When a new
Gunslinger book comes out, I just open the cover, and go along for the
ride with Roland, Eddie, Suzannah, Jake and Oy!
A detour to Calla Bryn Sturgis *****
Stephen King has said that of all the books he has written, the Dark Tower is
the most important and deeply meaningful work he has produced. Reading each
successive volume, I can see that this is increasingly true. The series seems to
be the summing up of his writing career by incorporating many of the characters,
story lines, philosophies, mythologies, and literary inspirations of his
previous works into this single far-reaching fantasy universe. This fifth
installment more strongly than ever incorporates such references, including
Salem's Lot, The Stand, Hearts in Atlantis, and many others. He also includes
references to a myriad of books by other authors besides the obvious Tolkien. I
found allusions to the works of L. Frank Baum, J.K. Rowling, Richard Adams, and
even Marvel Comics.
I will not provide a detailed recap of the story here since so many other
reviewers have already done so. What I will attempt to do is explain why I give
Wolves of the Calla only 3 stars, as well as to list its strengths and
weaknesses. The story of the residents of the Calla and their joining forces
with Roland's ka-tet to vanquish the wolves deserves 5 stars. There is intrigue,
town politics, an ominous threat hanging over the twin children of the
residents, and an exciting battle between Wolf and man. The personalities of the
townsfolk, who are divided in their opinions of whether to fight or submit to
the wolves, are well developed, as is that of the enigmatic Andy the Messenger
Robot. King has done an excellent job developing the mythology and culture of
the "folken" of Calla Bryn Sturgis. The reader is treated to a realistic and
colorful portrayal of their language, culture, festivals, music, and traditions.
After finishing the story, I felt that I had actually taken a trip there and met
Where the story line falls short, and earns the book only 3 stars, is the middle
half of the novel, where there is a lot of travel to the New York of 1977 and
many side narratives about the pasts of several of the protagonists. The travel,
sometimes performed involuntarily through a mystical "todash" and sometimes
voluntarily through another magical doorway, leads to efforts to protect the
rose of previous episodes from harm. Not only is all this back-and-forth action
distracting, but the ka-tet's dealings with the owner of the lot upon which the
rose grows, and with the hoodlums who threaten him, is tedious. Also in this
middle half is an excessive amount of tale telling about the pasts of several of
the characters. Pere Callahan's tale is essentially a sequel to Salem's Lot, and
has no place here.
The illustrations have added a lot to the cost of the book, but little to
enhance the story. I give one star to these illustrations. Granted, Roland's
Mid-World is a gloomy place, but these paintings are too gloomy and colorless.
Every character is depicted as sinister. They all look physically mangy and
stringy, even the good folken of the Calla.
Although I prefer King's horror fiction to his Dark Tower epic, being an ardent
King fan I feel duty-bound to read the entire story - all seven volumes worth.
Besides, I do want to know how Roland and his ka-tet manage to save Mid-World
from the evil of the Dark Tower. Reading the entire magnum opus does require a
large commitment, since the story, when completed, is projected to weigh in at
more than 3,500 pages. Needless to say this volume of the series should not be
tackled unless you have already read the previous volumes, and thus it is best
left to the diehard Stephen King or Dark Tower fans. Of course this installment
will leave the story, and you, hanging in midair. But have no fear... the last
two volumes will be released before year's end.