Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Tower


Bird and Bear and Hare and Fish. CBR9 Review 51.

imagesOnce upon a time, I read Wizard and Glass for the very first time, and thought that there could never be a greater book in the world. I was swept up in the world of Mejis and horses and Roland and Susan and the Big Coffin Hunters. I didn’t mind being apart from Eddie and Jake and Susannah (and Oy!) for such a long time, because this story was EPIC!  It was romantic and tragic and IMPORTANT to the plot of the overall series. I wanted more and hated leaving young Roland and his friends when the story was over.

I just finished listening to Wizard and Glass, and I think this was my fourth time though this book (I reviewed it for CBR4 and see that my sentiments are eerily similar). And I mostly find myself wishing it were different. I was annoyed that we were yanked away from Eddie, Oy, et al, for so many hundreds of pages. I just wanted to get back on the path of the beam and get moving to the Callas in the next book. Yes, we get a look at how the events of Roland’s youth shape the man that he becomes, and that’s of great value to us constant readers. And I’m glad we get some insight into his friendships with Alain and Cuthbert, his OG Ka-Tet. But I really just needed to move on.

Don’t get me wrong, its still a great book. In between descriptions of counting nets and dead snakes, there were plenty of amazing scenes, like Roland’s trip into the world of the pink ball* (which reminded me an awful lot of Stuttering Bill’s meeting with the Turtle in IT) and the events leading up to the big finale in Eyebolt Canyon.

And the writing is gorgeous. Who would have thunk that Uncle Stevie could slip something like this into a book about glorified cowboys on an epic quest?

So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.

It just isn’t my favorite anymore. Maybe because I know what’s coming in the next installments and I just need to get there? I don’t know.

But as much as I complain about what we do get in this book, there’s plenty in this one that I almost wish we knew more about.

Instead of pages and pages about Susan’s lovely hair or the places where they met to have sex, how about more about:

*Maerlyn’s Rainbow. We know what the pink ball does, and SPOILER we find out more about the black one from Pere Callhahan, but I’d love to know about the other 11 balls. What powers did they have and what happened to them?

*Eldred’s origin. While we spend pages and pages in the past, why not tell us how Jonas got from being a boy sent West to becoming a hired gun for John Farson’s people?

*Sheemie. SPOILER I know we find out what happened to him eventually, and that the comics tell about his journey to Gilead, but what about everything else?  He’s a fascinating character, and I’d like to know more about how things go for him in Gilead.

I’ve already started listening to The Wind Through the Keyhole, so it won’t be long until I get back on the path, slowly heading toward Thunderclap and the Tower.

*SPOILER Let’s talk about that vision in the grapefruit for a minute. I literally gasped out loud when I heard the part about the bumbler impaled on the tree. That was almost too much for me to take.



Don’t ask me silly questions, I won’t play silly games. I’m just a simple choo-choo train, and I’ll always be the same. CBR9 Review 38.

FullSizeRenderThis is a “children’s” book that I would never, ever recommend to any child.

Written as a companion piece to Uncle Stevie’s The Waste Lands, this is an illustrated version of the story that Jake Chambers buys at The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind from Calvin Tower. He had it when he was a boy. So did Susannah Dean. And so did Eddie Dean. And none of them liked it.

They all wondered if the illustrations of Charlie and Engineer Bob showed a happy train and driver pulling kids screaming with joy, or an insane duo, forcing children who were scared to death to ride along with them. LOOK AT THEM.


The story of Charlie and Engineer Bob is weird from the start. Engineer Bob knows that Charlie is no ordinary steam engine, but that Charlie is “really, really alive.” Charlie sings little songs to Engineer Bob, who doesn’t seem to think any of this is weird at all.

Don’t ask me silly questions, I won’t play silly games.
I’m just a simple choo-choo train, and I’ll always be the same.
I only want to race along, beneath the bright blue sky,
and be a happy choo-choo train, until the day I die.

Ok then.

Eventually, diesel engines come to the station to replace Charlie. Both he and Engineer Bob (who is demoted to become Wiper Bob) are put out to pasture. Charlie cries “dark, oily tears” and his headlight goes dark while he sits, depressed and alone. The last two lines of his song change to:

Now that I can’t race along, beneath the bright blue sky,
I guess that I’ll just sit right here, until I finally die.


Of course, eventually Charlie and Engineer Bob are needed to save the day. They have to get Susannah (the railway president’s daughter) to her piano recital, which is HUNDREDS OF MILES AWAY. The president of the railway is so impressed by Charlie and Bob.

This is some locomotive, Bob! I don’t know why we ever retired it! How do you keep the coal conveyer loaded at this speed?

Engineer Bob only smiled, because he knew Charlie was feeding himself.

This is the stuff of nightmares.


My first thought was, he lied in every word.* CBR9 Review 37.

imagesYeah, I’m obsessed with these books. I just can’t stop reading (or listening to) them. I’m stuck in my own self-imposed wheel of Ka, destined to follow the adventures of Eddie and Jake and Roland and Oy (and ok, Susannah) for the rest of my days. (Note: This is my second time reviewing this book for the Cannonball Read…my first attempt was way way back in CBR3.)

It’s funny how each time I read these Dark Tower books (and stories and graphic novels), I come away with something different. For instance, I used to love (LOVE!) Eddie Dean. He was up on the Mount Rushmore of my favorite fictional male characters, along with Han Solo and Captain Wentworth. But this time, he’s bugging me beyond belief. I used to think Oy was just a cute and cuddly companion. And now I wonder if any of this could have ever happened without Oy, and just how integral he was to the Ka-Tet.

I think part of this is due to the fact that I’m listening to the books this time around. And the narrator thus far (the late, great Frank Muller) chose a heavy New York accent for Eddie, one that makes him sound like a bit of an idiot, to be honest. And I get why he chose that, and I don’t disagree with it. It just makes Eddie’s shortcomings stand out to me, and make him slightly (or more than slightly) annoying. Muller also makes Susannah a bit more appealing as a character, doing the best that he can with Uncle Stevie’s weakest link in the Ka-Tet.

A brief overview of what actually happens in this book:

After killing an enormous robotic bear, Eddie, Susannah, and Roland find “the path of the beam” which will lead them to the Dark Tower as long as they follow it. The path that they follow is known as the beam of the bear/path of the turtle.

Roland finds that he is slowly losing his grip on reality. Ever since he spared Jake’s life at the end of The Drawing of the Three, he lives in a mental paradigm — part of his mind is positive that he once knew a boy named Jake Chambers, and that he let him die under the mountains while he followed Walter…and part of his mind says that there was no boy. If Jake never died in New York, then he never appeared at the way station.

In New York of 1977, Jake Chambers is also slowly going insane. He spends his days in a dream state, constantly looking behind doors, positive that opening one will surely bring him back to Roland and his world. Before leaving New York behind forever, Jake does several important things:

  • He writes his final english paper (although he doesn’t remember doing so) about a train named Blaine, who is a pain.
  • He meets two men in a bookstore named Calvin Tower and Aaron Deepneau, and he picks up two books there: a children’s book called Charlie the Choo Choo, and a book of riddles with the answers torn out.
  • He finds himself in a vacant lot, where he sees the most beautiful rose to ever grace the earth. Next to the rose he finds a key that actually helps him open the door between the worlds.

Eventually, Jake finds his way over to Roland, Eddie, and Susannah (but not until after one of my LEAST FAVORITE plots in the series, that of the sex demon vs. Susannah Dean), and they are soon joined by Oy the billy-bumbler. Roland and Jake find that their minds have healed now that they are back together.

They make their way toward the once-great city of Lud, where there once was a train called Blaine, but nobody has seen or heard from Blaine in many years. Jake is taken prisoner by a disgusting old pirate named Gasher, and brought to someone called The Tick-Tock Man, who rules one faction of the warring city. Oy and Roland rescue him. Eddie and Susannah find Blaine, who is pretty much insane, and convince him to take them all out of the city on their quest for the tower.

Yeah, Blaine is a real pain.

Oh. And did I mention that Randall Flagg shows up?

I remember the first time I read this, I couldn’t believe how Uncle Stevie decided to end things…just leaving us Constant Readers hanging by a thread, not knowing what would happen to our friends. And then HAVING TO WAIT for the next book to be written. It was the worst. This time, I started the next book just seconds after finishing this one, which was nice.

* This is the opening link of Robert Browning’s epic poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. This could easily refer to Blaine. Or to Randall Flagg. Or even to Roland, if you think about it.




UnknownNo matter how many times I read this book (which, as we all know, has been many, many times), I can’t help but get worked up by what happens in the very first chapter.

Seriously, I can’t think of another book in a series that starts out with such a HUGE event.

And every time I read it, I’m all, “WTF, UNCLE STEVIE?!??!!!?!?!” But, in a good way.

I guess I’ll mark this section as SPOILERS, even though this book was written in 1986. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll try and be as vague as possible.

When those lobstrosities come out of the water, and start asking their questions, I’m tense. I know EXACTLY what’s going to happen, and how it will affect everything else that happens in the book, which will then affect everything that happens in the series. And still, I’m nervous and upset.

This time, I listened to the late, great Frank Muller narrate the story, and it was even more terrifying. His reading of nonsense words like, “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-chek?,” was honestly scarier than anything in The Shining.

This is the second time I’ve reviewed this book for a cannonball (the first being way back in CBR3!), and much of what I said then still holds. I think this one is still my favorite (although I do now have a greater appreciation for both Wizard & Glass and The Dark Tower). I love getting to know Eddie and Odetta/Susannah (note, I still do not love Detta Walker in any way, shape, or form). I love seeing Roland struggle with our world (or, at least, something similar to our world), and being amazed by little things like tuna fish, pepsi, and airplanes, but disappointed in other things like pharmacies, hot dogs, and fat policemen.

Because I love this series so much, I tend to ignore the major issues that I have with this book. For instance, all of Detta’s dialogue. I get that she was written to sound like a made-up cartoon character, but still. She is awful. I also never quite buy how quickly my beloved Eddie and Odetta fall in love. Yes, I understand that they are pretty much alone in another world, but they certainly go all in pretty quickly.

Listening to Frank Muller, I do have a new complaint. Muller is an amazing narrator. He’s easy to follow and makes it simple for the listener to understand which character is speaking at any given moment. He makes you feel bad when you’re supposed to and makes you smile when something funny happens. But I hated the voice he gave Eddie. The Brooklyn accent was simply too much for me. I adore Eddie, and hope that as he spends more time in the gunslinger’s world, his co-op city accent will fade away. I’m not sure I can handle it for 5 1/2 more books.





They were close to the end of the beginning…CBR9 Review 2.

unknownI know, I should shut up already about how many times I’ve read this Stephen King book or that Stephen King book. But really, I’ve read this book a lot. I think even more than The Stand.

I read it when it was a standalone book (and I had to brave crossing the floor of the Newton Highlands public library — from the children’s section to the adult section), and this was before Uncle Stevie tinkered with it to make it fit better into the world of the Dark Tower. (NB: If I can remember correctly, that first book was a crazy, weird mess. This book is much better.)

I read it again when The Drawing of the Three came out. And then when The Wastelands came out, I read the first two again.

And so on. And so on.

And then I started a re-read of the whole damn Dark Tower universe (including It, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman/Black House, and all of the weird comics). I’ve even reviewed this exact book before for an early (my first ever!) cannonball…**

**OK, this cracks me up. I was looking for a link of my old review and came across my review on a book review site, similar to Rotten Tomatoes, that provides “Book reviews from the world’s greatest critics!”. So there’s that.

Which brings me back to the beginning, with The Gunslinger. Again. I guess Ka really is like a wheel.

This time, I listened to it. And I found it was a completely different experience. Especially if you know where the story is going.

One of the first things I noticed this time around was that the name Roland is never even uttered or mentioned until about halfway through the story. He’s just the gunslinger. This fascinates me. In the later books, he’s pretty much only Roland, which I suppose means that his Ka-Tet (#teameddie) really does humanize him.

The other thing that really got me this time was Roland’s treatment of Jake, and how quickly he morphed from Roland, the father figure, back to the gunslinger when he knew he needed to choose between the boy and the quest. That pissed me off, and made me a little mad about how quickly these two reconcile in later books.

The narrator did a great job bringing this crazy world to life. I could imagine Roland and the weird farmer dude named Brown sitting around and talking while the weird bird Zoltan  hovers about. I could see the desolation in the town of Tull and the beauty in the kingdom of Gilead-that-was.

And the narrator really holds your hand to help you notice important clues to the rest of the story.


Here are a few things that the narrator helps to make abundantly clear when listening, that I might have missed while reading.

Roland has definitely met that piano player before. And that he is not forgiven for simply letting “the girl” burn.

Cuthbert died in battle on Jericho Hill while blowing that damned Horn of Eld that Roland forgot to pick up.

Walter is Marten is Flagg is Farson.

Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel.


I love these books and this Constant Reader will probably continue on this journey for the tower for a long time to come. And yes, even if the movie is a complete and total clusterfuck with little or nothing to do with the books, I’ll see it. I mean, look at this:


That’s worth my $12 right there.



Come on down and meet your maker. Come on down and make the stand. CBR8 Review 52.

unknown-10When I was in the seventh grade, I went to summer camp and discovered books I had never heard of or seen before. Other girls brought books like Flowers in the Attic and Forever, stolen from their older sisters. We all borrowed them and couldn’t get enough of these adult-seeming books.

And then one girl showed us The Shining. I had no idea what it was, but she told me it was scary.

And Constant Reader, it was scary. But not scary enough.

I devoured The Shining, then picked up Carrie. And after that, I got The Stand out of the library before my family went away for a long August weekend.

We went to a friends summer house up in Maine. We’d been there hundreds of times — a beautiful, rustic home in the woods, just outside of town, and close enough to the ocean to smell the salt water. That house was in Ogunquit, home to Fran Goldsmith and Harold Lauder. And once I realized that part of this apocalyptic story was taking place in the very town I was in at that actual moment, I freaked out. I put the book down and was afraid to read it for about another year or more.

Fast forward to a visit to my cousins in Cape Cod and a rainy night at the beach. Looking though the bedrooms for a book to read, I came across a battered copy of The Stand — I guess all five of my cousins and all of their friends had read it and they told me it was THE BEST BOOK EVER.

So I tried again. And that was it. I was all in with this book. Scared beyond belief, but in love with the characters and the writing. I think I still have this dog-eared copy somewhere — it has no cover, and it’s expanded to about twice its size from being out at the beach so long, and half of the pages are falling out. But to me, it’s beautiful.

I’ve now read The Stand more than any other book. I’ve read the original and the expanded version several times over. When I’m sick, I put in the DVD of the miniseries. It’s my go-to comfort watch (Why? I have no idea. Doesn’t make a lick of sense.). And this year, when a bunch of other people posted their reviews of The Stand, I realized it had been about 10 years since my last read. So I ran over to Audible and snatched it up.

Here are some of my thoughts on the expanded audio version…


This was the first time I’ve re-read the book since having kids of my own, and I’m curious as to how motherhood may have changed some of my opinions. First of all, the first third of the book really affected me this time. The details of the superflu — how it spread and killed everyone in its path — upset and scared me to a much greater level this time. Not since my first attempt at The Stand did the death and sickness bother me this much. I thought of parents losing their children, and of children losing their families, and was pretty much upset for the first 8 hours of listening.

And the added scenes in this extended version, detailing the first round of survivors who ended up dying from other, non-flu related causes, depressed me too. The catholic father who jogged himself to death after his wife and 8 children died. The little boy who fell in a well while out eating berries in a field. The man who died of appendicitis while Stu Redman tried to operate on him in the middle of a field. These scenes bummed me out.

I didn’t hate Frannie as much this time, as I understood just how scared she must have been to be bringing a child into that new, bleak world. I still thought she and Stu were a completely boring couple that I didn’t particularly care about, this photo of Stu notwithstanding:


And strangely, I didn’t love Larry Underwood as much as I always did. Since I was 12 years old, Larry was my favorite character. I thought he was such a cool guy, and was always so impressed by his transformation into the “nice guy” he always wanted to be.


This time, he pretty much infuriated me. His idiocy out in Malibu before the flu outbreak, his strained relationship with his mother, the way he treated Rita and Lucy — Larry really bugged me. I still like the man he became by the end, and I’m sorry that poor Lucy never really got to know that man.

This time, I much preferred Nick and Tom Cullen.

No, not this nick:


But the Nick who was such a strong, brave young man. His kindness to the people he met in Arkansas and his love for Tom really spoke to me, and I can’t believe I never noticed how central he was to the story before. I used to get so annoyed that Mother Abigail would single Nick out as the leader of the Free Zone, but now I kind of get it.

And Tom Cullen is just the best. M-O-O-N, that spells the best. When Tom and Stu celebrated Christmas on their way home to Boulder, I definitely got a bit teary-eyed. Laws, yes.

Lastly, a quick shout-out to Ralph Brentner, who never gets the respect that he deserves as an important character. I wish we had gotten more of his backstory and learned how such a relatively simple man so quickly became one of Mother Abigail’s confidents and favored subjects.



Now that I’ve been actively re-reading all of the books in the Dark Tower “universe”, I’m starting to wonder about good old Randall Flagg. Yes, he’s scary, but he’s also so much more unhinged in this book than I remember from earlier readings.

Maybe it’s because I recently revisited the last Dark Tower book, in which



Baby Mordred kills an absolutely insane Flagg. A Flagg so crazy, he’s wearing a tinfoil hat and simply rambling nonsense for his entire last scene.

The Flagg is the second half of The Stand is that crazy guy.
This guy:


But the Flagg we see in other books, like The Gunslinger or The Eyes of the Dragon? He’s a quieter kind of scary. Less insane, and more like this guy:

I’m wondering which one is the real Flagg. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the crazy one is more like a petulant little kid than an evil stand-in for Satan.


I have now realized that I much prefer the mini series versions of a few of the minor characters.

Lloyd mostly just annoys me in the book. But in the movie? Come on. Miguel Ferrer makes Lloyd worth watching. And if you have hours and hours to spare, he is a damn delight on the audio commentary, regaling with tales of how his cousin George Clooney would come to Vegas while they were filming and they hit up tons of strip clubs.

In the book, I mostly found Glen to be annoying and boorish. But movie Glen is Ray Walston, and he’s just so good, you can’t help but agree with all of his crazy, societal outlooks. And his amazing dog doesn’t hurt, either.



I had 100% forgotten that Glen decided to leave Kojak alone back in New Hampshire, and that sucked. I was so mad at Glen and Stu and Fran for letting that happen. Why couldn’t they find some way for Kojak to ride with them? A sidecar? That would have worked, right? I felt so bad for that dog as he made his way across the country, terrorized by wolves and other creatures under Flagg’s control. Screw you, Glen.

Harold Emery Lauder sucks both in the book and movie. I’ll give the slight edge to the movie, simply because Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.



Here’s a few things that really bugged me this time.

Glen and Judge Farris are REALLY OLD MEN, yet Glen is in his 50’s and the judge is maybe 70. They have arthritis and heart problems and can barely exist, and yet, Glen is only IN HIS 50s. He isn’t Mother Abigail, he’s a middle aged man. God, I guess I should sign up for AARP and get myself fitted for a walker.

There’s an uncomfortable amount of rape in the uncut version — some jokes about it, sometimes discussed or threatened, and some actually executed. Trash Can Man is raped by The Kid and his gun. Dana and Susan and their entire crew are held captive and raped repeatedly until rescued by Stu and Frannie. The woman who was so sure she would be raped the minute she stepped outside that she ended up blowing her own head off accidentally. Way too much.

There’s also a lot more sexism (are women smart enough to work in factories?) and racism (the all African-American platoon murdering soldiers on tv in Maine) in this uncut version. Maybe Uncle Stevie should have left it alone. Bigger isn’t always better.


Please note that I’ve literally said nothing at all about Mother Abigail, Nadine, or Trashcan Man. I just don’t care.


My main reason for the reread was because of my recent obsession with The Dark Tower. I wanted to see how this book fits in with the DT universe, not just because of good old Randy Flagg, who you may also know as Russell Faraday, Walter O’Dim, Marten Broadcloak, or Richard Fannin.

I remember being shocked (seriously) when I read The Wastelands, and discovered that the world of The Stand was not even our world, but a totally different level of the Tower, where people drank Nozz-o-la and drove Takuro Spirits. So this time through, I tried to pay attention to details that might clue me in as to what level of the Tower was being described…I still think it was originally written as our world. Enough people were drinking Coke and Coors and driving Fords and Chevys.

But check out the very last page, where I think we find the most telling link to the Tower , in which the Walking Dude is reborn and thinks the following:

“Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round at the same place again.”

How’s that for ka?


So there you have it, my disjointed thoughts on The Stand, the book I’ve read more than any other. But its my Cannonball and I’ll do whatever the hell I want.






Guess who’s back? It’s Travelin’ Jack. CBR8 Review 31.

Unknown-5Another check mark for me as I make my way back through all of the Dark Tower related content that dear Uncle Stevie has produced over the years. I’m happy to report that this one was a bit of a pleasant surprise.

After being slightly disappointed by my re-read of The Talisman earlier this year, I wasn’t exactly excited about starting its sequel, Black House. I have a vague memory of reading it when it was first published, and pretty much thinking it was a mess. All I remember was that the book featured good old Travelin’ Jack Sawyer, his new blind friend that he’s reading Bleak House to at night, and a bunch of tough, bearded biker guys who were somehow more than meets the eye. Other than that, I honestly drew a big blank when trying to remember the plot of this one.

Good old Travelin’ Jack is now a retired police detective from California who is living in rural Wisconsin. He loves his country home, because it reminds him of someplace, but he’s not sure where. Jack has taken great pains over the past 20 years to forget about his summer in The Territories, and has almost no recollection about his adventures at all.

In the sleepy little country town where Jack has now made his home, something terrible is happening. There’s a monster out there (dubbed the Fisherman) murdering (and eating. ew.) children, and the local police are at their collective wits end. Jack is lured back into investigative work by his friends on the force, and finds that there is far more to this case than anyone might have guessed.

I think its safe to say that I’m not really spoiling anything by telling you that there are forces from other worlds at work here, many of whom are connected to our pal Roland Deschain and his quest to find the Tower. The Crimson King is the real bad guy, having his lackeys (including the Fisherman) find children from all over the world (and worlds) to become “breakers” and assist in his ongoing obsession of destroying the tower. When the Fisherman snatches young Tyler Marshall — perhaps one of strongest breakers of all time, second only to Ted Brautigan — something inside of Jack Sawyer wakes up, and he knows that he’s the only one who’s going to be able to stop the Fisherman and get Tyler back. And that he’s going to have to go back to the Territories to get to the bottom of all of this.

There’s actually a lot to like here. The first 100 or so pages are great — a simple overview of a small town in Wisconsin on a lovely summer day. Some people are nice, and some people aren’t. Some homes are happy, and some are definitely not. The narrative weaves in and out of various locations, introducing characters and getting to know the town. Its quite well done.

I also love trying to figure out which author was responsible for different parts. I’m assuming that we can thank King for the well educated, beer brewing biker gang. I’m fascinated by their working relationship and would love to know how they go about writing these books. Word on the street is that they are talking about a third…


Would I recommend this book to someone who isn’t familiar with the whole Tower quest? Nope. There’s too much going on that might just come off as nonsense. Too much about Ka and talking monorails and mad red kings. But what about as a solitary sequel to the Talisman? Yes, there are some of the same characters, and yes, there are scenes in the Territories, but really, this only works if you’ve read all 7 Tower books AND The Talisman.






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