Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Tower

10
Sep
19

HOLD UP. This is the first of a trilogy? Yikes. Part of me wants to know more, and part of me is just too tired. CBR11 Review 39.

downloadI feel like a bit of a failure as a reader (well, a listener) after this experience. This was not easy.

I really wanted to love this story. It was beautifully imagined and written. This story had everything: drama, action, humor, and adventure. The audiobook performance was unbelievable. The African mythology it was based upon made me want to know more.

And yet, I barely made it to the end.

From Amazon:

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose”, people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent – from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers – he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving story. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

I struggled from the very first chapter, in which our narrator, Tracker, starts talking to someone (we find out later, his inquisitor, as he is in prison) and telling random stories that don’t seem to fit together. (NB: having finished the entire book, I guess maybe the stories actually do fit together, but at the time I was so confused and discouraged that it was literally CHAPTER ONE and I was lost). And then Tracker talks for another 600 pages about his quest to find a boy. On his quest, he meets tons of fascinating characters, gets himself into crazy situations, and sees some unbelievable things that I didn’t completely understand, but most of the time just went along with.

Tracker is not a very reliable narrator. He’s very (Extremely. Extraordinarily. Oh, so very.) opinionated and is more or less fueled by the hatred he has for those who have done him harm. Or is he fueled by love? Are hate and love the same? I DON’T KNOW.

This book is dark. There is a lot of violence and profanity. Some of the violence was hard to get through (oh my god, in the scene with the white scientists, I literally had to pull my car over to the side of the road). I enjoyed the profanity a lot more than the violence, for sure. Some of it actually made me laugh out loud. I thought many times about just stopping, but remembered some of the reviews here on the site (narfna in particular) urging readers to keep going. I’m glad I finished it, but disappointed that I had such a hard time with it and wish I had enjoyed it more than I did.

I listened to the audiobook, which was an amazing feat of voice acting from Dion Graham. Each and every voice was different and distinct, which when you have such a large cast of characters, both men and women, is no small accomplishment. But I had trouble understanding a lot of what he was saying at times. Some of the characters spoke too quietly and some of the dialects were difficult for me to decipher. This was my problem, not Dion Graham’s. I give him nothing but kudos. Another issue with the audiobook is that I wish I had been given access to a map and a list of characters (which I think was part of the hardcover edition). At times I didn’t have any clue who was involved in certain scenes or plots or where things were happening. This world created in this book is huge, but I had trouble differentiating locations and people.

Something interesting that I wondered throughout is if Marlon James had read The Dark Tower books…Tracker and his crew often travel across huge areas by using “magical doors,” of which there are “ten and nine.” Those who have read any of King’s Dark Tower books know that magic doors are how Roland and his ka-tet travel from world to world and that 19 is a magic number. I’m sure this a just a coincidence, but I obsessed over it anyway.

I know that Michael B Jordan has purchased the rights to produce this as a film or a show. I hope it becomes a show on a network that can throw a lot of money at it, because I think it could be amazing to watch.

CBR11 Bingo: #farandaway

 

23
Apr
19

“When creative people do their best work, they’re hardly ever in charge, they’re just sort of rolling along with their eyes shut yelling wheee.” CBR11 Review 17.

Unknown-1I have had this beaten-up paperback copy of Everything’s Eventual in my backpack for at least a year, reading a few pages here, a short story there. I was enjoying it, but kept forgetting it was there, usually opting to listen to Audible or read on my kindle when I had some free time. And finally, I went for a walk at lunch today, found a cute table outside a sandwich shop, and sat down to finish it.

I’m pretty sure that this was only my second time through this specific collection of stories from Uncle Stevie. Kind of strange to have spent so little time with this book, seeing how many times I’ve read Skeleton Crew (seriously, I’ve read The Mist at least 10 times) and Just After Sunset. Some of these stories I’ve only read once before, but you know how it is as a Constant Reader… some of these – The Little Sisters of Eluria and The Death of Jack Hamilton – I’ve definitely read numerous times in various places (I can remember my dad sending me some of these that he cut out of his copy of The New Yorker, along with some of the cartoons that he thought would make me laugh and a few crossword puzzles).

What I love about King’s short stories (and the same mostly goes for Joe Hill’s short stories) is his ability to make the reader become invested in characters and situations in such a short period of time. Some are just a few pages. Some are really novellas. But they move quickly and pull you in immediately. Sometimes you want the story to move faster, maybe its scaring the crap out of you and you just need it to be over (The Road Virus Heads North), and sometimes you wish there was a little bit more (seriously, how did Dinky make his final journey over to Algul Siento?).

My favorite thing about this book is how King provides either a little blurb at the beginning or the end, explaining why he wrote it, what inspired him, how it came about. I’m fascinated by the way that he can turn a very simple idea into a fully-fleshed out story, almost immediately. For one of the stories (Luckey Quarter), he said that he had an idea in a hotel room, sat down, and wrote the whole thing out on the hotel stationary in pencil. I can’t possibly imagine ever being that inspired creatively, and it is truly amazing. I can barely write out a list of things I need at Trader Joe’s this week.

For my money, the scariest stories are The Man in the Black Suit (old time HORROR) and The Road Virus Heads North. Did you ever see that bizarre miniseries that TNT made about 15 years ago, taking some of King’s short stories and attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to translate them into one-hour blocks of tv? I remember watching all of them and thinking some were great (The End of the Whole Mess with Ron Livingston and Henry Thomas), some were crap (Hi, Steven Weber, I’m talking to you and the bizarre You Know They Got a Hell of a Band episode), and some were riveting simply because the actor involved really got what King was saying. Tom Berenger played horror writer Richard Kinnell in that episode, and I remember the terror on his face when he realized just what was going on with the creepy-ass painting in the trunk of his car. Re-reading the story, I pictured Tom Berenger, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I still tore through the story breathlessly.

Everything’s Eventual has something for everyone. Dark Tower stories. An award-winning homage to Nathanial Hawthorne. Historical fiction. Inspiration for a lackluster John Cusack movie. A few are genuinely frightening (The Man in the Black Suit, Autopsy Room Four, The Road Virus Heads North). A few are unsettling (Lunch at the Gotham Café and That Feeling, You Can Only Say What it is in French). And two are must-reads for fans of Roland and his ka-tet (The Little Sisters of Eluria and Everything’s Eventual).

Flipping through a list of my previous King reviews, it looks like I’ve rediscovered old favorites like Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. I’ve been underwhelmed by bulk of the stories presented in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and content with the collection in Just After Sunset. I think its time for me to dig up an old copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes or pull out the most dog-earred book I own – my original copy of The Bachman Books…watch this space.

05
Oct
18

“When the mind’s filter disappeared, the big picture disappeared with it. There was no forest, only trees. At its worst, there were no trees, either. Just bark.” CBR10 Review 36.

Unknown-1The reviews on Uncle Stevie’s latest tome have been mostly similar: a great, suspenseful first half, telling a story about a police investigation into the brutal murder of a child by a seemingly innocent man…and a less successful second half, filled with supernatural elements and a character from earlier novels. Most reviews have pointed out that the story presented in the first half were quite enough for a full novel: local good citizen arrested for horrific crime, town turns against him and his family, regardless of what his alibi may be.

I’m talking about spoilers now, so be careful if you plan to read this.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

A few hundred pages from King about the nature of small towns and how a crime like that which was committed against the Peterson family, might have been a great mystery. OR…a story about a supernatural face-swapping “vampire” that travels around the country and commits murders in order to feed off of the emotions of the victims…that might have been a great standalone book.

Do these two plots fit together and create a successful whole? I think so. I get why others don’t think it worked. But I enjoyed it. Uncle Stevie does what he likes.

I think a lot of it boils down to how you feel about the Bill Hodges book trilogy, and the character of Holly in particular. I liked her, so it made me like this book more than some, I suppose. Honestly, once I saw that King was somehow going to connect this story to the Hodges books, I was just grateful that fracking Brady Hartsfield wasn’t involved in any way here. He was the worst part of those books.

There were sections of this book that were flat-out amazing. Nobody can write about a small town better than Uncle Stevie. The mob scene outside the courthouse was a masterful thing. The feelings of grief and sorrow that can overwhelm a family after a tragedy were beautifully described. And the struggle for these every day regular people had in trying to accept that something supernatural could be wreaking havoc on their lives? I completely bought into their doubt and the difficulty most of them had in opening their minds to other possibilities.

Yes, sometimes King can predictable. But that doesn’t always negate my enjoyment of reading his stuff. When a group of five heroes marches off to face the monster, we all know that at least two aren’t coming back. When he introduces a real asshole character, we know that this character will somehow end up choosing the wrong side of the battle (often not even making that choice consciously), and that they will most probably die horrifically. And we know that ka is a wheel, and all roads lead to the Tower.

(I found at least three connections to the Dark Tower in here…At one point the word “ka” was actually used…the star of the Mexican horror films was named Rosita Munoz, and in Calla Bryn Sturgis, Roland had an affair with Rosalita Munoz…and lastly, I’m pretty sure that El Coco was a monster similar to DANDELO (a distant cousin of Pennywise?), but he fed on sorrow instead of laughter.)

Despite the incredibly dark subject matter, I enjoyed reading this one. It kept me interested and questioning until the very end (and that Stranger Things-inspired shaving scene at the very end almost got me!).

#cbr10bingo #listicles — Pop Sugar’s 13 Most Chilling Horror Books of 2018

 

 

 

 

25
Apr
18

How can you give us the gift of a crazy character named Rando Thoughtful and then just as suddenly take that gift away? We need to talk, Uncle Stevie. CBR10 Review 19.

imagesDear Uncle Stevie,

Having just finished the entire Dark Tower saga for the third time, I have a few things I’d like to discuss with you. I know you say you’re done writing these books, but I’d like for you to reconsider. Here are some suggestions for further entries into the Dark Tower series:

**A novella about Rando Thoughtful, and his journey from managing a mall in upstate New York to guarding the castle of the Crimson King. And how he went from being called Austin Cornwell to becoming RANDO THOUGHTFUL. This is an all-time great crazy Stephen King name. I’m going to need more information.

**A short volume (similar to The Wind through the Keyhole) detailing everything that happened between Deepneau, Cullen, and Carver, and exactly how The Tet Corporation works. I’d love to know more about what’s going on at that strange ranch out in New Mexico where all of the telepaths are working on gathering information pertinent to Roland’s quest for the Tower.

**A huge, enormous series of books dedicated to Irene Tassenbaum and the asses she continues to kick as she lives her life in New York and Maine. I absolutely adored her and was so sad to see her sent off back to Maine with her stinking copy of Insomnia (seriously, WHY INSOMNIA? WHY NOT THE STAND? OR IT? OR THE TALISMAN? I WILL NEVER GET OVER THIS.)

Honestly, I get why Patrick Danville was included in the story, and that perhaps all of the gratuitous mentions of Insomnia got some constant readers to go back and re-read this mess, but of all of the Tower-related books, why did it have to be this one? Couldn’t Dandelo have held Stu Redman or Jack Sawyer or Mike Hanlon?

I would 100% read about Irene getting into her little Mercedes and driving around the Northeast, doing gunslinger things, while also shopping for deli meats and planting roses.

**A series of graphic novels about Oy. Make this happen.

**A short story about what happens to Dinky, Ted, Dani, and the banker guy when they get to the Callas. I can’t imagine that the kind folks of Calla Bryn Sturgis would send a young girl like Dani away, but it would be fascinating to see how the new folks assimilate into their rural lifestyle.

**A written apology from you for driving me crazy by constantly writing about Susannah dreaming about “Hot chocolate, the good kind, mit schlag”. I hated this description. Just stop it.

I think those should be ample ideas for you in order to get started. As long as you keep writing about this world, I’ll keep reading about it. And I hope that someday, you get the tv series about Roland and his ka-tet that they deserve. I love Idris, but that was a complete hot mess.

Your Constant Reader,
Scootsa1000

 

11
Mar
18

I wish I had a sköldpadda of my very own. CBR10 Review 17.

Unknown-4For a long time I’ve stood by my assertion that Song of Susannah was my least favorite Dark Tower book, hands down. The last time I reviewed it (back in 2012), I even went out on a limb and said this:

Song of Susannah, however, was my least favorite Dark Tower book when I first read it. And I can safely say that it will always be my least favorite.

Well, I guess I can’t trust myself.

Now that I’m almost another full loop through the saga, I’m not sure if my opinion is still the same. Is SoS still my least favorite? Or is there enough good stuff in there (the stuff that isn’t about Susannah and the wretched Mia) to change my mind? Is Wizard & Glass my least favorite? It hurts me to think that because I loved it so much the first time I read it…but like it less and less with each subsequent reading.

I’ll be honest. I do hate the stuff with Mia. Their long long long talks in the deserted town of Fedic make me crazy. Every time the POV switches back to those two, I would audibly groan. At least, until the sköldpadda makes an appearance. Because the sköldpadda makes everything better. Who wouldn’t want a little magic turtle?

I didn’t like the parts when Susannah has to travel to her “dogan” to control Mia and the baby. And while I appreciate that Odetta Holmes was a great woman who stood up for what she believed in, I didn’t need to read pages and pages of folk song lyrics right when things were getting interesting. Yes, Man of Constant Sorrow is a lovely song…but after a while, this was all I could think of:

But I don’t really want to talk too much about Mia. Or at all, really. There are a lot of other things I’d rather spend time on.

I’d rather talk about John Cullum. He’s one of my favorite minor characters in The Dark Tower. I love his Yankee sensibility and his immediate acceptance of the situation he suddenly finds himself in when Roland and Eddie literally appear in front of him in the general store. I had an uncle who was a pilot in WWII, and he was from New England. That’s who I imagine here. A guy who gets stuff done and gets it done well, and still makes time to ask about the Red Sox no matter how busy he might be.

Or how about Trudy Damascus? I’d like to know what eventually happens to her after her mental unraveling from witnessing Susannah/Mia appear out of thin air and then steal her shoes. I want to know if she’s still working at her accounting firm, and if she likes to sit in the park and listen to the voices at 2 Hammarskjold Plaza. I hope she’s ok, whatever she’s doing.

Same with Mathiessen Van Wyck. I hope he and his wife have worked out their differences. And I hope his stomach problems work themselves out, too. He deserves to be happy after telling us that the little turtle was called a sköldpadda.

But mostly, I’d like to talk about the badass trio of Jake, Oy, and Pere Callahan, tracking Susannah around New York City. These three weren’t even supposed to end up in Manhattan — they were supposed to go to Maine to talk to the wretched Calvin Tower — but they assimilate to 1999 pretty quickly. They find the hotel where Susannah/Mia are staying, they figure out the plan to get to the Dixie Pig, and they permanently hide Black Thirteen, all within a few hours.

I really love how Pere finds his lost faith at the end of this book. Without it, they never would have been driven insane by Black Thirteen in Susannah’s hotel room. But Pere Callahan gathers all of the faith he has left, and prays to God to save them from Black Thirteen.

“God, if you still hear me, this is Callahan. Please still this thing. Please send it back to sleep.”

And so, God does.

I was glad that Pere had that faith with him as they got in the cab and drove uptown to the Dixie Pig. We all know he was going to need it. But more on that in a few weeks, when I’ve finally finished the series and have more to say about Callahan’s last stand.

 

15
Feb
18

“I wanted to say goodbye to someone, and have someone say goodbye to me. The goodbyes we speak and the goodbyes we hear are the goodbyes that tell us we’re still alive.” CBR10 Review 12.

UnknownI think its safe to say that I’m addicted to my Audible account. Driving around all day and meeting with demanding clients is hard, so the best thing I can do is lose myself in a great story and a great narrator. And I think that’s why I keep coming back to these Dark Tower books…the narration is great, the story always delivers something new for me, and it really doesn’t matter if I hear every single detail or not, because I’m stuck on Ka’s wheel and I know I’ll be returning to this story before long.

Wolves of the Calla is still my favorite of these books. I think. I like that it takes place in a certain amount of time, with a specific objective, instead of some of the more sprawling volumes of this story, which require a bit more brain power. This one is easier: good guys come to a good town to help defeat the bad guys and save the children. The end.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. We also have an alternate personality pregnancy…An obsession with the number 19…A fascinating new/old character who warns us of the dangers of vampires and low men…and the idea that maybe this story only exists as a fictional story within a fictional story so that Stephen King can save the world. Like I said, easy.

The more that I read (or, honestly, listen to) this volume of the Dark Tower, the more I appreciate the addition of Pere Donald Callahan. His addition to Roland’s group of questing gunslingers comes at exactly the right time. His heartbreaking story of his cowardly flight from Jerusalem’s Lot, his years of drinking on the road, his work at the shelter, and his eventual death and re-appearance in Mid-World (along with a mysterious black ball) are fascinating and gorgeously presented. This is a man of faith who is questioning his path in life, and who finds exactly what he is looking for when Roland and friends appear in the Calla.

My favorite Callahan bit:

“Your man Jesus seems to me a bit of a son of a bitch when it comes to women,´Roland said. ´Was He ever married?´
The corners of Callahan’s mouth quirked. ´No´ he said, ´but His girlfriend was a whore.´
´Well,´ Roland said, ´that’s a start.´”

But this book isn’t perfect. I love it, but there are a few details that bug me to no end:

  • Suddenly everyone is obsessed with the number 19, which we only know because we are constantly told about it. I wish this had been presented a bit more organically. I fell like Uncle Stevie just decided it was important and then hit us over the head with it until we succumbed.
  • Roland is always making a “familiar” finger twirling motion, that HE ALWAYS MAKES AND HAS ALWAYS MADE AND MAKES ALL THE TIME. But he never made it before. And the constant references to the fact that he has always done this bug me.
  • The pregnancy stuff is really just gross. I don’t need to know about Susannah frolicking in a pond and eating live frogs. I know that’s really nit picking, but I couldn’t get past it.

But there’s so much more that I love in this book. I love the idea of saving the twins, no matter what. And I love the regular people that are willing to stand up to evil, even if it might cost them their lives, to save their town and its children. The action and excitement in this volume are exactly what the series needed after the talky Wizard and Glass.

 

02
Jan
18

Time was a face on the water, and like the great river before them, it did nothing but flow. CBR10 Review 2.

UnknownI’ve been in the car a lot lately, driving around for work. And while I love my satellite radio, I love my audible account even more. I’m listening to all of my favorite books, and it totally makes the time spent in the car seem less like work.

This morning, I finished The Wind Through the Keyhole (and started The Wolves of the Calla!), and I must say, I enjoyed it much more this time (my second time reading and reviewing…the first was for CBR4!).

The book fits into The Dark Tower series as book 4.5…it starts just as Roland’s Ka-Tet has left the weird emerald palace in the middle of not-quite-Kansas…and when it finishes, we have the Ka-Tet on their way to Calla Bryn Sturgis. But I really think it could work as a standalone book, and I might hand it off to Bunnybean to read. She really loved The Eyes of the Dragon, and this one has a really similar vibe to it.

The plot is simple. A huge storm is coming, so Roland and his friends find shelter. As they wait out the worst of the massive storm, Roland tells them a story from his youth (it takes place just after his “adventures” in Mejis), when he and his friend Jamie were sent west to solve a mystery plaguing a small town called Debaria.

Brutal, animalistic murders have been taking place on a massive scale. The locals are pretty sure that the horrific slaughters have been the work of a “skin-man,” which is more a less a shapeshifting man who transforms into a vicious animal at night.

When a local ranch is attacked, there is only one survivor, a small boy named Bill. Roland and Jamie swear to protect him, and to keep his nerves at bay, Roland tells him a story that his own mother used to tell him, the tale of The Wind Through the Keyhole.

And this is where it gets good.

This half of the book is (IMHO) one of the best things King has ever written. Like I mentioned, similar in feeling to The Eyes of the Dragon, it tells the story of young Tim, a boy living with his injured mother and his horrible, horrible stepfather. When his mother loses her sight after a terrible beating from her husband, Tim heads out into THE WOODS in order to find a cure for her blindness.

Tim’s journey is flat out amazing. The story within the story within the story gets 5 stars. And that doesn’t mean I don’t love the rest of the book…just that Roland’s adventures with Jamie don’t quite reach the storytelling heights of Tim.

King recently said that he’d like to revisit the world of the Dark Tower, and I imagine it would be through shorter stories like this, filling in the blanks about Roland’s life before The Gunslinger. I’m all for it.

The only negative to this story was in the narration. King himself did the job. And while it wasn’t awful, it certainly wasn’t great.

05
Sep
17

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.

 

01
Jun
17

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

Right.

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.

01
Jun
17

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.

 




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